As family and working life go hand in hand through the Pandemic, Sarahlynn Hodder offers her expert advice for supporting your family’s emotional wellbeing.
In these uncertain times supporting your family is front of mind for so many people. As we enter Lockdown again, we’re trying to balance work, education and our household. What I outline below aims to provide you with the skills to support your family unit as we navigate the added layer of uncertainty that 2021 presents us. In addition, it should provide connection, space, gratitude, and great memories!
The power of family rituals
When I was young, my family went through a divorce. It was quite traumatic and of course, everyone had their own perspective and feelings towards this new way of life.
One of the greatest tools of support was implemented in weekly family meetings.
These meetings were a new habit suggested to us by a therapist. And while it was uncomfortable to sit and openly share the struggles and worries we were feeling, it allowed us to grow closer.
No longer was I struggling with the change on my own. I was able to gain and give support to my family members as we learned to adapt to this new way of life.
I believe the power of connection is sometimes overlooked.
It’s probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned over the past months of Covid: connection is a powerful thing.
Setting up family rituals
Family rituals don’t have to be intimidating or really all that time-consuming. The key, especially with children, is to build trust through consistency. This is a lesson learned again and again as a class teacher.
In a time of big uncertainty and a whole lot of change, having something you can rely on makes a big difference.
Family ritual ideas:
No phones days
Family game nights
Sunday morning “daddy-daughter”/ “mommy-son” dates
The list can go on to suit what you and your family need. And don’t worry. These are not set in stone forever. But they can provide a lot of comfort in times of adversity.
Back in the early 2000s, amidst our family turmoil, one of our family rituals was the ‘Friday tell all’.
This was an informal chat where we each shared:
– something we were struggling with
– something we were proud of
– what’s on our mind
– what’s coming up
– how the family can support us.
It was difficult at first. Knowing how to share what I was feeling and how I needed support even in my late teens was tricky. I had never been asked… and listened to when I shared my big feelings.
I won’t lie. There were weeks of awkward silence, eye-rolling, and exaggerated shoulder shrugs. But we kept at it. And soon, there were single sentence answers.
Before long, we used these sessions as a safe space to share, and always ended with a takeaway and some bonding time that I still reflect upon years later.
The key element that made it all possible was the single rule we all upheld: We will listen, and hear, and respect all that is shared because it’s true and real to the other person.
After a while, our Friday tell-alls became something I craved. Not only did it allow for connection, but it was also a safe place to learn how to reflect and identify how I am feeling and what I needed support with.
These are life skills I am incredibly grateful I was able to build.
Other ways to create connection and space
Depending on your current situation, your personality and the age of your children, the Friday tell-alls may not be applicable. So then what? How do you support your child through uncertainty?
As mentioned above, don’t underestimate the power of simply feeling connected and heard.
Introducing a nighttime routine where you each reflect upon something you’re grateful for is a fantastic start.
Talking about the ways you’re “failing forward” around the dinner table ensures a growth mindset.
Reflecting upon how you felt that day gives rise to emotional literacy.
There are plenty of small moments we can use to encourage connection and consistency.
What’s next to support your family through uncertainty
There is no question that uncertainty and change is something we all will continue to face, long after the Pandemic subsides. So, rather than focusing on the implications it has in the short term, let’s look to create our own positive impact.
My wish for you this year is a sense of connection, love and support. I hope you find the courage to start the conversation within your family, and the strength to listen empathetically as your family shares their woes. It won’t be easy. It might even be a few weeks of silence as everyone grapples with how to share and speak out. But stick with it. The power of knowing you are safe, that you are heard, and that you are not alone is stronger than any negative thought.
If you’re looking for a community on a similar path, be sure to connect with Bettering Youth on Facebook.
Sarahlynn Hodder is owner of Bettering Youth, a tutoring company focused on embedding emotional wellbeing coaching within our 1-1 and small group sessions.