It will NOT be okay, NO!

Excuse me, but I can't repeat the phrase “optimistic” at the moment. I can't even say it to my children, or encourage them to use it, let alone paint it in cute drawings. I don't like, I never did, to answer children with anything other than the truth. And the truth today is much blacker than the rainbow that is good to show the world.

The unicorn view of the pandemic, repeated even "ad nauseum" on television in messages thinking about the audience, is only beautiful for those at home, sitting on the couch, slightly bored by not having more Netflix series to watch, but to whom salary continues to fall, as usual, straight into the account at the end of the month. For those who are calm in their confinement, without major problems, only with the annoyance of not being able to leave home during a State of Emergency that changed their turns and plans for the Easter holidays.

Usually these are also the ones who say that a much better world will be born from all this. That Covid-19 will solve all the ills on the planet, which will end both human selfishness and global warming and other new age 2020 self-help conversations. “This has even been good for families, they spend more time together, do sports, ”I hear an actor say on a news channel as I write these lines…

But are there so many, so many, who are not so lucky?

I know entrepreneurs who do not know how they are going to pay salaries to employees at the end of this month and how long they can stand without billing. I have two cousins ​​and a great friend who have already been put on lay-off. My relatives who work in the theater do not know when they will ever see the rooms - their breadwinner - reopened. Other friends have restaurants and have their rope around their throat, trying to survive.

Not to mention freelancers: designers, architects, producers, journalists I know, who were left without a market, without a business and without a salary, with one hand behind and the other in front. A neighbor was having weddings and now he saw all the parties postponed without an appointment. A friend worked at major events and will be at least a semester off. A cousin is making a living account because the renewable contract ends in August. Another lived off renting houses on Airbnb and does not know how he will remake his life in the coming months. A childhood friend is very sick and fragile, she cannot possibly catch Covid-19.

For all of these, who are just a small sample around me, do not come up with the conversation "let's all be well". No, we won't.

More than 22 thousand companies have already resorted to the regime to avoid closings and dismissals of workers. The number of Portuguese in lay-off already exceeds that of unemployment. The national GDP is guaranteed to sink into negative territory this year: 2%, 3%, more? It is difficult to predict.

We are plunged into unprecedented distress, trying to stay afloat while the tsunami takes everything in front of it. When this is over, we will try to rescue who survived, clean up the wreckage and lift a new country from the rubble. There are, of course, good and beautiful things, as there are always even in the midst of chaos and calamity.

Under enormous tension, families were forced to find new relationship dynamics in a short period of time. Between different elements of the family, but also between work and personal life. Home, sweet home, has become, for some, a bitter place

On the day they moved to the family's country house, António, 45, felt hopeful. He thought he could recover some of the moments spent as a couple that he and his 37-year-old wife had lost over the past year. Absorbed by work, by the requests of an extended, very extended and festive family, and by the needs of their young son, the couple, in itself, was no longer a priority.

It had been a long time since they had taken walks together, romantic weekends, dinners for two. The new home, chosen for covid-19 pandemic time confinement, was a promise. A much nicer place than the apartment in the city, where they lived. The house in the interior of the country offered good memories, lots of space, a pleasant garden and a beautiful landscape. Work didn't seem to be a problem either. Both could continue to do so over the internet. But after a few days, António's wife told him that she wanted a divorce and that she was not available to talk. The existence of differences between the two came as no surprise to her husband. The divorce request was. "Dropped the bomb."

On the phone, António confesses that he still hasn't given up on winning over his wife: “I keep trying, I keep sleeping with her. But she has thrown me out of bed three times already. ” The idyllic time he had dreamed of has dissipated. Today, they live like two strangers. They meet in the kitchen and share their obligations to their son. The work is no longer going on as before, because their business is, in part, suspended. In their case, it was not the quarantine that created their first problems. The confinement only made them more evident, more insurmountable, even though, unlike most Portuguese families, they have what many want. Space to get away from each other. Privacy.

Confinement in times of pandemic has placed husbands and wives, parents and children, and, in some cases, grandparents and grandchildren, face to face 24 hours a day. Something that, in many families, only happened on vacation, when none of the elements had work or school.

