Wellbeing is more than moment-to-moment happiness. It’s something deeper, something more consistent and, sometimes, a challenge to achieve. For every family, it’s an incredibly important state to pursue, for both parents and children.
By promoting or achieving a sense of wellbeing, you can find that you’re more content in life with better mental and physical health as well. Family wellbeing is something seemingly mystical, but it doesn’t need to be. To help you create better wellbeing for your family, here’s our guide on the subject.
What is Family Wellbeing?
Wellbeing is a bit of a catch-all term. It’s broad in definition and kind of hard to pin down into set characteristics. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as “the state of feeling healthy and happy” and Psychology Today writes:
Wellbeing is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of these (or all of them) are much harder to manage, which means putting more effort into each is particularly important.
Sometimes we can enjoy all of the things that Psychology Today mentions and sometimes, only a couple. It truly depends on how our lives are going and what both we and our families are going through.
Because of that, wellbeing can be a privilege and is easily affected by external factors, such as financial ability. It can be harder for some to achieve a consistent state of wellbeing because they may be financially restricted or time-poor. But wellbeing in general isn’t something that just happens - it can require consistent work.
Family wellbeing is where you take all of those things and feed them into a family context. For example, how much does your family communicate? How much time do you spend together? Are you open with your emotions in your family?
Because wellbeing is difficult to define, it can be explored and expressed in so many different ways. For example, as a family we can pursue wellbeing by actively increasing family activities, strengthening our bonds and living a little healthier. As individuals, promoting wellbeing can take the form of self-care, such as caring for our hair and our skin, working on increasing our confidence or even exercising.
In a Google search, you might come across these types of wellbeing:
- Emotional wellbeing: Emotional resilience, stress management and the achievement of regular positive and happy mindsets.
- Physical wellbeing: Improving your body through healthy eating and exercise.
- Societal wellbeing: Highly important for families, this wellbeing focuses on communication, relationship building and maintaining you and your child’s support network.
- Workplace wellbeing: Finding professional enrichment.
- Social wellbeing: Active participation in your community or friendship circles.
- Ecological wellbeing: Promoting a healthy environment for you and your children to live in.
- Familial wellbeing: Focusing energy on strengthening the bonds in your family.
Promoting family wellbeing will need a mixture of all of these things. For queer families in particular, there are specific considerations that apply to them. For example, wellbeing in your context may mean:
- Discussing how your children came into the world. Adoption, surrogacy, fostering and co-parenting are non-traditional ways of starting or raising a family and so, naturally, your children may have questions if they’re at a certain age. Creating wellbeing may be predicated upon answering these questions.
- Addressing any discrimination that might be experienced as individuals or as a family, based on things like sexual orientation and gender identity. Queer people face discrimination and that can have an impact on our kids, so it’s important to begin tackling any anxiety or negative emotions they may feel in order to foster greater emotional wellbeing.
So with all these different forms that wellbeing can take, why is it so important for queer families?
Why is Wellbeing Important For Families?
The first thing to learn about wellbeing, for anyone, is this: There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Internal and external factors that affect family wellbeing can be radically different from one person or family to the next and can include health, income, housing and social networks.
Queer families and gay, bi or trans dads can be under more external pressures than heteronormative families, which may be caused by ignorance or political pressures. This is another reason why practicing wellbeing in its many forms is especially important for queer families.
At this moment in time, wellbeing is especially important. During a lockdown, both you and your kids are more likely to experience anxiety, loneliness and even symptoms of depression. Avoiding these issues as best as possible helps your family to flourish in many fields, such as professional or educational. And a flourishing family is a beautiful thing to experience.
Another thing to remember about promoting wellbeing is that it’s not like a diet you can stop when you reach a specific goal, it’s a consistent practice that you can work towards for the rest of your life. So if you practice the following tips and start to feel mentally and physically better after a month, don’t assume you can stop - keep going! We believe in you.
Wellbeing Tips for the Family
As parents, there are many things you can do to ease the stress of daily life and promote wellbeing for yourselves and your kids. The following tips are perfect for families trying to achieve better wellbeing and have also been specifically picked to ease issues with lockdown and isolation.
Talking About Things Like Surrogacy and Adoption
Surrogacy. Adoption. Fostering. Co-parenting. These are all non-traditional ways of starting a family and are likely to be seen a lot less in day-to-day life by children, in their schools, the families of their friends and in the media. Representation can be lacking in all these mediums, which may make your child feel confused about their upbringing.
Fostering emotional wellbeing within our children is vital. While we can understand the concepts and journeys of things like surrogacy and adoption, they might be confusing for children, especially younger kids. For queer families, simply talking about these processes, the ones relevant to your family, is helpful.
The more information a child has, the more they understand. The more they understand, the more they feel assured in themselves and how they fit in. Children are highly perceptive and, if something like surrogacy is explained to them in age-appropriate terms, they’ll become comfortable processing the issues that arise with these circumstances. In that respect, creating an environment where asking questions is encouraged is always a benefit for their emotional development.
Creating routines and a structure that you and your kids can stick to can help to maintain productivity and mean that you don’t fall into a funk. When we focus on little tasks and tick them off the daily planner, we get little bursts of satisfaction that help to spur us through the week.
We can’t stress the importance of fresh air and exercise for you and your kids. Healthier bodies help to maintain healthier minds and can be achieved in so many different ways - from walking to cycling, dancing to skipping. Try getting your heart pumping for thirty minutes a day and you’ll soon feel the benefits.
Make Time to Connect With Family and Friends
We realize it’s not the best time for face-to-face contact, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with family and friends. Try organizing regular Zoom or Skype calls with your family.
For your kids, arrange these calls between them and their friends. If they play online video games with friends, it might actually be worth letting them spend the extra half hour online, to make up for lost face-to-face time as schools have been closed.
You can stay in contact online using WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. To watch films with friends and family, you could organize a Netflix Party night!
Seek Professional Advice
If you or one of your family are experiencing poor wellbeing or mental health, it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice. Issues like these are crucial to stay open and communicative about. When we communicate about poor mental health, we work to create a larger support network, meaning we have more loved ones to rely on.
On top of that, professional help is specifically designed to help ease these feelings.
Discrimination is something that queer families may face at times. For both adults and children, these experiences can really harm wellbeing. In order to promote wellbeing, having conversations about discrimination, whether experienced or not, is important. Having these conversations early can help your children understand this reality and the context behind why discrimination happens. While stopping discrimination completely is an incredibly difficult task, it is possible to help your child develop healthy responses to it. This means talking about how to handle bullying. For more information on how to do that, read our blog here.
Stay Mentally Active
The internet is the perfect place for both your and your children to benefit from learning or fun activities. YouTube has a treasure trove of activity videos to follow along with, from yoga classes to video podcasts and science lessons.
Talk to your child about the things they want to learn or achieve, then you can create a plan of supplementary learning from that. If they want to learn to paint, watch some online art lessons. Do they simply want to read more? Arrange weekly reading time where you can sit and read through a book together. This is also the perfect bonding opportunity.
What’s your take on family wellbeing? Have you come across any amazing methods for increasing physical and mental health? What coping mechanisms have you been using to deal with the emotional effects of lockdown? We’d love to hear from you and listen to your thoughts on wellbeing as many other gay, bi or trans dads and their families will stand to benefit from sharing this important knowledge.
Get in touch with us and share your experiences!