Family Tensions in COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on us all. It’s brought many unexpected stressors that can affect our lives in different ways. Relationships with those close to us can be especially impacted so it’s important to recognise the ways our families are being affected by the additional stress everyone is experiencing right now.


The roles we play 

We have a role when we go to work, whether it’s as a team leader, a professional or the calm face of an organisation. Then when we come home, we have a different role, like a caregiver or partner. As someone caring for a child who has cancer, roles can change and become more stressful. Parents often need to switch between all the roles they play. 

You may be jumping between being your work self, to being a parent, a nurse and a school teacher, all in the space of a few minutes. Right now, many people’s roles and how we’re supposed to play them has changed and grown. It’s a lot to be juggling at once in the best of times. It would make sense if all this bouncing around means you’re carrying more stress than usual.


Family stress

We know many families have extra stress right now, whether they’ve had their hours reduced, or have lost their work entirely. When stress builds up, so can tension at home. 

Children can be pretty good at sensing when the dynamics and mood change. When there’s a lot of stress and tension, you might be able to see a change in their behaviour. They might withdraw, struggle to sleep, or it might feel like they’re acting out.  You may have been in a situation where you feel like you can’t handle anymore, only to have your child have an outburst.

Often children act in this way because they’re still learning how to manage ‘big feelings’. Whether you cry with them or laugh when it’s all over, it’s okay. In these moments, it might be a good time to take a step back. Your child might be giving you a sign to tell you, “things are tense!”

Not all kids like sitting down to talk about what’s going on. You might like to regularly spend some time with them doing something they enjoy. When it feels right, you can use this time to talk with them about what’s going on, your own feelings and stress, and let them know it’s okay to talk about these difficult topics with you too. 


Mindfulness and Micro-practices 

When we carry stress and tension, it can show itself in a lot of different ways. Sometimes these things can build slowly and before you know it, it’s having a big impact on you. This can make it hard to recognise when things aren’t going well.

Lots of people under stress often wake up and start the day already feeling that tension, and if it’s tension that has grown slowly, you might not even notice. That is why it can be helpful to know what to look out for in yourself and others which might mean someone is experiencing a lot of stress.

As well as feeling overwhelmed or irritable, you may have trouble with your sleep or not be able to relax because of worries and anxiety. For some people, they don’t like doing the things that they usually like to do, and they can disconnect from their friends and family. You can even feel it in your body, with a pounding chest, upset stomach, or feeling tired.

Knowing when you’re feeling these things isn’t always easy, but mindfulness can help to notice them. Mindfulness could be using a mindfulness app or could be writing in a journal, practising gratitude, or talking with someone like a friend or one of our social workers.

Taking the time to do these things though can sometimes be easier said than done, especially when you’re looking after a child with cancer while juggling everything else going on. This is where ‘micro-practices’ might be helpful. 

Micro-practices are simply taking tiny moments throughout the day to notice your feelings in the moment. It could be taking a breath and checking in when you’re washing your hands or taking 2 minutes when you have it to sit quietly with yourself. Even these little things can be helpful. 

Getting to know yourself better through these micro-practices can help you figure out what stress and tension look like for you, and then help you recognise and take steps to manage feelings of stress earlier. 



This is where we’d usually give you some strategies to manage stress, but you probably already have lots of useful strategies. You might not even realise you’re using them. So it might be more helpful to reflect.

What do you already do to manage difficult moments? What makes it hard to use these strategies when you’re stressed. What makes it easy? If you’re unsure of the strategies you do have or want to explore more options, Redkite can help. 



Leave comment
  • Grief, Loss and Bereavement

    “It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening”, (Sue Monikkid) – but in these changing times of COVID-19, the world has strangely stopped in some ways. During this pandemic, the devastation, sadness and isolation is shared globally, and we all ‘get it’ and can understand the impact. But when it comes to bereavement, sadly many people and communities don’t understand. Grief can be described as a deep and intense sorrow and as tough as it can be it is a natural reaction which helps us work through the […]

  • ‘Chin up’: Breaking down the barriers between men and support

    Most men would be familiar with phrases such as ‘act like a man’ and ‘grow some …’. But what do these phrases say about how a man should behave when his child is diagnosed with cancer? Men are encouraged to show strength and it might seem you can’t say you’re struggling and keep your man badge. So it’s a good thing men don’t need support… right? There’s been a lot of debate about whether our emotions are determined by our biological sex but our feelings don’t depend on our gender. From a very early age, our brains are storing what […]

  • Can Centrelink help my family?

      We understand that families are under high amounts of pressure and stress during the course of their child’s treatment and beyond. Understanding and navigating Centrelink is difficult and confusing. Here we’re highlighting a few tips about Centrelink and other options that may be relevant to you and your family.  Tips for accessing Centrelink services and payments   Speak to a Social Worker at your Centrelink office Social Workers can help with your application and direct you to the most appropriate payment depending on your situation. Centrelink Social Workers can also assist you with information, short term counselling, referrals to […]

  • Motivation

    What is motivation? Where does motivation come from, and how do we find it? We all kind of know what it is, but often it just seems like something that is missing. Some people seem so full of motivation and energy, but for most of us, it’s common to feel like motivation is hard to find, and even harder to hang on to, especially when it comes to tasks we find tedious, time consuming or not very high on our list of priorities. So when we’re going through a difficult time, such as the frightening experience of your child receiving […]

  • Homeschool – Your Rules

        Homeschooling: it may seem like an odd topic to cover when all you can think about is your child getting through treatment and being okay; when the most important thing right now is avoiding coronavirus – or any virus or infection for that matter. We understand that getting through treatment is a family’s number one priority.  We hear that homeschooling is an added stress that comes up, particularly now with COVID-19. This article covers some ways parents can consider their homeschooling approaches through cancer treatment, and through COVID-19 and beyond. Working with your values about learning Before you […]

  • Isolation and Social Connectedness

      Isolation is one of the big changes almost everyone is experiencing in their lives right now. In times of stress, being disconnected from others can be particularly hard. COVID-19 is likely to keep influencing our lives in the coming months, so it’s important to make sure we’re looking after ourselves. Humans are social beings. Evidence shows that loneliness and isolation aren’t good for our health. Even if we’re naturally introverted, connecting with others is an important part of looking after our wellbeing.   What is social connectedness? ‘Social distancing’ isn’t the right term for what we need right now. […]


Comments will appear below.

What do you think about this topic?