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How to stay connected with family and friends

Connecting with friends and family in old school ways could help you through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Author, wellbeing educator and CEO of Enlighten Education Dannielle Miller offers tips and advice to ensure being in isolation doesn’t mean feeling isolated.

Q. I’m an extrovert. How can I cope with all this alone time?

A. For those of us who are energised by being around others, being physically cut off from our social circle can be challenging. Reach out not just via message, but call. Book in Skype catch ups too so that you cannot only hear your friend’s voices, but see their faces. Connect old school style via letters and cards as well (imagine the joy of receiving mail when your friend replies). Listening to a podcast can also be helpful for those who find the sound of another person’s voice in the background comforting.

Q. I can talk to people online, but what about hugs? I miss human contact.

A. Yes, we are wired to find touch soothing; ask any nurse and they will tell you that holding a patient’s hand can often be the fastest way to soothe them. If there’s no-one in your home to give you a cuddle, try ordering a weighted blanket online, or making your own. It’s also valid and valuable to admit to yourself you are craving touch. Give yourself permission to feel sad about this, and plan to address it as soon as you are able (hug those grandkids extra hard when this virus passes, or book in a massage to look forward to).

Q. How do I manage my own anxiety so I can stay strong for everyone around me?

A. Try and stay present. When you find your mind whirling with worries, sit (outside if you have a garden), take some slow, settling deep breaths, and ground yourself by actively noticing your current environment. What can you smell, see, taste? Routine can be very comforting. Get up at the same time each day. If you are still working, plan out your work from home schedule, and also allocate time for tasks such as gardening, painting, knitting, reading, or completing a jigsaw (find a few activities you can look forward to each day that will also keep your mind focused on the task at hand).

Q. Help, my family are already driving me crazy.

A. Even the people we love most can drive us nuts if we are confined with them for long periods of time! Chose your battles wisely, set agreed routines everyone can follow to minimise arguments over who gets to use the computer when, or whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher and don’t feel guilty about needing some time out (take a bath, or do some exercise). We do know that domestic and family violence can increase during times of natural disasters and pandemic; if you feel unsafe, reach out to the police if it is an emergency, or call your National and State support service lines.

Q. My children miss their friends so much. What can we do?

A. Friendships are particularly vital to young people and many will be feeling a deep sense of loss at being isolated from their tribe. One Mum recently told me that she heard lots of giggling from the bathroom and found her daughters all in there Face-timing with their friends as they were doing their hair together before settling in to their remote learning for the day. They decided as they would be on screen, they wanted to look cute! The usual guidelines about screen time all go out the window for now. Connection is king – don’t just allow it, celebrate it.

Q. What are the warning signs that my kids might not be coping?

A. Lack of sleep, changes in appetite, withdrawal – all are flags that our child may be struggling. If your kids are being cheeky, that’s actually a good sign! An overly quiet, compliant child may well be a child with a broken spirit. Focus more on working with your kids to elevate their mood, and less on whether they get their math work done (some kids are also fabulous at independent learning, and some really struggle with it). Relationships matter most.

Q. When things get really tough, what can I do?

A. Reach out. Tell a friend, a neighbour, or call a professional.

Youth Support Services include:

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (24/7 crisis support)

headspace: 1800 650 890 (Direct clinical services)

Other services:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

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