In other words, under great threat, enormous tension, and in the face of an unknown disease, families were forced to find new relationship dynamics in a short period of time. Not only among the members of the family, but also between work, the school - which entered the house inside -, the domestic daily life and the space needs of each one. Home, sweet home, has become, for some families, a bitter place. To survive, many had to find, with a lot of effort and some despair, other balances. Therefore, making new commitments. Namely with themselves.

Until confinement, Maria had never thought about divorce. Now he says he even put it as a hypothesis during the first weeks of confinement. She has been married for 12 years, has a son and, like her husband, can work from home. Disagreements over the child's education and the support to be given during confinement escalated the conflict between the couple in a whole new way. Maria made a commitment to herself.

She chose to adapt and learned to lower the intensity of the conflict: “Now I know what are the issues I should avoid, so as not to generate discussion”, she explains, on the phone, in a very low voice, so that her husband, who is work elsewhere in the house, don't listen to it.

João Galamba de Almeida, a psychologist and psychotherapist, partner of the Portuguese Psychoanalysis Society, explains: “In addition to the basic problems, confinement destabilizes because it forces a proximity that exceeds what, as a rule, we tolerate. [With covid-19,] our universe became tiny and the limited spaces started to activate claustrophobic anxieties and experiences.

In other cases, there may be feelings of identity confusion, given that ‘my territory’ is no longer ‘just mine’. These experiences result in an increase in conflicts, which will be limit-ways to preserve ‘my space’ and the identity of each one. ”

The famous phrase “hell are the others”, dialogue of the play “Entre Quatro Paredes” by Jean-Paul Sartre, gained new contours with the confinement that the covid-19 forced. This hell has become an evidence, over the past few weeks, at the home of some families, even in those who until now lived in a peaceful way, with well-established dynamics. This hell, intolerable to adults, is even more terrible for children and young people.

“The weakest link in families”, warns Magda Mendo Jorge, doctor and pediatrician at Hospital Dona Estefânia until July 2018 (when she retired), with training in psychoanalysis and family therapy. “On vacation there are also a lot of conflict situations. In the emergency room at the hospital, parents appeared in conflict with their children. There are families and couples who hold on because they don't see each other very much. Confinement completely changed the functioning of families.

People who didn't even discuss started to argue. And a child suffers a lot when the parents argue. The child feels this as something terrible, not least because one of the fears that all children have is that their parents will separate. ”

The pandemic has created additional difficulties for parents and children living in the same house. In some cases, it has aggravated the conflicts that already existed between separated fathers, or it has further burdened the lives of fathers and mothers who live alone.

Vanessa Soares, 43, is a Portuguese and English teacher and lives alone with her son, who was six years old after the state of emergency began. When the confinement started, she felt very distressed. “I was not managing to organize everything. It was horrible, not least because I don’t teach all classes in the same place and was being requested, ‘for yesterday’, everywhere. ” In a very short time, he had to start teaching on three different digital platforms; and, at the same time, he started training trainers to teach at a distance.

"It is very complicated to combine professional, personal and family life in the same space", he says on the phone, while his son sleeps. The conversation will end half an hour later when, already awake, the son jumps into your lap. Professional needs forced her to change her child's schedule. Wake her up a little later to be able to work and prepare the meals of the day alone, starting at 7:30 am.

With effort, he established a routine. At this moment, he already feels that he dominates his life, but he has to work from eight in the morning until one or two in the morning. “What matters is that I never needed to sleep a lot”, he says. During the break, who religiously serves lunch and dinner, he gives his son exclusive attention. "It is our time." In the afternoon, she teaches with him leaning against her: “My son already realizes that he cannot interrupt me.” Vanessa Soares says she misses many things. “But people are what I miss. I miss the hugs. ”

The son too. He misses his father. He hasn't seen him for a long time “by mutual decision”. I used to spend a weekend with my father every 15 days and sometimes mother, father and son did programs together. But as the father continues to work and live with his grandmother, the reunion, in times of covid-19, continues to be postponed. The son can, however, express his feelings whenever he talks to him at night, in what he calls “mechance”, WhatsApp Messenger.

