Nicole Perryman is the Clinical Director of Aset Group Consulting and Counselling Services and provides psychotherapy services, supervision, assessments, and training to community members in Durham Region. She possesses graduate degrees in Social Work and Counselling Psychology and is a Certified Play Therapist (CPT) with the Canadian Association for Play Therapy. Through Aset Group, the wellness therapists provide a range of counselling and psychotherapy services to individuals, families, couples, and children.
Within a matter of days, our “new normal” consisted of physical distancing measures, change in employment status and education programs, and a rapid escalation of response to a pandemic disease impacting the world. After a month, families continue to struggle with adjusting to this experience. Many families have greater risk with the pandemic disease than others. Some families live in multi-generational homes with heightened risk because they can no longer hosts Personal Support Workers and support staff who used to support their elderly parents. Nurses, hospital staff, physicians, and personal support workers are at greater risk for acquiring the disease due to their occupation, and they often feel ill-equipped and prepared in their jobs to support patients. This has led to further stress within their home. There are parents who have lost their jobs, and parents who continue working full time which can further exacerbate stress within their home. Whether you have lost a loved one to the disease, lost your job, or feel disconnected from your family the impact of the disease has a multi-layered experience that can lead one to feel a sense of grief, loss, anxiety, fear, disconnection, and worry.
Thus, the pandemic and physical distancing has had an impact upon your family’s lives.
Pandemic and physical distancing has had an impact upon your family’s lives
As guides and teachers of your family, parents have a unique opportunity to teach and develop their children’s and families’ resiliency through empathy and compassion, especially during times of extreme stress. According to Brene Brown, “empathy is cultivated by courage, compassion, and connection, and is the most powerful antidote to shame” (Rutsch, 2020). In her RSA video, Empathy vs. Sympathy Brene Brown defines empathy as, “to be able to see the world as others see it… to be nonjudgmental… to connect another person's feelings” (Brown, 2013). You can demonstrate empathy with your children by: recognizing when they may feel upset, anxious or fearful about the pandemic, create space for your child to express how they feel in a healthy way, and validate their feelings acknowledging that you also feel the same way. Most times, as parents we react to “solve” our children’s worries and fix the situation. With Covid-19, our solution is not ideal and only flattens the curve, not cure the disease. Thus, as parents, our best approach is to support our children to build their capacities to manage through the impact of the disease.
Create a healthy foundation in your family that works for you all together in the “new normal” of the disease and physical distancing measures. During difficult times, it is important to establish an environment of safety.
Establish a schedule and routine that works best for you. Ensure family members obtain enough sleep, eat healthy and well, and exercise. “Tik Tok ® anyone?” A healthy foundation creates a safe environment for children and parents to reduce anxiety, fear and worry.
As a family, be open to talk and share your emotions together about how the disease is impacting your family, each other individually, and your world experience. Collect memories through pictures, videos, special family moments, and family dinners as ways to cultivate and journal your experiences. If your family challenges require intervention, contact your employer about the Employee Assistance Program, seek community resources, or seek counselling.
Cultivate quality memories together in your family to help children and yourself to build healthy connections. Positive experiences, healthy connections, and SAFE places promote resiliency. Reduce family conflict and drama that can create an unhelpful environment for your family. However, you can resolve family conflict through Talking Circles. Talking circles can encourage family members to sit in a circle and express their feelings and experiences in the family. It is an opportunity to listen to each other, demonstrate empathy and compassion, and resolve conflict. You can use talking circles to support each other and family members who may struggle with challenges in their lives.
Instill volunteerism to your children and create ways for them to give back, such as preparing care packages for family members, writing letters to isolated people, and donating to specific causes. Someone shared with me that she prepared a bouquet of flowers to special people in her life and dropped off the flowers on their porch. This “act of kindness” creates joy for yourself and of course, the other person.
Create stories & tell stories, this is an excellent time to create and journal your family’s experience in COVID-19. As a child, my parents used stories to talk about their experience, their culture, and their morals. By using video, blogging, pictures, and writing we can continue to pass down the traditions practiced by our ancestors. Use this time as an opportunity to share your experiences and learn about significant people and events in history.
Through empathy, compassion, and helpful strategies, you can help build resiliency for your family as we all experience “COVID-19”.
Rutsch, Edwin (2020), The Culture of Empathy, Taken from: http://cultureofempathy.com/references/Experts/Brene-Brown.htm
Brown, Brene (2013), Brene Brown on Empathy, Taken from: https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw