Clear communication, structure and time to ourselves – these are the three key things we need to make sure relationships with our nearest and dearest don’t just survive but thrive in lockdown.
Since the pandemic started there have been countless headlines about the increase in interest in divorce, but a study from Australia National University on Wednesday showed most Australians say their relationships have improved during COVID-19.
The study of 32,000 people found that although one in five Australians felt their relationships – with partners, children and other close family members – was worse off, more than a quarter said they thought it they had gotten stronger.
It was parents living with a child who saw the biggest improvement, with 32.7 per cent saying they had been positively impacted by the lockdown.
Females were more likely to feel their relationships had gotten better, with 30.8 per cent saying they had improved compared to one in four males, or 24.9 per cent.
Relationships Australia national executive officer Nick Tebbey said the survey reflected what they had seen, with a lot of ‘promising outcomes’ for relationships.
“The extended time families have been able to spend together, getting back to basics has created some promising outcomes.”
He said while some relationships were suffering due to added finical and mental health stresses, it was helpful for everyone to make sure they communicated clearly.
“I think it’s obviously something that will be different for different families. There are people who are struggling more because of financial pressures and mental health.
“But the more open communication helps, and the setting of expectations early on, especially where children are involved. Having that honest and open line of communication open.”
Explaining to children things why things they usually do aren’t allowed anymore was vital in setting expectations, and remembering to keep it fun.
The two other essentials though were keeping a routine and finding time to yourself, he said.
“Putting in place routines is really helpful. This is particularly helpful for people stuck at home, like what we’re seeing in Victoria again. If there are a lot of people in the one home, put structure on it.
“And set aside some alone time. Time people can be with themselves for a bit.
“Even though we’re social creatures we need time to be by ourselves and think about what’s happening. Whether that’s on a drive or walk at lunch, or spending a bit of time meditating relaxing alone.”
Lead researcher Professor Nicholas Biddle on the ANU survey said more time spent together and increased support from partners had made a positive impact.
“This is all taking a major toll on Australians’ mental health,” Professor Biddle said.
“Australia has been very fortunate during the COVID-19 period with low rates of infection and mortality.
“However, that does not mean that there have not been large negative effects on other important outcomes, like our relationships, sense of financial security, stress, and loneliness.”