Separated parents and children are not always able to continue talking. Confinement adds more tension to separated parents and creates greater distance from children. Covid-19 is yet another cause for conflict between ex-couples with children. “The fear of the virus, in addition to the parental conflict, which in many cases remains after the separation, makes these children's lives difficult, even preventing them from exchanging their homes”, says Magda Mendo Jorge.

Until confinement, Maria had never thought about divorce. Now it says that it came to put it as a hypothesis during the first weeks.

Pedro Cabeça is a lawyer and member of the Commission for the Protection of Victims of Violent Crimes. According to him, and due to the conversations he has with colleagues, it is in the area of ​​parental rights that more cases have appeared during this period of confinement, in addition to the lay-off processes: “Many people who, at the beginning, accepted the breach of parental rights were faced with unilateral decisions. ” That is, mothers or fathers who, from one moment to the next, decided to change the established rules, extending the time that their children spend with them or moving to second homes without asking the other parent for their opinion.

Even when there were no underlying conflicts, the rules imposed by covid-19 have been sufficient to create distance. When the 6-year-old daughter of the first marriage of director Ricardo Clara Couto stopped going to school, where a case of covid-19 was confirmed, she stayed at her mother's. Not a week, as usual. But two.

After the quarantine was completed, the daughter visited her father, but returned to her mother shortly thereafter; and the mother decided to move in with her boyfriend, where he has a garden, a swimming pool. The new residence is a little further from the father's house. With basic breathing problems, Ricardo felt his fears grow. He has a new family, a 2-year-old daughter, and the ex-wife's boyfriend is recent: “I don't know if he has the same care.” There is uncertainty and doubts about how to solve these new problems.


If the fears of adults increase, those of some kids, even more. Some children even regress. “A few days ago, a mother asked me for help,” says the pediatrician. “A child who had his father isolated at home [in quarantine] was never able to sleep again. The child had already been admitted to the hospital for other physical illnesses and, when that happened, he certainly thought about death or felt abandonment.

All of this has surfaced now that his father is in isolation at home. Her and her father's things. ” The moment of tension, although totally new, acts as an activator of past suffering. “These situations are all the more badly experienced by children the more their being has suffered. Strong kids can handle these things better. For others, it is much more difficult. ”

Imagining that the storm is the same, families and children are in different boats. Some more robust, others not so. Not all children have the same psychological and emotional resources to face the crisis: “Kids who have had very difficult principles will not be able to live the situation with the same tranquility. There are so-called protection factors and vulnerability factors.

Protective ones are the ones that give the child strength to live with situations like this. Vulnerability factors include mistreatment, social precariousness, lack of space and conditions at home. Certainly alcoholics have not stopped drinking. Or, the less they drink can cause them unfortunate irritation. Certain psychiatric illnesses of the parents do not do much harm to the children, as long as they are well compensated, but there will be many people who in these conditions decompensate ”, explains Magda Mendo Jorge. The pediatrician is very concerned with the children: “We have never had an experience like this. We had the experience of having two unemployed parents in the same house, but they could go out and look for a job. They did not have to be bound by obligation.

Now we can also have parents who have to leave home to go to work; with the anguish of being sick or your family getting sick because of them. There is a lot that can be happening. We still don't know everything. With the new situation of being together 24 hours a day, and many in teleworking, conflicts are becoming more acute.

There are anger, screaming, mistreatment. Children who watch this are subject to painful, traumatic emotions. I don't know if there is more physical abuse than before. Screams, for sure. There are parents who always have conflict between them; and they can't always think about their parenting. Children are sometimes left alone, distressed, frightened, or involved in parental conflicts, which is a form of psychological abuse. ”

“A child who had his father isolated at home [in quarantine] was never able to sleep again”, says pediatrician Magda Mendo Jorge

Other children and adolescents are beginning to face the family's economic problems. Ricardo Clara Couto is part of a Facebook group that provides food support to film and audiovisual professionals: “If it was difficult to pay the bills before, now there are cases of hunger. There are a lot of people who have debts to Social Security, so they will not receive any help. ” He did the math himself.

In his production company, there are seven people in lay-off, whom he complements the salary, but will not be able to do it for many more months. Solidarity boxes have started to appear in recent weeks, and requests for food aid have increased. Economic and social inequalities have taken on new expressions, and the covid-19 exposed all the pre-existing pathologies within society, the economy and the family. It destroyed balances, sometimes very tenuous, at work. To the fear of the virus is added the fear of hunger. Unemployment is rising.

