Keeping your family strong during a crisis, such as the pandemic, isn’t always an easy task. When life is extremely stressful we need to be intentional with our togetherness strategies. Families can actually become stronger and closer during the pandemic or anytime.
During stress, each member of the family may experience different emotions and reactions. Because of differences in ages and personalities, each member may change from their normal ways of dealing and coping. We need to be aware of that and be patient with each other.
Very young children won’t understand a crisis in the same way older children, teens, or adults do. They may just act out and want more physical affection. Reassuring hugs and cuddle time will do a lot to keep them feeling safe and happy. Taking breaks from work or school to hold them, rock them, or read them there favorite book 5 times in a row will be good.
Older children will do better if you explain the changes in the home in a very simple way. They don’t need to know all the reality of a pandemic, but telling them that for a little while we will all do things in a new way, is reassuring. Children, especially those with any cognitive challenges, need to be told in advance that something will be different. Letting them know that everything is alright and that you are there to comfort them is important for their wellbeing.
Teens can definitely get very moody on a good day. When they aren’t able to get out and hang with friends, they may respond in negative ways. Help them cope by having frank discussions about: the brevity of the situation, there is an end in sight, unselfishness, giving them a little space, and how they can help the family, community, and others. Teens love a mission. Help them find a mission so that they can channel their energy into something positive.
Many families are now living with their adult children. College students are home and trying to do college classes online. They may feel very frustrated with their situation. As I know from experience, switching to online classes is lacking in many ways. Try to encourage them and help them find ideas and strategies to finish strong. They might not have their typical summer jobs or outlets to feel like adults. Try to come up with ways for them to feel some independence while also letting them know that their contribution to the family is also helpful.
Adult children will need their own space as well as good technology to complete the school year. If mom and dad are working online and the children are working online, the internet needs may exceed your abilities. If you can, upgrade your internet service to help. With our family, we have the highest speed in our area. Sometimes this isn’t adequate. When this happens, we alternate our streaming. That way everyone isn’t online at the same time.
If the family has a member or other loved one who is sick or has passed because of the virus, there are obviously times of grief ahead. Coming together to grieve is necessary and outside resources will probably be needed. Be willing to accept help and care from others. Hopefully, there will be a broader family (church, friends, counselors) that can assist the family.
If we can all be intentionally unselfish then we can get along and actually get stronger. Families are just a group of people with varied relationships. Try to be grateful and teach gratefulness. It can be really contagious. Try to laugh together and find ways to have fun. Make sure to have margin in your days. We all need breaks. Enjoy these times of togetherness. There will come a day in the future when we will look back on this and see the good things.
@2020, copyright Lisa Ehrman