There’s no denying 2020 has been a testing time for every single person when it comes to maintaining relationships – even those who usually feel in control of their wellbeing and work/life balance will have naturally found living through a global pandemic difficult. The precise physical health, mental health, financial and practical challenges being experienced will have been different in homes across the UK and beyond – but one thing we’ve all had in common is working out how to maintain our relationships during lockdown.

Keeping in touch with those in other households has been a vital part of many people’s coping strategy. Technology has been extremely helpful in this respect and there’s been a massive uptake in people turning to the internet to communicate: some video call apps were downloaded 24 times more during March 2020 than the same time last year1.

Creativity has been a key element, from coming up with quiz questions to hosting online dance parties to taking part in virtual escape room games.

But while internet shopping, online team games and social media have been heavily relied on, many have also turned to more traditional ways of keeping in touch. In Ireland, every household was given two free postcards by An Post to encourage them to write to their loved ones2 – and many closer to home have taken to traditional letter writing to let family and friends know they’re thinking of them.

Of course, relationships between those in the same households are bound to have been tested too. Some regions of China were reporting record levels of divorce requests after lockdown was lifted there3 – but others have found ways to ensure changes in working and living circumstances haven’t caused problems.

This can include: communicating effectively (and that means listening as well as talking); dividing up time so that each person gets space to work, complete household jobs, and relax; and scheduling a regular ‘date night’ at home. Many relationship counselling services are now offering virtual services for those who are really struggling to resolve issues.

Poor communication has long been cited as one of the main reasons couples break up4 – and this is going to be even more of a problem if you’re suddenly together 24/7 because you’ve been furloughed or you’re working from home. Equally, if you have children then the extended period of time that they’ve been off school can cause problems between all of you.

Maintaining relationships with children will also have been put under pressure – they’re in the house more, you’re being asked to home-school as well as being their parent, and they may be unsettled or worried by media reports and changes over the last few months.

But there are a few ideas you can try:

  • 🧸 Set aside time for fun – we’re so busy teaching them maths, trying to get our own work completed, and sorting the house, that sometimes we don’t feel like we have a second for doing anything enjoyable. But sitting down to complete a jigsaw or read together, or stepping out for a walk can help you reconnect and communicate better.
  • 🧩 Get them involved – age-appropriate chores laid out clearly on a rota take the pressure off you, (hopefully) reduce nagging, and set out your expectations of every member of the household. And rewards can always be on offer for those completing all of their tasks.
  • 💬 Talk to them honestly – they might not fully understand what’s going on but by refusing to talk about it that can lead to them internalising the worry and feeling even worse. A media outlet such as Newsround which is aimed at younger people can be really useful to help you explain news events.

Give them ago! Until next time, do stay safe and well 😊🧡