People like Lara, 44, have to gain new strength. He cleared a brain tumor, which appeared shortly after his daughter was born, and managed to start work on March 3. He lost his job two weeks later because of covid-19. Now she has to be resilient to continue playing with her little daughter and help her husband at home, who is telecommuting. "I'm going around the girl around the house to entertain her."

Saying “everything will be fine”, even though it may provide some comfort, is not giving vent to the anguish that each one feels. And, in times of covid-19, anguish also prolongs old sufferings. Fernanda was waiting for a divorce. The closure of the courts postponed it. She found herself confined with her son, who lost her job, and with her husband, whom she is divorcing. "We don't speak." To make matters worse, she went into lay-off. From one moment to the next, her life was suspended. The elderly father is another of his concerns.

The elders created new tensions in the family. For some reason, many do not dispense with “hygienic exits” on the street, even when they were not in the habit of doing so. Lara's father is one of those rebellious, fearless elderly people. Vanessa Soares' mother, another. That is why the Portuguese and English teacher remembered to offer a service to friends. In possession of all the medical data about the mother or father that friends were trying to 'tame', Vanessa Soares called him pretending to be a nurse at the medical post who, worried about the 'user', advised him to stay at home . He guarantees that it ended up having results, and that there were those who happily commented on the phone call with their children.

Relations between adult children and elderly parents during the pandemic have revealed new tensions. João Galamba de Almeida questions the role reversal, which makes children become parents of parents. “Is it not a game of concealed power? A camouflaged infantilization of ‘protection’? Excessive paternalism? It is as if the elderly are all demented and unable to take care. In some cases, an unjustified power is exercised, well made up of the noble motive of ‘protection’. ” For many children, however, this is not the case. It's just love and concern. But the description of the exercise of power that João Galamba de Almeida speaks of applies to situations that have occurred between friends and neighbors.

“People have a desire to exercise power and domination that breaks out in many settings. It is part of our condition: we have to have someone to order ... We have to put in order, dominate, those who are at fault. ” This is the case of Luís Pereira. He joined a friend for both of them to have company in the confinement: “The first weeks went well, but things got complicated. I've been out on the street to clear up, but she calls to decompose me. I'm starting to consider returning to my home. ” There are also cases of neighbors who call the police directly. Or that they don't like having doctors and nurses in the building, as has been reported.

And there are also cases of children who, wanting to help fragile parents, find themselves subjugated, again, to their rules. This is the case of Sandra, who until the confinement lived only with her 24-year-old son, with whom she has “a very good relationship”.

When the state of emergency began, he decided to take his mother home, who until then had a maid who supported her. The mother is over 70 and has a very disabling respiratory illness. “At Christmas, four days had passed, and it went very well,” he whispers on the phone, after confirming that his mother is at a safe distance. “Now, the whole pace of the house is determined by it. The grandson, who has made an enormous effort to please her, cooking what she likes, is saturated. Before, we had quick meals, now we spend two hours at the table, with each meal. We watch three hours of news, and if we leave the room she says that we are being rude.

Everything has to be determined by her slowness. It's like having a 4 year old kid at home. ” To make matters worse, Sandra and her son live with enormous guilt: “We take great care to go to the street, we practically go in our underwear to the landing, where we dress. And when we get back, we wash everything we bring with soap and water. But we are always afraid of being able to infect it; and we felt her panic at being infected. ” With the threat of coronavirus, daughter and grandson also stopped touching and kissing him. And she, despite her fear of catching the virus, complains. Sandra confesses that everyone is suffering a lot:

“I always have the feeling of guilt, of getting the virus from him. I can't clear it. ” But if part of the suffering has to do with the pandemic, another part has to do with the relationship between mother and daughter, which has never been easy. “She always has a critical tone. If we make strawberries in a certain way, she says: ‘I’ve never seen anyone make strawberries like this ...’ If we make pasta for us and rice for her, because she doesn’t like pasta, she feels excluded. I get upset. She is upset. Before, we could each go to our side. Not now. I think she must also be making a huge effort. It is dependent on me and you cannot send me for a walk. ”

There are cases where confinement has not added more drama to the lives of families, but it is still a sacrifice that “is made in the name of everyone”. Some of these people suffer from the world, worry or show solidarity with those who are hungry, with those who have to unpack their beds to set up their desk in order to work, with those who cannot denounce the mistreatment and abuse that are being victimized, with those who live in fear of having to return their children to daycare centers, fearing that they will be infected, with those who do not know how they are going to give young people the confidence they need to get out again. .

