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Do I need to see a psychologist? Tips to building your family’s resilience


Do I need to see a psychologist? It’s a question many of us many have probably pondered over the past two years (or more!), dealing with the stressors that come with parenting through a global pandemic and adjusting to a new normal. You might find yourself asking: why do I often feel anxious/sad/lonely/frustrated/impatient? It’s important to recognise you’re not alone, and there is help out there. The team at Ramsay Psychology St Leonards share when it’s time to talk to a psychologist and just how beneficial it can be for your whole family. 

Dealing with Covid-19

Let’s start with the obvious. It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a lot of stress and anxiety around the world. The constant pressure to adapt to ever-changing rules created a lot of uncertainty.

Do you remember how you felt and responded as news of Covid started to spread?

It was a big unknown, and so hard to know where to turn to find the right information from the right source to stay ahead of this constantly changing information and ever-evolving restrictions.

This led to huge adjustments in the family unit, making the necessary changes to work/parenting routines and re-evaluating outside help from extended family and friends. Our usual coping mechanisms were no longer an option, or had to be somehow adapted, and we felt increasingly disconnected from each other. Significant events, such as visiting sick relatives, weddings and funerals were all disrupted.

And just when we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there were vaccination issues to get our heads around, while coping with the return to “life as normal” and easing of measures, and particularly now – dealing with the realities of becoming unwell with Covid. Wow, it sure is a lot!

Mental health impact on the whole family

Even before Covid-19, rates of mental health problems in adults and children were increasing, and these are predicted to grow even more as a result of the impacts of the pandemic. But did you know that a parent’s mental health can also significantly impact on their child’s mental health, particularly following unpredictable, traumatic or stressful life experiences?

For example, have you found yourself becoming quite anxious and stressed about the risk of covid infection, maybe more stressed than many other people you know?

  • How do you think this anxiety affects you, and particularly, what would other family members notice about you that is different?
  • How do your children respond when they know you are upset or stressed?
  • Are they also showing signs of increased anxiety?
  • Are they withdrawing and avoiding things?
  • Are they trying to protect you from more stress by suppressing their own needs for comfort or support?
  • Are they irritable or acting out more?

It makes sense that the mental health and wellbeing of one family member can impact on the mental health and wellbeing of other family members. If you have noticed that you are struggling with your own mental health, it’s likely that you have also been very conscious of how this is impacting your relationships – with your partner and your children.

Challenges for children

Children, in particular, are very aware of, and perceptive about, their parent’s psychological state – after all, it’s a survival skill!

Children can be impacted by their parent’s mental health difficulties in a number of different ways due to:

  • Role modelling.
  • Changes in the parent’s behaviour/functioning.
  • Impacts on the parent-child relationship.

This can potentially lead to a wide range of negative impacts on the child’s own mental health, including increased risk of anxiety, depression, or increased behaviour problems, such as school resistance, aggression or acting out behaviours.

Challenges for parents

This is not supposed to make parents feel guilty! After all, no-one wishes to experience stress, anxiety and other mental health difficulties.

Rather, it is to encourage parents to understand their power and influence in shaping their children’s responses to adversity and challenges in life.

Regardless of whether parents have mental health issues or not, they can serve as powerful role models and supports in the face of uncertainty and stressful events. Meeting these challenges well can even increase the sense of family connectedness and resilience, by strengthening bonds and increasing the sense of security.

It teaches children they can cope, they’re not alone, they can enjoy the support of their loved ones and provide support in return. This can reduce the chance of the child developing serious mental health difficulties.

Building family resilience

A family’s level of resilience is unique and depends on a number of important factors, including:

  • Stage of life at the time when significant stressors arise.
  • How long the stressors last for.
  • What kind of support is available to the family at the time.

Here’s some factors that can increase a family’s resilience and ability to cope:

  1. The family’s set of beliefs about the stressor, whether they have an optimistic outlook and confidence in being able to apply various approaches in order to cope.
  2. Family communication and problem-solving, involving trust, mutual respect and tolerance of different opinions, which all promote open communication.
  3. Family connectedness: time together, humour, warmth and comfort in the relationships, shared routines and activities, clear expectations and family rules.

Do I need to see a psychologist?

Psychologists have expert skills in assessing and providing assistance for the many and varied mental health struggles experienced by adults and children, and can work with you to help improve relationships, resilience and avenues of support.

Do I need to see a psychologist? Some people might worry about seeing a psychologist, or feel embarrassed or nervous, but if you are able to overcome these barriers, this can often be the start of positive change in your life and that of your loved ones.

Essential Details: Ramsay Psychology St Leonards

do i need to see a psychologist

The information in this article was provided by Sonja Kram, Practice Principal and Clinical Psychologist at Ramsay Psychology St Leonards, who has extensive experience in supporting children, adolescents and adults with a wide range of mental health conditions and concerns.

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