When we experience periods in our lives when there seem to be more questions than answers, it’s extremely important to keep the lines of communication open. The COVID-19 outbreak has affected many things in our lives, maybe even how we communicate with one another. When there are more questions than answers, we feel uneasy. The unknowns frighten and worry us. In these trying times, how can we keep the lines of communication open when there is so much confusion, so much tension?
Listening is Important
In communication, listening is as important as speaking. Depending on the relationship and the level of maturity, you may or may not want to be an open book about how the situation is affecting you. But it’s important to listen to everyone’s concerns, children included. Children often offer light thoughts that have the potential to lift everyone’s spirits. On the other hand, if children are distracted with worry, you can use this opportunity to assure them that the adults will do everything they can do to keep them safe and secure.
Tension Shifts the Tone
Clarity, honesty, and kindness come in handy when it comes to communicating with one another. In trying times, sometimes what we say and how we say it are not even close to what is on our mind, what is bothering us. When this happens our tone shifts and we create tension. In essence, we take it out on the wrong person and/or in the wrong way. If you catch yourself in the minute or when you calm down you might say something like “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I was thinking about the bills.”; “I’m sorry I seem distracted or distant today. I’m just trying to think about how to get through this.”; “You are not the problem. The truth is I’m frightened and I took it out on you.”
Consider conducting family meetings to share thoughts, ideas, concerns, and solutions to problems the family is currently facing. Offer encouragement so that everyone in your household has the opportunity to talk AND listen. The benefits and opportunities from a family council depend on everyone working together. Listed below are some helpful guidelines to help you navigate family meetings:
- Focus on problem solving, not on criticism or blame.
- Attitude is everything. During the discussion, everyone’s attitude is an important factor in making the meeting and discussion a success.
- Everyone gets a chance to speak. All parties learn by having a chance to take part; everyone’s opinions should be respected. Make sure each member has a chance to contribute. This is one good way to uncover the underlying problems, which could seem unimportant on the surface.
- Give assurance that everyone’s input is valued. A no-judgement-zone feels safe, so take care to stay focused on the topic, not just opinions.
- When complex problems arise, sometimes an agreement cannot be reached easily. If this is the case, any plan or solution should be put into effect on a trial basis. If it does not work, move on to the next option. Keep trying; the persistence speaks volumes.
- In money matters, the family council can make group decisions based on everyone’s input. With contributions from everyone, decision makers are more likely to have the cooperation and support of the whole family.
- The mechanics of a family meeting are not as important as the spirit behind the idea.
What may seem insurmountable to one may feel like a ripple to another. Oftentimes, older adults feel more confident in uncertain times for the simple fact that their many decades of experiences have taught them resiliency. If you know an older adult who might have experienced a similar situation, consider talking with them about how they weathered the storm. You will make them feel good by asking, but you just may be surprised at what they have to share.
Above all, know that this too shall pass. You will get beyond these difficult times. What positive thing can you do now that will be looked back on with appreciation? Bringing the family together to talk about what’s on their mind might just be the making for a positive memory during an extremely trying time.