It will take us some time to find out how many families lived this confinement without any major problems, and how many will not survive without deep and painful marks. Magda Mendo Jorge is certain that there will be cases of children with post-traumatic disorders. And at this moment, the school, that possible place for observing mental health, is no longer there to assist children who are neglected or mistreated.

“It is important that the school starts, so that it can signal abuse. The school has a strong connection with child protection commissions. They are always missing, but they are very important. Post-traumatic trauma is going to exist, so it is good that they create systems that help and treat these kids and young people ”, continues the pediatrician, who says that by profession defect he always looks for bias.

“There are also healthy teenagers, who initially reacted with irritation to confinement, and who then adapted with the precious help of communication technologies, which keep them in touch with friends and colleagues.” Interestingly, João Galamba de Almeida underlines the positive attitude of some young people who, according to him, “are coping well with the situation”. There will also be families or individuals who are using this time to reinvent themselves. But saturation is notorious.

A few days ago I opened WhatsApp and was startled.

A friend of friends, who continues to work outside the home, arrived home at 11:30 pm the day before. He heard a child crying in a nearby house. GNR broke down the door. The child was hungry. The child was alone. Neglected. Hours later, they manage to locate their mother and father. They are not from the region. They discover that the child is referred to and is guarded by his grandmother, living many kilometers away. The world's problems do not stop, just because the world has stopped. In some cases, when he stopped, he only exacerbated them.

Children spend up to 80% of the day at home
Home insulation leads to significant increase in sedentary levels

In what is the largest social confinement in history - there are estimates that indicate that 4.5 billion people are currently restricted in circulation -, Portugal is part of the long list of countries that keep schools closed (since March 16) and the conditioned freedom of movement. Concerned about the lack of opportunities and spaces for children's physical activity during such a long period, researchers from three higher education institutions launched a survey to assess the impact of restrictions on family routines. And the numbers are alarming.

Sedentary rates have increased significantly and are particularly high in the 10 to 12 age group: 84% of these children's days are spent in activities that do not involve any movement, such as online classes, mobile phone conversations, social networks or games in that are stopped. The percentages are lower among the youngest. Even so, they are 72% in the age group from 3 to 5 years and 78% between 6 and 9. All this without counting the hours of rest during the night.

These are some of the results already obtained by researchers at the Faculty of Human Motricity, University of Lisbon, Escola Superior de Educação, Polytechnic of Lisbon, and Escola Superior de Esporte e Lazer, Polytechnic of Viana do Castelo, in the study “The confinement by covid-19 in Portugal: effects on the routines of families with children under 13 ”.

The online survey was launched between March 23 and April 1, in the second week of the state of emergency, and was answered by 1973 families, with 2167 children up to 12 years old.

Comparing with other indicators collected during normal periods, when children go out every day to go to school and participate in various activities, it appears that the sedentary time is around 20 percentage points below.

Hours in front of the screen

Asked about their perception of the change in their children's routines, 70% of parents consider that there was a decrease in physical activity and 68% admit that children started to spend more time in front of screens, be it mobile phone, tablet , computer or television.

Part of this time stems from the fact that teaching is taking place all at a distance and that many schools require a significant number of hours online, in videoconference classes. But it is also the result of an increase in what researchers call 'screen play time'.

Regarding the leisure time spent in front of a screen, from the responses to the survey it is evident that the habit increases as the ages increase. Still, even among babies between 0 and 2 years old, parents say that almost a quarter of the time (24%) they are awake is spent in front of a screen. Among children aged 10 to 12 the value rises to one third (33%) of the time. After all, it is also through the computer, mobile phone or PlayStation connected to the television that they are able to keep in touch with friends.

