A typical morning in our home pre-COVID looked and sounded like mild chaos. There were often tears and rising blood pressure over our preschooler not wanting to put her shoes on, get dressed, brush teeth, or on some rare occasions even stand up. There was resistance and drama, forgotten lunch boxes, and quick kisses in passing as I rushed everyone out the door.
“You’re late again!” I’d shout from the driveway as the kids hustled to the car with their Dad. I’d wave them off and return to the house to “get started” with my day.
Evening-time brought much of the same chaos. Homework, tears over homework, dinnertime, incessant reminders to pick up messy spaces, bedtime routines. Ultimately my husband and I would crash into our bed, exhausted and hoping to catch a little rest before starting the insanity all over again.
Suddenly life, or what we thought was life, was canceled. Canceled playdates and school, conferences and work meetings. Canceled trips and activities. Canceled church and coffee dates. In what seemed one fell swoop an otherwise packed calendar was cleared clean.
The first week was met with optimism, grief, and then waves of reality. What seemed a precautionary measure for so much of the country became a mandate.
What was only supposed to be a few weeks is turning into months. Our world seems upended, uncertain and unprecedented.
Yet, in all the chaos and cancelations we’ve begun to witness a theme of unity and togetherness at the core family level. In our home morning and bedtime routines have softened.
Slow mornings spent drinking coffee and cuddling have replaced the breakneck of daily life. Bedtime cuddles are extended, some days are fully spent in pajamas, or as we’re now calling them “day pajamas”. Phone calls, FaceTime and digital chats to extended family are at an all-time high. My own family has an on-going group text that seems never-ending. It tethers us tighter to each other than we’ve ever been in the past.
There is a lot broken within the world right now. COVID has certainly amplified that. But I think most of us already know that there has always been a lot of brokenness this side of heaven. With all the bad and devastating, the loss of life and false-certainty, one silver lining is that life under COVID presents an opportunity—if we let it—for families to reconnect.
6 Ways that COVID can Connect Families:
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Gorodenkoff
1. Softening of Routines
For so many of us the calendar is wiped clean. The kids are home, some of us are working from home as well. Others of us are essential workers and coping with new and altered schedules. For the vast majority of families our daily routines are stripped away.
Some of us parents have mastered routine and schedule, COVID is magnifying those skills. However, others of us (myself included) struggle to maintain a routine. For those of us in this boat I recommend an exhale. If it won’t disrupt your sanity allow routines to be soft rather than rigid.
Let the kids take hour-long baths, allow bedtime stories to stretch on. With softness can come peace and serenity and a deeper bond with the little ones God has entrusted to you.
2. More Family Time
I’ve heard it said that for children Love is spelled T.I.M.E. and in what seems like endlessly long quarantine days I’m discovering just how true this is. Some days I feel like my children’s activities director, guiding them from one activity to the next. The major discovery has been that they don’t really care what the activity is, what fills them up is that it’s me who is engaging with them.
Life pre-COVID was often so hectic that these intervals of time spent together were few and far between. Now, as parents we have an opportunity to shift our attention from activities out of the home, to activities centered around the people within our walls.
For most, this is a substantial shift, however, I wonder if once these guidelines are lifted if we might be left with desiring a simpler, slower life with our families.
3. Increased Communication with Extended Family
My spouse and I live out of state from our extended families. We can go months without seeing each other. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve noticed an increase in text messages, emails, cards by mail, and Facetiming. It’s as if life under shelter-in-place has amplified our love for one another.
We’re talking so much more than we ever have, little things that used to bother us or disrupt relationship seem not to matter as much. I’m noticing a great err of forgiveness, kindness and bearing of burdens throughout my extended family.
It’s as if the “One Another’s” of the New Testament are coming to life before my very eyes. When life goes back “to normal”, or we navigate into a new normal this is one of the things I want to be intentional to continue. I’ve even noticed this increase in communication for my husband and his family. It’s beautiful and reminds me of what is truly important.
4. Instituting Slow and Sabbath
Our family is a ministry family; my husband is a Pastor. Sundays tend to be on the busier side and I’ve often lamented that on Sunday morning I’m a single mom. I’ve gotten the children dressed and ready for church almost every Sunday of their little lives completely alone.
Over the last few weeks as church has moved to an online platform my children have been delighted to both watch Daddy preach and snuggle him at the same time. The first Sunday this occurred my 5-year-old asked “How Daddy is on the TV and sitting on the sofa at the same time. Is the Daddy on the TV a robot?”
Not only did this make for a good belly laugh but it also reminded me that having the opportunity to do church as a family during this season is a gift. It also beckons us to allow our Sundays to fall into a rhythm of sabbath. As families we can each identify what sabbath looks like for us independently.
If there ever was a time in our recent history to implement sabbath as a family, now is that time.
5. Opportunity for Deeper Conversations
As an adult I have to say that life feels a little scary right now. We have very little control over our current circumstances. Just imagine how much scarier everything can feel to a young person or child. During the first few weeks of the virus outbreak I was inadvertently instilling fear within my children.
It was the hushed conversations between my husband and me, the updates on the situation, the current CDC reports. Our children picked up on it all.
It’s a safe bet that your children are doing the same. As parents it is our job to protect our children, however, we can’t pad their existence or negate the gravity of the situation. We need to present truth and protection at the same time.
The conversations I’m having with my 9-year-old are drastically different from the discussions I have with my 5-year-old, but we are talking about what’s happening in the world right now nonetheless. These discussions have led my children to a heart of empathy. To talk about it leads us to prayer and soft and tender hearts.
Listening to my 9-year-old pray for healing and protection for absolute strangers breaks and builds my heart all at the same time. Watching their faith strengthens my own. When I can’t make sense of it all I am reminded of Matthew 18:4, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
6. Allowing Space for Silly
It would be ridiculous to pretend that this season isn’t racked with stress, fear and uncertainty. But allowing all of the anxiety to overwhelm us and take us down is just what the enemy wants. So, when I feel myself “going there” I have a few options: I can allow it, or I can fight it. Sure, I can curl up into my bed and lament the day.
There are absolutely days where this is a necessary option, and truth be told I have spent evenings crying myself to sleep and afternoons spent in a funk. However, if you have people to care for, the reality is that sometimes we just have to stay strong for them.
These may be the moments when we lean on God’s strength to hold us up. As it is written in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” When I realize that it is essential for the wellness of my family that I stand strong I have to get out of my head.
One of my favorite ways to clear my head is to head out for a long walk. When a walk isn’t an option, I blast some music with the kids and have a silly dance-off. We will dance around our living room until we’re hot and sweaty and giggling. Sometimes that’s just what we need to take the stress down and come together as a unit. Never once have I left a silly dance off in a bad mood. I highly recommend it.
At the end of this crisis I hope that we, the collective we, can glean wisdom from this time. My great hope is that family life, life as we have known it, truly is never the same. My hope is that it is better.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Estradaanton
Rachel Baker is the author of Deconstructed, a bible study guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to study the word of God. She is a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to build your marriage, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.