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Mindful Families’ Resiliency During COVID-19

By Dr. Andrea Porter, PhD, C. Psych.

We are living in an unprecedented time and the elevated stressors related to social and economic disruption, as a result of the pandemic, pose a threat to the well-being of families and children.  An April 2020 study from Statistics Canada revealed more than half of Canadians were concerned about the health of family members and another third were concerned about family stress from the pandemic lockdown. 

Although the actual impact of the pandemic on family well-being is unquantifiable, we know that the challenges families face related to financial insecurity, caregiver burden, routine disruptions, and confinement-related stress are vast. The ongoing nature of the pandemic indicates that the social and economic impacts are likely to be longstanding. In turn, heightened anxiety from psychological distress on parents can impact marital, parent–child, and sibling relationships, yet positive family environments can  protect children from the hardships presented during the pandemic.

Research indicates that positive family environments are supported by a mindful approach to family life. Mindfulness is the purposeful awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and physiological reactions. This stance allows for adaptive and flexible problem solving without emotion or judgement. Mindfulness does not change reality but it can change one’s perspective or relationship with specific circumstances. Mindful awareness encourages parents (and all family members) to be skillful and intentional with responses both in good and uncertain times.  When parents (and family leaders) respond reflectively rather than reactively to circumstances (even of pandemic proportions), these self-regulated responses help to provide a continued foundation of emotional security and safety for the rest of the family. 

Families will react differently to the pandemic depending on any vulnerabilities within the household yet many can thrive with a new-found or continued resiliency. What does resiliency look like? A resilient family framework includes clear communication and collaborative problem solving along with adaptability which forms the basis for emotional connectedness, enabling security and hope for children during stressful times. 

The spillover of negative parental emotions often heightens household chaos and can jeopardize relational competency with and between children in the home. Previous supportive relationships with other protective adults such as teachers and grandparents may no longer be easily available. Mindful awareness of these increased levels of negativity and unhappiness is the first step in repairing or re-establishing relational competency among family members. 

Reflecting on how personal and family values may have become compromised, recognizing what is /is not within one’s personal control can re-establish emotional equilibrium so that parents and family leaders can skillfully move forward. Acknowledging the hardships and reaching out for support/validation are resilient or strength-based responses for these COVID-19 times. 

All families do their best to manage especially during uncertain times. Mindful families  may find meaning in adversity, foster a more compassionate  or positive outlook to respond to hardship with increased resiliency to  cope with circumstances beyond their control.

In collaboration with: Vic Gladwish, Gladwish on Demand Editorial Services.