CatholicCare counsellors could help if your family is struggling

HELPING HAND: Families under stress at this time are encouraged to look for counselling support to help during tough times. Help is available for individuals as well. Photo: Shutterstock
HELPING HAND: Families under stress at this time are encouraged to look for counselling support to help during tough times. Help is available for individuals as well. Photo: Shutterstock

Stress from job loss, uncertainty and change during COVID-19 is putting pressure on families, prompting counsellors to encourage parents or couples to seek support. CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains Family Relationships Services manager Natalie Vlies said it was common for families to experience tension and conflict at this time.

"The COVID-19 crisis is like nothing any of us have experienced and some people and families have been significantly impacted," she said. "We don't always know how to cope with the huge pressures and changes this can put on our lives."

She said the changes introduced to slow the spread of the virus had meant major adjustments for families. "Families are having to re-negotiate the daily activities that come with being at home such as home-schooling and no longer having access to extended family for support," she said. "Families can feel isolated without this support, putting additional pressures on parents and family relationships. This is in addition to many having to re-negotiate their work life and financial commitments."

Mrs Vlies encouraged parents to seek help sooner rather than later. "If you notice that you are struggling in your relationship with your partner, or in your role as parents, or perhaps the children aren't coping with the changes - it's important to ask for help," she said. "Tensions often arise from misunderstanding or miscommunication that can generally be resolved quite easily with the support of a counsellor."

Natalie said a relationship and family counsellor was not a mediator or a referee. "A counsellor is an advocate for the family or the relationship. They ask the questions, what strengths are being overlooked? What does the relationship need currently? In counselling the work is about creating a safe place where each can express their worries and feelings without fear, guilt or shame."

People come to counselling often because relationships have been disrupted and they can learn better ways to communicate and cope differently with change. "The first step in the process is to learn to truly listen to each other without prejudice; without a filter of 'right or wrong'. This opens up a space where you can express your worry, hurt, love and hope," Natalie said.

Qualified and experienced counsellors work confidentially with couples and partners to strengthen and enrich their personal and parenting relationships. It is usually a face-to-face service but is currently being delivered online via video-conferencing. Where: Blacktown, Parramatta, Emerton, Penrith and Springwood. Contact: For counselling appointments phone 8843 2530, visit ccss.org.au/relationship-counselling.

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