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When times get tough, Kiwis turn to family networks

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morning teaFrom hosting Christmas lunches to throwing Sunday BBQs, bringing the whole family together can often seem like a lot of effort. Even pencilling in time for an afternoon cup of tea with your sister-in-law, or a chat on the phone with your expat sibling, can sometimes feel a little rushed.

But unsurprisingly, it’s all worth it. The latest research from Statistics New Zealand confirm that when times are tough, Kiwis turn to their loved ones for support. The study revealed that over 60% of New Zealand adults seek assistance from family members when experiencing a major life change. This includes health issues, employment and the death of a loved one. Basically, blood relatives trump both friends and professionals when it comes to lending a helping hand.

“We know it’s mostly only when the going gets tough that people have to draw on support,” comments social statistics manager Scott Ussher. “Knowing when support is needed is important for planning how that help can be provided by families, friends, and where necessary, the likes of government agencies.”

Support in all shapes and forms

So what exactly does “support” mean? As you’d expect, it comes in a myriad of shapes and forms. In some cases, support can mean offering advice and guidance, which can be sought out by a loved one in need or put forward on your own initiative. Remember, while actively reaching out can sometimes feel like you’re meddling or being prying, people can sometimes be incredibly stubborn about asking for help which means sometimes they need a little nudge.

In other cases, support can come in the form of companionship. This could be anything from inviting your rellies over for afternoon tea to visiting your mother-in-law at her aged care home. Companionship is especially important as loved ones age, with statistics from the University of Otago suggesting that around 20% of Kiwis aged 65 or over suffer from loneliness and isolation.

“Interactions with friends and neighbours are important and can help older people maintain their sense of independence and sustain the ability to look after themselves. In contrast, loneliness can make many health conditions worse, including pain depression, anxiety and respiratory conditions,” said Jamieson.

Sometimes support can take on a more practical face, which can often mean financial assistance or advice. Basically, it’s all about taking the time to think about what your loved one might need and making a conscience effort to help them in the best way you can.

Interestingly, while family was the most common form of support across all age groups, young Kiwis aged 15-24 were more likely to cite relations as the first source of help. So, whether you’ve got teenage grandkids experiencing bullying or a young daughter-in-law about to become a mother for the first time, letting them know that you’re there to support them could make a world of difference.

Do you have any experience stepping up as part of a family support network? Maybe you’ve turned to your own family for guidance in the past?