COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and its variants are continuing to have significant impacts throughout the world. This pandemic came out of nowhere and has changed lives personally and professionally. What we thought was a one time situation appears to be something we may need to learn to wrap into our daily routine. How do we do that as families? Families that were already strained, stressed and perhaps ready to break?
Apart from the imminent health concerns, the virus has caused families to change their daily lives completely. As an example:
- Many people have been forced to work remotely, either full or part time.
- Many parents have had schools close suddenly, requiring them to seek immediate childcare options they cannot afford.
- Some parents have begun to homeschool their children due to lack of funding, childcare options or educational options in their area.
- Families are confused about whether or not they should get a vaccination due to mixed messages by governmental leaders. Those who are becoming vaccinated, aren’t sure at what age it’s safe for their children to get the shots.
- Extended family members may need assistance, requiring a place to stay or even financial assistance.
Any of these items above can lead to tension in a home. If your home is a picture of harmony, these issues can still cause disruption. Parents may disagree on whether to homeschool the children, for example.
If there were ongoing issues in the home before these added problems, this only exacerbates the situation. In 2020, it was estimated that domestic violence cases rose globally by up to 33%. (The American Journal of Emergency Medicine). In cases inside the US, studies show that it may have risen by even more because domestic violence is often not reported in some areas of the country.
How does COVID make things worse?
Forcing families that are under strain to spend more time together can have a detrimental effect in one of the following situations.
Depression or anxiety. It makes sense that when a person suddenly needs to stay home from work, he or she may be stir-crazy over time. Confinement takes a toll over a time. An example of how this can play out: Joe works for a mid sized furniture store. He makes a decent salary and his family has great benefits. After COVID-19, the company is forced to close some of their stores. Now that another round of COVID is here, they are closing an additional 25 stores and asking Joe and other managers to work from home for the next 6 months as they shift everything over to an online store model. Joe is very anxious about this new change. He has never sold anything else; especially online. He cannot afford to change jobs right now because everything is locked down again. He is anxious, upset and it’s adding stress to his household.
Alcohol or drug abuse. This one can easily affect any home. Here is a common example that we see all too often. Jill is a physical therapist for a sports company. COVID has closed their doors again. Worried about her future, down and depressed, she has begun to drink each evening. Her husband is stressed as well so she drinks a little more to drown it all out. Suddenly she’s developed a problem. They begin to argue more and more. His job is now sending him home and they are spending time together all day every day. Tempers flare and arguments become physical.
Physical abuse. If a marriage already has elements of abuse, the added stress will make things worse. Putting the victim of that abuse in the home with her (his) abuser 24/7 makes things more deadly because there is no break from the abuse. At least when the abuser was at a job for part of the time, there was a break in the pattern and possibly a chance to break away if she saw the opportunity.
Emotional or mental abuse. Emotional or mental abuse can often be a very subtle thing. Just like physical abuse, it will be made worse by the additional time together and the inability to break away. Family members may blame one another for their situation, in spite of the fact that neither had anything to do with the lock down or being out of work due to COVID. Example of how we see this play out: Bill’s office closes for COVID for the unforeseen future. He will be working from home. He has one area where he can work from home and that is the dining area. Bill’s wife, Sherry, is now also working from home for the same reasons. They must share the working space as well as homeschooling their 2 children, aged 7 and 10. Sherry has assumed the homeschooling responsibility although her job is more demanding, time sensitive and she is the primary money maker in the family. Bill believes it is her job to do these things since she is the mother and that he does the other things like keeping up the yard and repairs around the house. Before the lockdown, they were able to work through these issues by each doing their share. Now, Sherry feels overwhelmed and tired all of the time. Bill feels as though they never have time together as a couple. He has started to make remarks at Sherry that are hurtful and demeaning. These are forms of emotional abuse, whether he realizes it or not.
Financial issues. Without a doubt, COVID has a direct or indirect effect on financial issues in the family. When someone loses their job due to COVID, that is a direct hit to their finances. When someone is suddenly working in a new way and they must change their childcare or homeschool their child, financial situations will arise as an indirect result.
None of these issues take into effect the toll that having the COVID illness can have on someone. It can be costly depending on the person’s ability to fight it off. COVID has created some unique situations that it seems nobody had considered. This illness hits families hard. If you find yourself or your family struggling from its aftermath, reach out to us. Whether you are needing advice on child custody issues, divorce, child support or modification or leaving a domestic violence situation, Christine has the experience and compassion to guide you through it.