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 wanting 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.


Social Distancing, Covid-19, Lockdown

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).

reflection of a castle surrounded with fogs

Ways to support parents 

Talk to the parent to see if they are interested in extra, occasional childcare days if another family cancels. 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
These groups can be a source of encouragement and support. Don't forget military families move frequently or may be raising children in a different area (or country!) from where they grew up. This means it is essential not to assume the parent is aware of local facilities and supports. Try to be aware that while parents may not immediately take advantage of the groups & activities you suggest. They may not feel confident to go to a social event if they feel they are not coping. Also, sometimes outings can be worn when the children are socially clingy.

tilt shift lens photo of stainless steel chain


Defence families

Often, Defence families are isolated and new to the area. They need to connect but find it difficult, so the issues tend to compound. They need to connect but find it difficult, so the issues tend to compound. Another challenge might be that the EC service you are working in was not their first choice for their child. They may have had to take any vacancy to get any care and may not feel comfortable with the type of EC 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.

Supports

Defence and Veteran families

Social media supports 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.

Each Unit has its own activities that might offer opportunities to connect with other families.

Servulink offers a comprehensive database of support for families.

First Responder families

First Responder families have their own social media informal support groups. Ask around at work, or ask your partner to connect you so you can stay in touch with other families. These can be sources of support, especially in difficult times or in times of transition.

Fortem Australia has some family and partner activities you can explore.



Social media supports

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. 


Unlinked references

Wilson, T. (2016). Working with parents, carers and families in the early years: The essential guide. Oxon, UK: Routledge. 


Last modified: Tuesday, 14 November 2023, 1:38 PM