The amount of information and advice from counsellors, helpers and others about how to navigate isolation and lockdown – and mitigate the negative effects on our relationships – can feel overwhelming.
We like the simplicity of Franekel and Cho’s four-part framework to help couples and families cope: reaching up, down, in and around.
Reaching up includes accessing our spirituality, ethics and values to help us cope. For us believers, it can mean using this time to reflect on our relationship with Jesus, and to reflect on how we can grow in our discipleship despite everything else going around us.
Whether you’re a couple, family unit, or single person, consider the following questions – on your own or with others:
- For us, what are the essential components and features of a reasonably secure, satisfying, meaningful life?
- How much money and material goods, and how many novel and exciting experiences, are enough? What can we do without?
- How can we go on living with a sense of hope and purpose in the face of a situation that may bring great reductions in our material wellbeing, and that may even result in illness or death?
- What is the source and nature of our hope and our security, and of faith in a better future (Hebrews 6:19)?
- How do we sustain those hopeful qualities and energy?
- How can we maintain a core sense of serenity and peace in the face of the many realistic sources of hardship and anxiety? (John 14:27)
Reaching down includes ideas and practices that help us foster a healthier relationship with our environment – the stewarding of our natural resources.
For most of us, the pandemic has halted the well-oiled machine of modern life, centred around our human focus on production, consumption, and distractions! This pause has put into question what we expect from our future, and increased the general anxiety that comes with facing the unknown. It has also given us room to stop running ahead long enough to really take a good look around us.
Here’s some questions to reflect on:
- How can we invest in our relationship with our immediate surroundings? (our garden, the bush, our neighbourhood)
- In what ways can we turn to nature as a source of both recreation and pleasure?
- How could we learn more about our family’s specific role and footprint in the stewarding of God’s resources?
- What about a family/household project that involves growing and tending to natural things? (planting flowers, a veggie garden)
Reaching in represents a turn towards experiences that provide pleasure, excitement, joy, and peace – given that external sources of these emotions are of limited availability due to lockdowns.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- How can I plan for more fun and pleasurable activities today?
- What would make my spouse/friend’s day?
- What crucial conversations do I need to have with the people in my circle – about how we are all feeling, about expectations, boundaries, space and privacy?
- Who do I need to check in on today?
- What self-care activities have I made sure I put in place?
As more and more of us work and socialise online from our living spaces, our various roles and identities in life are starting to blend and blur.
The following can help us be more deliberate about reaching around:
- How can we creatively sustain and nurture our connections with others in lockdown? (online groups, creative enterprises, outdoor exercise)
- How can we learn to see each other more respectfully – that is, as having multiple roles and responsibilities?
- How can we provide holistic Christian leadership to people in our sphere of influence, including the mental health field and community?
- How can we model more compassion, grace, patience, humility, and generosity of time and attention to our partner, friends, and colleagues (Galatians 5:22-23)?