The study also shows that factors are more associated with high rates of physical inactivity. In general, those who live in houses with outside space or where other children live tend to have more physical activity. Children from families where adults are at home in teleworking have higher sedentary rates. Age also influences - the older, the more still - but the differences that normally exist between genders, with boys more active than girls, disappear in this context of confinement, points out Rita Cordovil Matos, one of the study's authors and researcher at the Faculty of Human Motricity.

Family exercises

For this investigation, it was considered as daily physical activity both games that imply movement (playing hide and seek, running, jumping), as well as more organized exercises, at home or outside, and also walking the dog. That said, according to the parents' responses to the survey, the average daily time of physical activity amounts to just over two hours. This value is half of what happens in normal times, when going to school every day, taking Physical Education classes, playing in the playground and practicing different modalities is not prohibited and the average duration of physical activity is five hours a day.

But not everything is bad in these pandemic times and the vast majority of parents (83%) also said that they do more family activities.

In view of these results, and knowing that sedentary lifestyle is associated with other less healthy behaviors, such as eating with excess sugars and fat, the authors draw attention to the importance of parents taking physical activities as very important in the routine of families, since that children are having much less stimulation in that direction. And this is possible even when you are at home. More active parents generate more active children, so exercise together should be considered. And if they spend a lot of time in front of the screens, why not bet on video games that require players to move?

The investigation will continue to take place during confinement. The consequences for millions of children and adolescents, forced to live most of the time within four walls, separated from friends and colleagues for such a long period, will only see themselves later.

Six out of 10 people admit family friction during confinement

Six out of 10 people who cohabit with others have experienced "some situations of friction" mainly due to the sharing of domestic tasks or because they are confined in the same space all day.

Regarding changes in the environment at home, the survey, carried out between the 17th and the 20th, reveals that 60% of the respondents who cohabit with other people claim to have experienced "situations of friction, mainly due to the sharing of domestic tasks or by be in the same space all day."
"Differences of opinion on the prevention measures for covid-19 to be adopted are other incendiary fuses" and, in households with children, "school monitoring is also the focus of conflict, according to 28% of respondents". On the other hand, 45% of Portuguese who live with others reveal that restrictions on mobility have had a positive impact on family relationships, especially in households that include couples with minor children.

"The good family environment is useful, but it does not eliminate health problems caused by confinement", indicates the association, pointing out that six out of 10 respondents, especially women, pointed out that restrictions on mobility impair their well-being psychological.

The fear of contracting covid-19, in turn, prevented a quarter of respondents who had a serious health problem from traveling to the hospital, risking the situation to evolve without return.

The lack of physical activity and the intake of more food, including sweet and savory snacks, was reported by 39% of Portuguese surveyed by the consumer protection association.

Six out of 10 say they go to the supermarket less often personally, with 49% saying they go less to traditional markets and 44% to local shops.

"Because they are more available or are already the result of reduced incomes, about a fifth of respondents now pay more attention to product prices, and a third say they take advantage of leftovers from previous meals".

The vast majority (eight out of 10) say they do not waste food, almost three times as many as they did earlier this year. Only 6% of respondents say they have not left the house once in the past week. "The vast majority went out to buy food, medicine or other products, with four out of 10 doing so more than once a week."

Almost half went for a walk or run around the dwelling, as provided for in the state of emergency measures, but 10% left their area of ​​residence. "The prevaricators are, above all, the youngest, between 18 and 30 years old" and are also the ones who "most contradict the rule of avoiding social contacts" since about a quarter confessed to having gone out to meet family members or friends.

In the general population, 12% had the same behavior, according to the study. "Those who live alone are also more likely to break the isolation, risking contagion", so Deco argues that "some reflection should be done at a time when there is talk of lifting restrictions imposed by the state of emergency".

Globally, according to a report by the AFP news agency, the covid-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 204,000 deaths and infected more than 2.9 million people in 193 countries and territories.

It will NOT be okay, NO!
Better or worse, we will survive.
But well, for sure, we are NOT staying.

(People who are referred only by first name have requested anonymity. Their real names have been changed)

Journalists, Mafalda Anjos,Isabel Leiria, Cristina Margato

Carol Mercedes
Pink Hot Publisher / United Photo Press Magazine