Find comfort in family

IT IS estimated that about one million people in the Klang Valley are working from home due to the conditional movement control order (MCO).

As schools are closed, students with access to electronic devices are learning from home. But the ones without computers are missing out on their studies.

Working from home and studying online is proving to be difficult for the middle- and low-income groups who live in high-rises such as one-room apartments, People’s Housing Scheme (PPR) and low-cost flats.

Many feel trapped in their own home when there are too many people in a confined space, and coupled with the demands of life, it inevitably leads to tensions rising high.

The other problem that many people in the middle- and low-income brackets face is the job loss issue.

When a family’s finances revolve around the income of one or two adults in managing a household, it becomes difficult to balance the accounts when faced with job loss.

Needless to say, it is also emotionally taxing on the entire family when money troubles abound.

My household income consists of my husband’s salary and mine and we have two school-going children as well as monthly commitments.

We are no different from the millions of people living in the Klang Valley who have to endure higher cost of living compared to those in other parts of the country.

In March, during the early stages of the movement control order (MCO), my husband Gerald quit his job.

This was because he felt the organisation that he worked for then, did not have the right to withhold his salary.

People who lose their job will undoubtedly experience emotional ups and downs. My husband can attest to this.

One evening when Gerald was feeling low, I said, “Don’t worry, I am still here.”

Those six words meant a lot to him.

Fortunately, he secured a job within a month of leaving his previous employer.

The period of job uncertainty may have been brief for us but it gives me an insight into how much stress one goes through when he or she is left jobless.

My husband’s situation gave me first-hand experience as I witnessed how he dealt with high stress levels.

To keep my stress levels down, I took up baking during my free time as it helped me focus on something I enjoyed.

From conversations with family and friends and just by reading the news or catching up on social media posts, it is obvious that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many families financially and can result in conflict at home.

While I am not a counsellor, I know that a strong family unit is key to addressing issues at home.

There must be healthy communication between spouses and family members, including children, about difficult and complex topics such as managing emotions, worries, finances and the future.

My family is blessed to have been guided on basic communication by our family counsellor, even before the pandemic kicked in.

We are glad that we had some form of emotional assistance in helping us navigate through stressful periods in our lives.

Sometimes Gerald and I go for long walks at night and we return home feeling much better after being outdoors.

It is, after all, difficult to find an outlet to unwind when so many social and recreational spaces are closed during the conditional MCO.

We also teach our children, who are five and nine years old, to share their problems with us and we try to understand what they are going through as well

as solve their issues the best we can.

Hence, they do not fight to win but speak to be heard and understood.

I strongly believe that effective communication should be taught as a subject in schools too.

It may not be easy to talk about stressful situations that we go through, but there are trained individuals and professionals who are willing to listen to our problems.

There are numerous free counselling services in the country and the government’s Talian Kasih 15999 is a helpful number to dial for matters related to abuse, women, family and children.

Some trials in life will help bring families closer.

It is in these trying times that we should overcome the challenges together.

Let us remind ourselves that this difficult period, too, shall pass.

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