Corona: Advice for parents in vulnerable situations

Families all over Norway are experiencing changes to their everyday life. This is more difficult for some families than others.

Schools, kindergartens and workplaces are closed, and we are spending much more time together than usual. At the same time parents may be trying to balance their work life with their family life. Some families will experience illness and infection, which can be difficult to manage. The situation is complex and may feel unstable for many.

Families in vulnerable situations may have an especially trying experience of the crisis due to things like physical or mental illnesses, alcohol or drug abuse, crime, or high levels of conflict in the family. Problems in the family may get worse because of the situation, and new problems can arise.

Here is some advice for how parents can manage the situation, and how the coronavirus may affect you and your family:

Get help

  • Health care services are available. Contact your GP (fastlege) or public health nurse (helsesykepleier) if needed. If you are already in treatment or observation by other health care professionals, you can also discuss your concerns with them.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Under the pandemic the Norwegian health care system will be under a lot of pressure. You can ask for support from others as well, like family, friends, a good neighbour, teachers or other childcare professionals you trust.
  • Helplines are open. Contact one of these if needed:
    • Mental Health Helpline, phone 116 123
    • The Church City Mission SOS service, phone 22 40 00 40
    • Psychiatric emergency rooms locally
  • Emergencies like this may worsen your financial situation. In that case, contact your employer, your bank or NAV.

Personal advice

  • Contact health care services if your family experiences very high levels of conflict, violence, or alcohol and drug abuse. Contact the police, your local (women’s) shelter, or helplines like the National Domestic Violence Helpline or the National Drug Abuse Helpline.
  • Keep in regular contact with friends, family and others who support you. Contact them on the phone or social media if you cannot meet them face to face.
  • Take breaks and look for a place where you can take some time for yourself.
  • It is important to take the time to figure out how you best can manage your own mental and physical health, even if others around you are sick, or your family situation is difficult.
  • Focus on the positive things you can do with your family.
  • It is important to stay updated about the situation and to gather true and relevant information. However, if following the media or social media makes you afraid or stressed, it is a good idea to limit your use of it. Remember that not every cough or sneeze around you will cause an infection.

What can families do?

  • Fixed routines can lower the level of conflict and have a positive impact on your mental health. Set fixed times for meals and bedtime. You could start the day with a family breakfast.
  • Talk to your partner about what is going on. Find out how you can manage your new situation and clarify your expectations. This may help you avoid conflicts.
  • Create activities at home or outdoors that make you happy or less stressed, like watching movies together, listening to music, reading, playing games, cooking together or take walks.
  • Children are sensitive to adult’s feelings and can easily become insecure if adults are anxious. Remember that you and your partner are models for your children’s behaviour, and they are influenced by the way you manage stress.
  • Assess what can happen if you or anyone in your family become infected or ill. How will you talk to your children about it? Who can help you with the shopping, getting medication and other chores?
  • Make note of anyone who could take care of your kids if you or your partner become ill. Don’t hesitate to ask family, friends or acquaintances for help.