The impact of financial hardship on rural families
and how it affects relationships

Many families in NSW rural communities have had to deal with income anxiety and financial hardship as a result of the Covid19 pandemic. Income anxiety can have a big impact on families and intimate relationships during these difficult times, particularly since rural communities have already faced challenging events in recent years that have already impacted on the economy and jobs, such as the drought and the 2019 bushfires.

Being stressed about making ends meet, finding work or having to do more hours working away from home can be hard on each member of the family, including children. It can also be especially tough on Mum and Dad, particularly when one partner now has to work longer hours or more days away from home. If a family member has lost their job through no fault of their own during the pandemic, it may be helpful for the family to understand that they can feel a sense of grief and loss about how their life has changed – while also feeling angry, sad, anxious, guilty and confused about the helplessness of the situation.

The stress and uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds, while worrying about paying the bills, can lead to close relationships being put under even more strain than usual. Make a decision as a parent – and stick to it – not to argue in front of the children. If you find that unresolved conflict continues, consider using our professional one-on-one or relationship counselling support.

Unexpected and sudden change can leave us floundering and emotionally wrought, and it is critical to remember to reach out if you are consistently feeling upset, sad or anxious about your situation. It can also lead to physical, emotional and mental health problems such as not being able to sleep, loss of appetite, drinking more alcohol or taking illegal substances; as well as feeling depressed or withdrawing emotionally because you don’t want to be a burden on other people.

Here are some ways to try and to lessen the impact of these difficult times on you and your partner as well as loved ones:

  • For couples, it is during stressful times like these that good, clear communication becomes even more important to keeping the relationship balanced, supportive and nurtured.
  • Though it may be hard, and at times seem like a big ask, it is important at this time not to withdraw from those you are closest to.
  • Resist the temptation to deal or resolve problems without your partner’s help, or assume you are doing them a favour by keeping them at arm’s length. It can actually be more unhelpful to try and control the situation rather than be consultative and constructive.
  • Keep talking to your partner about how you are feeling and dealing with the stress, anxiety and uncertainty as well as ask them to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Remember to listen non-critically to your partner, so that you both can support each other’s personal challenges, frustrations and emotional reactions to what is happening – to hopefully reduce the escalation of any conflict between you. Try to keep offering each other comfort, support, understanding, positivity and love.
  • If you have a bad day – or week – where you have been difficult to live with, be aware that you don’t have to be negative, argumentative, angry, frustrated or lash out at others. Acknowledge that your behaviour may be unacceptable, and apologise.
  • What can be especially helpful for every family member is to maintain healthier choices including eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, exercising often, eating meals as a family at the dinner table, and planning outdoor activities together like a walk to the park, a bike ride or kicking a ball in the backyard.
  • Although it can seem much harder than usual to gain balance and perspective, take time to reflect and remember the people who are dearest to you are at this time and try to cherish them – even in little ways.
  • If your family is a blended family, single parent family or a separating family and you are under a lot of financial pressure, be aware that escalating or ongoing verbal conflict between partners (or exes) can impact on your children’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • As time goes on, especially if you are looking for work, you can start to lose self-confidence and doubt your skills and abilities and begin to feel it is not worthwhile applying for jobs. Talk to former workmates, bosses, contacts or industry bodies about what jobs are available and ask for support and guidance.
  • Even if it is something you have never had to do before, use local professional support services that are available to you such as rural financial counsellors.

If you would like to organise over-the-phone counselling or a face to face session with one of our counsellors, please email enquiries@ransw.org.au or call 1300 364 277. 

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