JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Millions of Americans are paying heed to stay-at-home directives during the COVID-19 pandemic, a necessary step in protecting themselves from the deadly virus that continues to ravage the nation.
However, for families, all that togetherness poses its own challenges as parents step in as surrogate teachers while tending to their job duties through telework and children used to the routine of school and extracurricular activities try not to go stir crazy.
Those challenges are compounded if the parents are worried about family finances because one or both of them are laid off from work.
“Parents are concerned over their finances and being able to provide food, medicine and supplies for their families,” said Chantelle Stoops, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Family Advocacy Program outreach manager.
It is also possible that families are experiencing changes in sleep, changes in alcohol consumption and some increased conflict between partners, Stoops said.
“In addition, parents are having to adjust to playing the multiple roles of employee, spouse, parent and teacher at the same time,” she said. “All of these challenges can feel especially demanding and families may feel the pressure considering they do not have access to their usual self-care routine and do not have the opportunity to enjoy social engagements with extended family and close friends. Many of these support systems are still accessible through phone and social media; however, there is nothing better than being able to hug, touch and interact with your social support.”
There are a number of ways families can surmount these obstacles and become stronger in the process, said Angela Nance, JBSA-Randolph FAP intervention specialist.
“Making sure that families take care of themselves is valuable during this time,” Nance said.
Going out for walks, sitting in the backyard or on the balcony, playing board games and even reaching out to friends and families via social media sites are just a few examples of what families can do to stay emotionally healthy while they are at home, she said.
Staying at home offers unique opportunities for family bonding, Stoops said.
“Our fast-paced life has slowed down dramatically and this is a good time to learn about being mindful and in the present with our families,” she said. “Talk about family history, values and traditions and maybe take the time to teach them a family recipe.”
Although parents may be overwhelmed by the stress of being a substitute teacher to their children, they can always reach out to their classroom teachers, Nance said.
“Parents should make sure they are connecting with their children’s teachers for additional resources by going to the school district’s website or emailing the teacher directly,” she said.
Finding time for themselves now that they are with their children most of the day is another challenge for parents, Nance said. That “alone” time can help them recharge for the next day.
“Make sure the children have a specified bedtime in order for the couple to connect with one another at the end of the evening,” she said.
Trying to maintain a routine of some sort, especially for small children, is also helpful, Stoops said.
“Change can be stressful for little ones, which in turn can lead to stress on the parents who are trying to help them adjust,” she said. “It’s okay to be flexible and it is still OK to have to take time for self-care. Maintain good and healthy communication with the members of your family.”
For couples without children, alone time is harder to come by when they are together 24/7, but finding it is important, Stoops said.
“We are always struggling to make time for each other, and now that we have it, it can feel as if we need to share and cherish every single moment,” she said. “It is OK to still need alone time.”
The pandemic’s requirements for social distancing and staying at home have also impacted JBSA’s FAP specialists, but they continue to provide their services through other means, said Maj. Melanie Roserie, JBSA-Randolph Family Advocacy officer.
“Outreach has shifted to being heavily reliant on technology – social media, email, webinars, online support groups, online meeting platforms – to provide helpful resources to families,” she said. “Face-to-face outreach or interaction with clients is very minimal at this time, but we thankfully have the technology to connect with our FAP beneficiaries.”
This pandemic is like no other time most people have seen in their lifetime, but it will pass, Nance said.
“Take this time for self-care, spend meaningful time with the family, laugh and be thankful for those who are out there taking care of those who are in dire need of it,” she said. “Remember to follow the guidelines that have been set out by the state and county regarding how to stay safe and healthy, and remember this is just a temporary situation.”
JBSA Family Advocacy Program offices can still be reached at the following phone numbers during regular duty hours, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday: JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, 210-221-1996; JBSA-Lackland, 210-292-5967; and JBSA-Randolph, 210-652-6308.