A Diagnosis and Your Family: Challenges and Solutions
Parents who are faced with a medical and/or mental health diagnosis encounter a great challenge to sustain the stamina required to take care of their family. Living alone either as a single parent or an isolated adult can create anxiety and depression. This can exacerbate an isolating situation, such as the pandemic. Individuals have to plan how to earn a living during treatments while striving to stay hopeful.
Many parents working from home are already worried about keeping up with the school system’s requirements: teacher meetings, online lessons and supplemental school assignments. If they are a couple, one spouse must juggle the schedule to consider the lack of energy and motivation on the part of their partner. These parents working from home are saddled with required virtual meetings in order to fulfill expectations of their job. Now with this diagnosis, they are very concerned what they will have to disclose about their treatment. They want to avoid inquiries about their health unless absolutely necessary. If and when they have to go for tests and treatment their schedule will need to be revised.
Individuals wonder whether the family will sense their nervous energy and become more agitated. We realize their reaction is understandable due to the fear of the unknown and change in their schedule. They are acutely aware that if they have family members with special needs, they will not be able to give them as much attention as before.
Solutions during this difficult period must be to learn and utilize a skill set to reframe thoughts. The enormous weight on a person’s shoulders is so unpredictable. The question is how can we teach our client to be in the present to learn new skills needed to create mindfulness? We have an opportunity to role model to them how they would like their children to handle trauma in their adult lives. We present them with new strategies to move towards a feeling of hopefulness.
All of their thoughts must be racing. How will we provide encouragement to help them set boundaries and design a routine with no playbook? It is certainly going to be hard to build upon skills such as active listening. Validation will be useful especially if inappropriate behavior escalates.
Matters could be worse if one has to be quarantined at home or isolated in a hospital. The angst over not being able to be with a loved one is a fear that is overwhelming. It will not be surprising when a family begins to experience fear and uncertainty on a daily basis. This unpredictable time can cause the whole family to be consumed with anxiety and agitation.
Their faith will provide a sense of purpose. We will help them realize that their patience will be tested. Children might be the ultimate victim if they witness suffering with no positive end in sight. We need to teach our clients how to focus on how they will control fear. This fear will impact how their family will handle what is happening. If explanations are well thought out, calming words will be the most valuable tool for their future coping.
Our team will continue to reframe the perception into strengthened family rituals. The challenge will be how to link isolated adults and vulnerable senior citizens into a resource network for support. One needs to find retreat time for when they are in pain and consumed with fear. When alone, making an effort to utilize reframing techniques will help however, the $64,000 question is how to implement all of these ideas. Whatever the circumstance, we as professionals have an obligation to teach our clients to think healthy thoughts and be practical about not doing as much as before to conserve energy and avoid depression.
A huge red flag is when fighting in the household turns into hostility. In order to avoid escalating conflicts, it is important to identify what triggers a family member. We must teach de-escalation tactics like walking away until someone calms down or ensuring professionals are accessible during a crisis. There is no shame in seeking guidance to prevent discord in your house. Reaching out to a professional can provide strategies for ongoing support. We need to be mindful to encourage our clients to take time to praise children for: being respectful; doing their homework; sharing devices willingly and helping their siblings. The reinforcement will nurture their self-esteem and will be a calming influence.
Technology needs to be monitored as a preventive measure. No one wants their kids to fall into excessive gaming, lack boundaries with social media or share information that should be private. Cyber bullying is another major pitfall so parents nee to be aware. If there are any changes in behavior like: depression; lack of sleep or too much withdrawal from family, we will help them take preventive measures.
We encourage clients to utilize services from a professional to coach them on how to establish time for oneself and time to address school issues. Other considerations will be how to create a fun night; a fitness program or other rituals to keep them harmonious. If a child has special needs, learning from our Recreation Therapist on how to prepare home projects and access a parent group will avoid a sense of helplessness.
We know for sure that we have this day to turn the light on for someone. Our role is to help them discover the myriad of opportunities to face the future. Our insights can be a life-changing event for them. Our hope is that they will look back and realize their family and friends were their salvation.