Family in Focus – Covid-19

Jim Roberts, CEO/Founder
July, 15, 2020 -

I have heard it said, “Family is not an important thing–it is Everything!” Having a solid, loving family, however you define “family”, and no matter how imperfect it may be, is a gift. It is an invaluable treasure that you want never to lose. Our Family, clan or tribe, not only shapes who we are and what we believe, it also gives us identity, strength, protection and repose. Humans need other humans to survive. Family is the premier institution for shaping and nurturing individual and community health. Family really is Everything!

As our society struggles with the Covid-19 sequestering and stay-at-home orders, Family has been a gigantic stabilizing factor for so many people. There are no two ways about it, social isolation can be destructive and unhealthy. As many people have faced job loss or become unable to work, an unprecedented economic uncertainty has presented itself, and family relationships have come to serve as the fabric--the binding--for holding people together.

Life360 has surveyed thousands of families during the Covid-19 crisis, and their findings have been heartening. Most families are enjoying sheltering together, only 26% have indicated that it has been an inconvenience. Another 25% say they are enjoying their family time, and they don’t want to resume normal activities just yet. And 99% of the families surveyed stated that they were taking their sheltering in place very seriously because it is important for their personal safety and health.

Another encouraging finding is that surveyed families reported growing fonder and more connected. Only 6% reported that family relationships have been negatively impacted. Interestingly, the two top stressors for sequestered families are: 1) too much “screen-time”; and 2) “home-schooling responsibilities!” Families reported doing more “family activities” together--activities they rarely did before, or did much less frequently. Also, families are reporting being much more virtually connected with extended family on a daily or weekly basis.

This survey reflects some good news, but let’s be mindful that this pandemic is taking an emotional toll on everyone of all ages, and presenting some extremely unique challenges for families! Families are making significant changes to their daily patterns, arrangements, and rhythms of their individual and family lives. The great task is to adapt in a way that meets all family members’ needs while recognizing that this is a work in progress.

Family Resilience--the capacity for a family to weather and even thrive during adversity--depends on a family’s ability to balance stability and flexibility in changing circumstances. Research has shown us that Family Resilience must be driven by an attitude of “we’re all in this together” and “let’s do the best we can.”

It is absolutely critical for parents to remember that when you are appropriately stressed and anxious, your kids are observing and reacting to this as well. Family Resilience is the skill of managing parental stress, anxiety and concern with the least negative impact on your kids, regardless of their ages. Parents need to demonstrate personal strength, comfort and display a strong sense of family security!

Here are a few points for families to consider in promoting Family Resilience during Covid-19.

First, parents need to up their game in personal communications and strategy. That means frequently talking to each other. Be honest about the realities of these new circumstances, and engage in constructive conversation about how to adapt. It is good to remember, dialogue is a process in which both parties have the freedom to set out their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, and have these listened to respectfully. Don’t leave anything off of the table. Expectations, routines, house rules, chores, sibling relationships, et cetera, should be points of discussion, because they can become points of contention.

Single parents can make unilateral decisions, but it’s good to have honest dialogue with adolescent children, empowering them to feel like they’re being part of solutions. Single parents should also have someone else they can bounce things off of, like another parent, a neighbor, a friend, a sibling, someone they feel safe and comfortable to share their thoughts with, and receive advice from.

Second, engage in age-appropriate conversation with children about Covid-19. Again, honesty and sincerity goes a long way, but it must be tempered with conveying a sense of safety, security and their personal protection. Be open to taking questions, but don’t make up answers, research answers if you don’t know. Also, it is imperative not to force children to talk about something which may be very scary to them. In researching this subject, I found lots of online Covid-19 resources for parents to help them effectively communicate with their kids.

Third, establish routines and structure. None of us do well with chaos, especially children. Providing routine and structure definitely has a calming effect with children. When it is age-appropriate, include them in the establishment of household expectations and routine. While structure is essential for the productive aspects of everyone’s lives, don’t forget to include breaks and fun, as part of their everyday routine.

Fourth, model calmness, strength and a “we’re all going to get through this together” attitude. Please use your parent-to-parent, adult-to-adult time to express your anxieties, fears, frustrations and concerns – don’t let your kids be your audience! Now, more than ever your children need you to be a rock of stability and a voice of hopefulness.

Covid-19 will end. Let us make this unprecedented time one for Family growth and strength. Remember these beautiful words, “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds us closer together, and the music that brings harmony.”--Friedrich Nietzsche