Challenges for at-home parents, feelings of guilt, social media supports
Children might find it difficult to navigate the changes that parents working away or changing shifts might bring.
When children are struggling with routines and want to stay at home, it can be a particularly confronting time for at-home parents. Parents might have feelings of desperation and they are stuck between their desires to socially isolate themselves to please their child and their need for social connection. They may realise traits in themselves they didn’t think were there before (such as anger or frustration towards their child) and this worries them. Feelings of wanting to meet their own needs may feel like selfishness, but it is a sign that they are possibly at the stage where their own ‘glasses’ are full. This can be exacerbated by comments from others or perceived attitudes, and even from the parent who is away.
Parents may really start to feel the strain if the unwanted behaviour from their child is ongoing. Parents need to have a break, and if this is difficult
to achieve, the feelings of guilt compound.
There can also be a period of regression in the adult. Regression can occur as a reaction to ongoing stress, in children as well as adults. When adults are very stressed over a long period of time, they can go into a fantasy world, as might be expected with children. These fantasies might look like someone arriving to
come and care for the children while they sleep, or even an emergency where somebody has to come and take care of everyone in the family,
including the parent.
This is well supported by research. Lokko and Stern (2015) state,
'Regression in adults can arise at any age; it entails retreating to an earlier developmental stage (emotionally, socially, or behaviorally).
Insecurity, fear, and anger can cause an adult to regress. In essence,
individuals revert to a point in their development when they felt safer and when stress was nonexistent, or when an all-powerful parent or another adult would have rescued them' (para. 5).
Ways to support parents
to the parents to see if they are interested in extra support sessions. Let the parent know that this is a phase and that they are doing well to cope. Give examples of where changes have occurred in other families and the difference that made. Try to be the link to other services, because this can be a great support to families (Wilson, 2016).
This might include directing parents to activities that are well suited to them, such as:
- toy libraries
- library reading sessions
- parent coffee mornings
- parents' groups
- online support groups
Often first responder and defence families are isolated and new to the area. They need to connect but find it difficult so the issues tend to compound. Another challenge might be that the service you are working in was not their first choice for their family. They may have had to take any vacancy to get any support and may not feel comfortable with the type of service you are working in.
It is important not to take this personally but to realise that different types of care are preferred by some families.
Social media support may be very beneficial for parents at this time. Many defence family social media groups can offer support. In this video (2 mins) Dr Amy Johnson explores how social media groups provide important support for families.
Wilson, T. (2016). Working with parents, carers and families in the early years: The essential guide. Oxon, UK: Routledge.
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