Parents ‘face extra stress without normal coping mechanisms in lockdown’

Parents are more likely to feel stressed in lockdown as they juggle different challenges with less access to normal coping mechanisms, a psychiatry expert has said.

With schools and nurseries closed for the past five weeks, many families are now together 24 hours a day, and countless parents are balancing working from home with childcare and home schooling.

Dr Justin Williams, a practising clinical psychiatrist at the University of Aberdeen, and vice-chairman of the child and adolescent mental health services faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, acknowledged social distancing rules have made it more difficult for people to take time out away from home or meet people outside the family.

He told the PA news agency: “People have their jobs and are trying to deal with their work demands and are being asked to work at home, and you have to deal with the children as well so you are juggling that and stresses in the family will increase with the amount of time you are spending together.

“In the lockdown period you have a lot of sources of anxiety caused by the lockdown, whether because they are imposed rules, imposed financial constraints, we are seeing raised levels of domestic abuse.

“There are many different sources of stress within the family home.”

He added: “There are a whole range of sorts of conflict arising and the normal way of managing that is to take some time out.

“Some children might go and stay with a relative if things are difficult at home but you can’t do that at the moment.

“So many of our normal coping mechanisms are being undermined at this period of time leaving little room for manoeuvre.”

He said while parents who are still going out to work will get time away from their families, they may face other worries – for example, healthcare workers concerned they could spread the virus to family members.

Social media
Many people are using social media to keep in touch with others outside the family home (Nick Ansell/PA)

Dr Williams suggested that with many of the normal approaches for dealing with stress made more difficult due to lockdown, families could try to pull together to deal with it.

He said: “I think one has to think about sharing and teamwork and co-operation, so that you are going to be doing things together as a family.

“What you really want to be trying to develop if you are stuck together, then what are the things that you can do together in a shared way and a joint way that will help you have a stronger sense of cohesion as a family group.

“That’s going to be different for every family. People can look for areas where they can do things together.

“I think that’s going to reduce the stress, that will be an important way to manage.”

He also suggested parents try to carve out some time to themselves when possible, while using social media can help people feel connected to others outside the family group.

With the lockdown extended into May and no indication when restrictions might ease, Dr Williams said people will try to find ways of coping.

He said: “We are very good as humans at adapting to different and strange circumstances.

“There will be different ways of adapting, some people will probably skirt the rules and people will find ways that are comfortable to them.

“Some people will be more than happy to be reclusive and other people will find it very constraining.”

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