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A guide to emotional well-being for families as the calendar turns

COVID-19 has upended family life for millions around the world. Kitchen tables have become offices. Dens have become classrooms. Access to gyms, movie theatres and sporting events has been limited. And as this tumultuous year draws to a close, parents are wondering how their families will be able to safely celebrate Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. As you navigate uncertain times, here are some tips for nurturing your family’s well-being — and your own.1,2,3,4

Get guidance so you can help and support your family. As well as helping you address your own stresses, a behavioural therapist, counsellor or Human Coach via the Wysa app can also help you address and help resolve issues your children or ageing parents might be facing. Coaches and counsellors will be able to help you identify the times when apps such as Wysa can be useful to your family members — for example, if they’re looking for help relaxing or getting quality sleep. They can also guide you if you’re supporting children through more serious issues such as eating disorders, bullying, and chronic anxiety which require professional intervention.  

Talk to your children. It’s important that your children, tweens and teens know that they can always turn to you for understanding and support. Children also need to know when it’s time to seek support and medical care. Apps like Wysa provide a safe for children to talk about their feelings and worries with a chatbot, which can be very therapeutic. Practising mindfulness may also help children build coping mechanisms. The anonymous chatbot also gives teens a safe space to vent their feelings. And also gives them access to a collection of fun, relaxing and informative tools that promote well-being.

Acknowledge reality — but don’t be consumed by it. Talk candidly about how family members are feeling at this time, but don’t let COVID-19 dominate your lives. And limit everyone’s exposure to news reports about circumstances and uncertainty that might cause distress.

Carve out family time and stay connected to friends. Put work and school aside each evening and enjoy time together. But also recognise that family members may be experiencing too much togetherness when no one ever leaves the house for school or work. Children and adults alike need human connections beyond the immediate family. Use phone and video calls, social media and outdoor get-togethers to maintain these vital connections.

Get outside. Exercise and exposure to vitamin D from sunlight can boost both your immune system and your mood. Even when the days are short and cold, make time for outdoor activities.5,6,7,8

Decide what’s important at the holidays. Have each family member name one tradition that is essential to them, then find a way to adapt it. If making Christmas cookies with Grandma is important to your daughter, hold a Zoom cooking session, then exchange cookies by mail.

Create new traditions. Don’t just focus on loss; think about what you can gain at this time. Imagine having a midweek family movie morning, something that would be unimaginable during ordinary times.

Seek help when you need it. Aetna International members have access to such support tools as health coaching, vHealth visits* and the Wysa well-being app. At the Health Hub, you can find additional resources, including information on anxiety and depression.

How Aetna Well-being can help

52-year-old Daniel lives in Toronto with his family. He is worried about the mental well-being of his teenage daughter. She has been increasingly withdrawn, anxious and pale.

Daniel knows that his Aetna policy includes Employee Assistance Program support as well as the Aetna Well-being benefit.

He logs in to the Health Hub, his secure member website, and finds the ‘Aetna Well-being’ section, then navigates to ‘Mind’.

He opts to speak with a professional because he wants to better support his daughter and ensure her well-being.

Daniel selects the ‘Therapeutic Counselling’ option and calls the EAP number. Through EAP he is put in touch with a counsellor.

During the video-chat appointment with the counsellor, Daniel describes his daughter’s behaviour and tells the counsellor his concerns.  

The counsellor provides Daniel with guidance on how to discuss his concerns with his daughter, how reassure her that it is safe for her to be open and that her emotions are valid. The counsellor also gives Daniel advice about how to introduce the subject of counselling to his daughter.

Daniel and his wife talk with his daughter. She opens up to her parents and acknowledges that there is a problem that she can’t handle without support. They put some home-based support and self-help measures in place, including downloading the Wysa app to their daughter’s mobile phone.

After a few weeks of using Wysa, his daughter is regularly practising meditation and having a confidential chat with the chatbot buddy. Daniel and his wife notice that their daughter’s mood is improved, that she is more communicative and is getting better quality sleep.

Do you need help?

As an Aetna International member, you can call us using the number on the back of your member ID card. Log in to the Health Hub, your secure member website, to find out more about vHealth*, to contact the Aetna CARE team to ask health care questions or to search our directory of in-network hospitals or clinics. Download the vHealth by Aetna app***. In Dubai? Download the vHealth (Dubai) app, contact the free toll  number on 8000 35704672 or email support@vhealth.co.ae***. In Thailand? Download the vHealth (Thailand) app***. To download Wysa for free or take advantage of member discounts, including apps like Pzizz, log in to the Health Hub and search ‘Aetna Well-being for the Mind’. For more information about your health care benefits, contact your plan sponsor.

You’re not alone. Getting help today makes for a better tomorrow.

*For those eligible | **Specific processes vary by country | ***All vHealth apps can also be downloaded from the App Store.

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