The daily news has bannered the COVID-19 pandemic for several months now, with the focus on the number of positive cases, including unfortunate virus-related deaths. The news broadcasts harp on the impact of the pandemic to the U.S. and world economy, job losses, corporate bankruptcies, and the race to find a safe, effective vaccine. What is not given too much attention is how the public health crisis has affected family relationships, especially for those families whose members live in different locations across the country, some even across the oceans.
How do we cope with the separation from family and loved ones, aside from dealing with self-quarantine? If people cannot yet meet and reconnect live and in-person, will we have to be content with Zoom or FaceTime indefinitely? Given the essential role and importance of family relationships, it is good to consider a view suggestions on how to keep the ties strong and the bond resilient during these extraordinary times.
Refresh the Memories
If you are a parent with kids living in the college dorm, or if you and your spouse are already empty-nesters, a quick way to chase away the blues is to refresh your memories. Take out that old, dusty photo album and look at your wedding pictures. Pull out the old film printouts when your baby just turned a year old or when they blew the cake candles on their 4th birthday.
A better idea is to send pictures to a baby photo editing service and have them filtered and framed. Surprise your children by sending these retouched and framed baby snapshots to them by mail or courier service. They would be especially thrilled to get this special gift more so if they have children of their own. Your children would surely be happy to share their baby photos to their kids.
If you know your way with a computer, make a short audio-video compilation of significant milestones in the family like the day the first-born was taken out of the hospital. Or it can be the first family trip to Disneyland, school plays and graduations, birthdays and Halloween trick-or-treating, and just about any memorable event that transpired involving the entire family. Post this compilation on YouTube or Facebook or share it live during a family online video chat.
Set a Regular Family Online Meeting
A must-do is to set a regular family online meeting. There are now several free online video conferencing tools to choose from, such as Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. But the important thing is to set a schedule that is convenient for every member of the family, wherever they may be in the United States, or across the oceans, in other continents. It may take a little sacrifice for some, especially if one or two family members are in a different time zone.
Scheduling the online family get-together will help everyone to set aside the time, make the necessary work adjustments, and have the opportunity to come together as a family even if it is in a virtual sense. To make it fun, agree to have everyone prepare some wine and a little so that it could feel like a traditional family dinner. Designate a moderator, definitely the techie type in the family, to help everyone set up their Wi-Fi and gadget connections and serve as administrator of the online video conference.
Consciously Set a Time for Just Listening
It would be quite natural for everyone to want to speak and share stories about what has happened to them since the pandemic began. Each member has pandemic-related stress that they want to address, and they see the online family gathering as an opportunity to de-stress or vent out their fear, apprehension, or doubt about the entire situation. For you to enable everyone to make the best out of the meeting, family rules for the online gathering can be made informally and shared with all beforehand.
For example, it would be a great idea to manage the sharing time so that every person can speak, share, and express thoughts about anything the family is discussing. Taking turns in sharing is a must, especially since overlaps in speaking are common when a video meeting is not properly moderated.
In short, every family member needs to commit to time just simply listening to another family member. In reality, live and in-person, families often do not observe taking turns when speaking because of their familiarity and the lack of need for formality which is more observed in work-related meetings. Still, it will be beneficial to let another member of the family feel and experience that everyone is “all ears,” intently listening without judgment, and expressing their love and solidarity by just being there.
Make Plans for the Future
To foster hope, make plans together to have a reunion or go on a return trip to a favorite vacation spot when restrictions are lifted. When it is already entirely safe to travel, rekindle the bond by really setting aside a few days to go camping, explore a nature park, or do anything that the family loves to do together. Undoubtedly, the pandemic will one day end, but the ties that bind a family are forever. Make time for family, albeit online for now, and build happy, loving relationships that will last a lifetime and beyond.