Five to Thrive While Maintaining Family Peace During Covid-19
During this unprecedented season, social distancing may keep you from interacting with coworkers or strangers. Still, over the last six, seven, eight weeks and counting, you have probably become quite acquainted with your immediate family members. As you practice social distancing to "flatten the curve," you might have begun to notice a slight rise in irritation with your loved ones. Maybe you are feeling the pressure of close contact. Perhaps you feel like an egg in a vice, and each small frustration is like one slight twist on the handle until you crack!
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
- I’m boiling with anger.
- I am going to explode.
- He/she just erupted without warning.
- He/she’s like a volcano about to explode.
- I need to let off some steam.
- I’m under a lot of pressure.
Hours spent inside with family members can lead to feeling pressure. Pressure can lead to conflict. Ken Sande from Peacemaker Ministries describes conflict as a slippery slope. “One the left side of the hill are escape responses, on the right side are attack responses, and holding the high ground are peacemaking responses.”1 Maybe you respond to the pressure by escaping, fleeing, denying, or overlooking the conflict in the home. If so, you have probably discovered that when conflict is not adequately addressed, things tend to become more irritating. Maybe you respond by attacking, asserting rights, controlling, blaming others for conflict in the home. Verbal or physical attacks also worsen the family conflict. "Sadly, it is not unusual to see [families] alternate back and forth between these responses, attacking and retreating in an agonizing dance of destructive conflict."2 You want to please Christ. You want to “love your enemy”3 even if today, your enemy is a member of your own family. You want to "bless" them and "do good toward them," but they feel so bothersome in this season.
Here are five tips for surviving the irritation of Covid-19 and thriving in peacemaking with your family:
- Meet to discuss rules, guidelines, expectations, etc. for this time of social distancing in the home.
- Communicate lovingly and quickly about irritations or problems as they arise.
- Use "I" statements when bringing forward a complaint. This helps lessen the defensiveness of your family members. “I feel anxious when the house is left messy” instead of, “Why can’t you clean up after yourself?”
2. Be patient with other family member's frustrations. (Ephesians 4:2)
- Remember, this is a stressful time for everyone.
- If you are experiencing an emotion, don't assume everyone feels the same.
- Expect bad days and allow space for others to honestly share what they are experiencing.
3. Overlook the offense. (Ephesians 4:2, Proverbs 19:11)
- Seek to assume the best of your family members. If someone loses their cool, remind yourself that you often express frustration with others as well.
- When things have calmed down, seek to restore the relationship by expressing lovingly, the hurt you felt.
- Review the parable of the unforgiving servant.
- Remember how much you have been forgiven.
- Choose not to hold a grudge.
5. Stay open to humor and new opportunities. (Ephesians 4:22-23)
- Distraction can be helpful.
- Finish a project you have put off.
- Try picking up a new hobby or skill.
- Look for the humor in your situation, and share that regularly.
These steps are not the magic formula to avoid family conflict, but seeking to implement them will help you to deal with conflict in a healthy way. Do not allow conflict to drive your family apart. Instead, let the natural conflict that arises in this season to be the opportunity needed to grow closer to your family. And remember your church family is here for you. My wife Joanna and I are now on staff at HPBC and would be willing to help you walk through your family conflict if needed.
1 Ken Sande, Peacemaking for Families (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale, 2002) 7. 2 Peacemaking, 9.
3 Matthew 5:44