Virtual Visits Alleviating Anxiety for Parents

Virtual Visits Alleviating Anxiety for Parents

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The pivot to technology has been swift for 100 year old Early Parenting organisation Tweddle with clinicians helping to relieve the fears, worries and uncertainty of parents with babies and toddlers across Victoria.

After a century of supporting families in challenging times, including the Great Depression and wartime, Tweddle’s trusted clinicians are using telehealth to ensure families can navigate parenting in a pandemic.

Tweddle’s clinicians are delivering urgently needed parenting support and education via phones, laptops and ipads. Emotional support needed right now includes a sense of connectedness, the validation of fears and worries and allowing parents to have their feelings normalised.

1 in 5 mums and 1 in 10 dads* experience perinatal anxiety and depression, this is without the additional compounding pressure of raising a baby or toddler while isolated from family and friends. Tweddle’s telehealth and virtual consultations include discussions around mental health and links to support networks for mums and dads.

Charlotte is one of Tweddle’s front-line virtual home-visiting clinicians. After 18 months working on Tweddle’s residential unit caring for families, she said that the transition to telehealth had been a lot smoother than expected, in what has been an unknown and uncertain time. Her overwhelming feeling is happiness at being able to support families and continuing to deliver Tweddle’s great service.

She explained that she has been surprised about how grateful families have been with the service. She had anticipated families feeling uncertain and disappointed about not getting into a regular program however the feedback has been lovely.

“I miss seeing the babies and toddlers in person and their interactions with their parents” Charlotte said. “While this is something we do not see as much via the screen, interactions have been going well.”

Right now, babies and toddlers need parents who feel supported. Parents need a strong, soothing and reassuring voice, a kind face, a trusted and experienced practitioner and an understanding smile on the other end of the phone or zoom chat.

Anxiety in response to COVID-19 may bring up specific memories or felt experiences and a heightened sense of vulnerability. Babies and toddlers may sense changes in their parents’ stress levels. Babies will respond to their changing environment through cues and changes in their parent’s actions and behaviours.

More than ever, it is the role of Tweddle clinicians to share calm and compassion, skills innate in Tweddle’s early parenting practitioners.

Mum of two Amanda recently booked a telehealth call with Tweddle. She needed support with sleep and settling her new baby and help creating a new routine for her 3 year old during isolation. Early Parenting Practitioner Charlotte was able to demonstrate some sleep and settling approaches using a teddy bear. She also supported Amanda with a routine that included various play, reading, art and screen activities as well as help with meal-times.

Amanda shared her Tweddle consultation experience in order to help other parents unsure about telehealth or accessing a virtual visit, which no longer require a referral.

“Although I’m no expert in child rearing, as an expectant mum with a 3-year-old pre-schooler in tow, I was certainly less apprehensive about the addition of a second child compared to the first experience which was a steep learning curve” Amanda said.

“My husband and I thought our biggest challenge would be dealing with how our daughter would feel about having a baby brother instead of a sister which she had her heart set on.  As luck would have it, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy and I’m pleased to say our daughter has embraced him in the most loving and nurturing way”

“I remember hearing about COVID 19 whilst on maternity leave, but at that stage couldn’t have foreseen the level of impact that it was about to have on our family and society more broadly.”

Amanda shared that there’s no doubt that increasing restrictions and isolation has had an impact on how we would have ordinarily gone about their day to day lives.

“Some of the most challenging aspects of the current state of affairs for our family has been feeling limited in outdoor and indoor activities, concerns about the potential health and wellbeing of family members and the impact on our mental health”

“Perhaps the hardest part of changing the way we live our lives now is the lack of closeness with family and friends.  When we had our daughter, from a very young age she grew up regularly surrounded by grandparents and cousins and although video conferencing is an alternative, it’s not quite the same as a physical presence for bonding and building relationships.  We do however realise the importance of these measures to stop the spread and are grateful to so far remain healthy”

She added that this changing world has not been without its positives and that as a family unit they have had ample uninterrupted time to bond with their son and ease into the transition of going from one to two children.

“My husband has worked from home and therefore has avoided hours commuting to and from work which equates to greater family time. On a personal note, I have become a lot more creative juggling the needs of a very inquisitive pre-schooler and a newborn who requires a lot of time and attention.”

“Each night I prepare activities for the next day to entertain, educate and promote our daughter’s independence.  I also follow the eat, play, sleep routine with our 2-month-old son and try to factor in some time to care for myself.  As a family we look forward to our daily walk which has been critical to coping with isolation measures.”

Amanda expressed her heartfelt thanks to Charlotte and to Tweddle.

“I’m so grateful that Tweddle services are available remotely through video consultations.  This expert advice in all things baby sleep and settling has been so helpful to reduce stress and anxiety in an already heightened external environment.  We would like to thank the clinicians that have supported us and encourage other young families to reach out and continue to access early parenting services to help cope with changes and challenges that come with babies.”

Tweddle is now offering a range of telehealth and virtual visits that meet each individual family’s needs. A Family Action Plan is developed in partnership with the parent, identifying risks, strengths, challenges and goals. These are reviewed at each telehealth consultation.

Tweddle Director of Clinical Services/Nursing Kirsty Evans said the move to telehealth has been a huge achievement for Tweddle clinicians and that the same assessment and intake service was on offer. “The amount of telehealth consultations offered to families depends on their needs. Some care packages include 2 phone calls on one day while others include 3 – 5 video consultations over as many days.

Tweddle is moving to virtual groups for My Time, Childbirth Education, Play Steps and some parenting wellbeing and playgroups. Tweddle is also offering a virtual breast feeding clinic.

Tweddle’s telehealth and virtual consultations include discussions around mental health and links to support networks for mums and dads.  Tweddle encourages families with babies and toddlers to reach out to Tweddle for support. The following help lines are also available.

  • Tweddle 9689 1577 (9-5pm M-F)
  • Maternal & Child Health Line 13 22 29 (24/7)
  • LifeLine 13 11 14 (24/7)
  • MensLine 1300 78 99 78 (24/7)
  • PANDA 1300 726 306  (9am – 7.30pm M-F)
  • Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 (24/7)

 

*https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/perinatal-mental-illness

 


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