Families are facing many challenges in today's world. Among those challenges are separations and divorces, illness and loss of loved ones, addiction and domestic abuse, unemployment, or great pressure from work, parenting, and financial problems. And if all these problems were not enough, we are in the midst of one of the worst pandemics in human history. So, it's safe to say that most families are facing one of the toughest times of their lives. So, how can we lessen our burdens and connect as families even in difficult times?
Effective communication is key to every relationship. It is even more important within families both in good times and difficult times. Communication allows members of the family to express their needs and wants. Even though we live in a fast-paced world where we are being pulled in many different directions, we need to make time to check in with each other even if it's just for a few minutes. Effective and consistent communication helps foster relationships in good times and repair relationships in difficult times. When communicating with members of your family, remember to listen as much as you speak. Allow your child or partner to express their emotions and their side of the story to help you understand their perspective. When appropriate, communicate with your children to help them understand what is going on.
Be in the present moment
Being engaged, and in the present moment, is hard when you are going through tough times as a family. However, being in the present moment is very likely to help you forget what is going on around you. You may mentally escape even if it’s for a short time. More importantly, it will help other members of your family, such as your children, enjoy your company and may lessen their fears and worries. To be more engaged, leave the outside world out. Schedule family activities or meetings and stick to the schedule. Plan a date night with your partner or playtime with your kids to build more connection and get into each other’s world.
Self-care is vital for overall health. It's even more important when you are going through tough times. Self-care can range from caring for your body and physical health to caring for your mental health. Taking a long walk as a family or alone, or reading a book, or joining a book club (virtually) are great ways to get some time to yourself. Napping or even taking a break from electronics are other great ways to heal from daily stressors. Teach your children your techniques of self-care and encourage them to have quiet times. When you care for yourself, you can bring your best self to your family.
Create a Positive environment in your home
Bonding with each other as a family is a beautiful and memorable thing. Having a positive relationship with your children or partner is important. No matter what is going on, work on creating a positive and nurturing environment for your family. Kids who have a positive relationship with their parents feel more secure and more loved. During difficult times, show more sympathy and understanding to your loved ones. Show them that you are there for them and communicate with them how much you care for them. Be kind to each other and forgive often.
Routines give us a sense of control and in difficult times, a sense of control makes a huge difference. In times of difficulties, it is easy to ditch routines and just go with the flow. However, young children may lose that sense of security and stability that they get from having routines. So, stick to family routines especially for your kids to help them understand what is expected of them and make their days as predictable as you can make them.
Stay connected with extended family and friends
Due to the pandemic, we are not as close as we have been. Because of social distancing, we are not visiting each other’s homes and getting together for important events. This takes a huge toll on many families because vising grandma's home or other extended families meant a get away from the nuances of everyday stressors. So, now we rely on technology to get that feeling of being in each other’s company. So, reach out and connect with other family members, however possible, in the safest way.
Personally, my plan to travel to my 90-year-old mama, every few months, went up in smoke. She lives a thousand miles away and it feels like a million miles. Because I have no control over the pandemic, and travel-safety, I am missing Mama more than usual. Talking to her reminds me of the distance. Feeling lack of control is very difficult. I decided, just this moment, to put calls to my mama on my calendar. That is something I can control.
Life is full of ups and downs and one is never free from challenges, however having the will to carry on and bond with your loved ones is worth it in the long run. Whatever is going on both inside and outside of your home, try your best to make connections with those closest to you. Communicate more often, stay engaged and become an active participant in family routines. Create a nurturing environment for the whole family and care for yourself, so you can bring the best version of you to your family.