Last January 15, 2022, Family First Global launched its Family Health 360 Seminar Series with the "Navigating Your Family Through the Pandemic" webinar. The event, which was broadcast live via online platforms Zoom and Facebook, had hundreds of families from all over the globe tuning in to get insights and advice on how to stay strong despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Moderated by husband-and-wife tandem Edric and Joy Mendoza, the webinar featured an illustrious panel of speakers who were able to impart wisdom and life lessons that attendees can hold on to as they navigate a pandemic-stricken world.
The COVID Effect
National University of Singapore Sociology Professor Jean Yeung opened the talk by sharing research about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families. According to Prof. Yeung, the global health crisis resulted in family relations becoming more tense, an increase in cases of domestic violence, and a higher divorce rate. Prof. Yeung attributes this to financial difficulties at home and suddenly being with family members almost 24/7. Moms have also felt that their anxiety and stress levels have escalated due to the pandemic. For children, not being able to go out has turned them even more to electronic gadgets, which takes time away from other worthwhile activities.
However, there is a silver lining to this phenomenon. Prof. Yeung said that the people have become tech-savvy, using technology to easily connect with others and boost their productivity. There has also been a shift in perspectives on how a family should function. With more time spent in isolation from others, families have more time to spend together, which tightened their bonds and allowed them to converse with each other more.
Moving forward, Prof. Yeung is hoping that parents work as co-pilots of the home. They should be able to share household responsibilities, and supervise home-based learning for their children together. Instead of playing with their cell phones, parents should help children immerse themselves in age-appropriate books and play board and outdoor games together in a safe space.
A Marriage That Can Outlast the Pandemic
For her part, Mrs. Claire Nazar - who leads evidence-based marriage education programmes - discussed four core values that couples need to remember to make their marriage last. These are commitment, respect, intimacy, and forgiveness. When any one of these values are eroded, communication becomes hard. Communication issues can lead to resentment and anger, which can be a cover for a deeper emotion such as fear or insecurity. To prevent this from happening, there are key actions that couples can take:
- Do your part. Keep calm in the face of adversity. Use calming apps, do breathing exercises, or write down your thoughts in a journal. Reflect and identify what areas you need to work on within you and in your relationship with your spouse.
- Decide, don't slide. You need to be able to make decisions to move forward, but these cannot be hasty ones. Take a break before responding to your spouse so you can make sure that you are answering with a clear head. Decide to be a peacemaker no matter what happens, do not slide into a ‘tit for tat’ response that only escalates the tensions.
- Make it safe to connect. Humility goes a long way in softening a person's heart. Set aside time for a serious discussion. Let your spouse know what you want to talk about ahead of time so you won't catch them off guard. Use a pleasant tone when conversing. Hold their hands while you talk to them, sit close, and hug when appropriate. These proven physical measures can help a difficult discussion go better or defuse a tense situation.
Mrs. Nazar reminded the audience that positivity is a choice. Instead of being bitter about the situation, we have to work on being a better version of ourselves.
Dads - Take Charge Because Leadership is Destiny
Last but not the least, Fellowship of Fathers Foundation and Family First Global founder Prof. Gregory Slayton asked fathers to step up and take charge of their family's future. According to Prof. Slayton, leadership is destiny, and now more than ever, dads have to be good servant leaders for their families. In doing so, fathers shouldn't enter the battlefield alone. They should take steps to strengthen their relationships with key "battle buddies" - their wife, children, family, and closest friends. Having a strong community of family and friends as “battle buddies” will help dads stay calm, focused and resolute no matter what challenges he and his family face.
COVID-19 has added to the crisis of loneliness that is engulfing men everywhere. According to Prof. Slayton, three times more men in the USA self-report as having no close friends than just 22 years ago. Now, over 21% of US men report they have no close friends and are therefore very vulnerable to loneliness. Men must make time to deepen their relationships with our family and friends. Professor Slayton quoted an old Marine Corps, saying: “You fight alone, you die alone.” He urged men in the audience to make time to develop a few close male friendships and deepen relationships with wife and kids. He also encouraged men to spend time with their Heavenly Father who loves every family and wants to help them be the best fathers they can be.
Professor Slayton gave some very specific tips for fathers and husbands, including:
- Take care of your physical health and set a good example for your family. Get 8 hours of sleep, exercise daily, and follow a healthy diet.
- Minimize bad inputs and maximize good inputs and help your wife and kids to do the same. Minimize time on social media and other ‘garbage inputs’, and invest time on having fun with the family, reading great books, and watching inspirational movies together. Have meaningful conversations with family, and take time out by praying or meditating.
- Cut back on the stress. Relax your schedule. Allow yourself to enjoy more free time, and avoid unnecessary arguments.
- Be a strong servant leader for your family. Learn the love language of each member of your family. Develop a Noble Family Vision that will serve as your guide in setting goals and celebrating milestones in your family's journey.
Prof. Slayton believes that dads must be a rock of stability for their families in these trying times, and especially when the family faces challenges and crises. Dads must be a beacon of hope, joy, and love that lights the way for his family to move forward through the pandemic, and beyond.
To see a recording of the full webinar, and other great family resources, please check out Family First Global’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Join us for the next Family Health 360 global webinar in March on FAMILY FINANCE STEWARDSHIP.