At Youth and Children's Work magazine, we talk a lot about young people - but during this strange and difficult season, it's important that parents are looking out for and loving each other as much as their children. It's not all about the kids!
Here, Sarah Abell writes on behalf of The National Parenting Initiative about how to nurture our relationships while being stuck in isolation.
I remember a well-known speaker advising his audience to carve out time for their families because "a slower day never comes." But for most of us, one just has. And we've got many more weeks or months of slower days ahead of us, so how can we take this opportunity to protect and improve our relationship with our spouse or partner? Or if one or both of you is a key worker, how can you support and encourage each other?For all of us, this is likely to be a time of adjustment as we get used to a new normal. We'll need grace, patience and humour to help get us through. For those in difficult relationships, it’ll be even more of a challenge but maybe this is an opportunity to face some of your issues together and get some virtual help, if needed. Here are a few thoughts on how you can thrive and not just survive during this season:
Take time to connect
The stronger the connection between you both, the easier it'll be to weather the tough times together. What helps you both to feel connected? Be intentional about spending some time talking at a deeper level. Get curious about your partner and ask questions to discover things about them you don't know. Talk together about your hopes, dreams and fears.
Voice your expectations
What are you hoping for from this time? How will you spend your days? What will help you through? Do you want structure or do you prefer to go with the flow?
Take some time to talk about what you both need and how you see things working. Try to make agreements together. For example extroverts might need more time connecting with friends online whilst introverts may need time to shut themselves away.
For key workers or those working from home, what support do they need to do what they need to do?
This is a good time to really talk about what matters. Why not talk about death, faith, priorities and your hopes for your life and relationship?
If you tend to nag or criticise when you are stressed or hurt - try hard to soften your approach and access the more vulnerable feelings underneath. If you're a withdrawer who sulks or clams up - try to stay engaged and share some of your more hidden emotions.
Keep short accounts
There are going to be times when you hurt, annoy or upset each other. Talk about these things quickly. Try not to let issues fester and be quick to say sorry and to forgive.
Build new rhythms
Now is a good time to review any rhythms and routines you have in your life and introduce some new ones. Can you create a date night? If you're with children, when will you have family time together? Review who does which chores. If you have a faith, do you want to set aside time to pray together?
Try to think the best of each other. This is a difficult time for everyone. Try asking yourself every day - how can I encourage, support and love my partner today?
This is a time when we can try new things. Find new activities you can do together. Have fun. Make plans for the future. Maybe get your house in order? Invent new traditions. Make memories as a couple and as a family.
None of us asked for this, but wouldn't it be great if, once this is over, our connection with our partner is stronger and better than before?
Sarah Abell is the author of Inside Out - how to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life (Hodder and Stoughton) and the co-founder of The Relationships Academy and offers therepeutic couple coaching with her husband David.. This article was originally published on The National Parenting Initiative website, to find out more, visit https://www.thenpi.org.uk.