Supporting families under stress

17 March 2021

Part of our job is to support families under stress, but it can feel hard to know where to start.

In a ‘Lunch with Rachel’ webinar for children’s, youth and families leaders, Rachel shared some really practical ideas for how to do this well. You can listen to what she said below, and we’ve added short notes to help you as you listen.

It’s tempting to feel that you need to be an expert in whatever a family is experiencing in order to help, but it’s really significant for us to say I’m not expert in what you’re struggling with but I can wade in and support you.

Two questions that will help you position yourself well to help them:

1. What’s being squeezed out of their life that I can help give back to them? For example, not being able to afford little treats for the kids, not having time to be alone to talk, not being able to give all the kids attention at once.

2. What can I specifically offer that will help? Often there’s a lot of different things contributing to the pressure, and people find it hard to identify things that will help. So offer, for example, to pick up the kids from school once a week, or introduce them to someone who would love a playdate, or baby sit, or cook for them. And if you can, put no time limit on the offer – you are free to say no now and yes at any point in the future.

Questions Rachel answered

How to help during lockdown – we have some families who have had ASD diagnoses for kids over the last year who are really struggling. I am desperate to whisk their kids away for an afternoon to give them space to talk with partners/just breath but that’s technically still a no. And it’s still meant to be 2 more months before I can have another family in my house. It makes me feel really powerless. How can we help now?

I go to a large church. I often hear of pastoral needs but they are not people I know well or have existing relationship with. I’m also very aware I can’t physically support them all of them myself. How do you safely involve other people in doing some of the support?

I think most of our church families go through this sort of stress a lot of the time because we live in a very deprived area and I’m only part time and have a young family myself. Got any tips on how to juggle it all – financial, mental health, physical ill health – everything!

I’m not in a deprived area and often find the challenge of people not talking about it at all or until well after the event.

Can you give any more suggestions for emergency foster care and parents not getting any support by social services?

Any suggestions for a family that moved to the UK during lockdown and had a new baby, now feeling very isolated as they’ve been here 10 months but still never met other new mums etc?

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