Use this time to slow down, reconnect with family.

March 17, 2020

Use this time to slow down, reconnect with family.

By Chris Etchison, Scottville Elementary Principal, MCC Schools.

There’s no doubt the COVID 19 pandemic has turned not only our nation, but the world upside down. As we wake up today, everything has been cancelled or closed, including schools and many businesses.

As a nation, we’re being asked to stay home and take care of ourselves and our families. We’re so accustomed to a fast paced lifestyle, this is likely creating more panic and anxiety for many of us than contracting the virus itself.

Over the past few days I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on the fond memories I have from my childhood growing up in our small town. As I think back to these memories, I realize none of them involved the internet…social media, YouTube videos, or running from one thing to the next. “Gaming” meant sitting with a family member and playing a board game, card game or if we were lucky enough to have one, the Atari or Nintendo. After school each day meant most of us coming home to mom AND dad, usually because our parents were able to provide for us with one working and the other staying home to teach us family values, responsibility, respect for ourselves and others, empathy, the importance of using our manners, providing a routine and give us the love and care we needed most. Coming home to mom and dad also meant they were still together and the family unit included both parents and the children.

When we arrived home from school each day one of our parents usually went through our backpacks with us, asked us about our day, made sure we had time to complete any homework and then we were able to play outside with siblings or the neighborhood children until we came in at a set time to clean up, eat dinner, maybe play a game or read a book together before getting ready for bed. All of this was accomplished by 7:30. The normal weekday was not as stressful and the activities we chose were relaxing and allowed us to reset. Weekends consisted of sleeping in, waking up to Saturday morning cartoons, a good breakfast, time visiting with our family and planning out our day together with many choices. Some of those options for us included fishing, hanging out with family friends, cooking with mom, sledding, chores, playing outside, riding our bikes, driving the go cart around the block, fixing things with dad, if dad was working sometimes we would go visit him at work and he would take us on a train ride (he was the engineer), hunting, going to church on Sunday mornings and going out to breakfast afterwards, working on house projects together, and on Sunday evenings sitting in the living room after dinner with a bowl of popcorn mom or dad made on the stove and watching the Sunday Night family movie on channel 13.
Unfortunately, these times are long gone for the most part.

Today, if parents are still both married or have remarried, both are forced to work just to make ends meet, some more than one job. On Mondays the children come home from school and the craziness begins for everyone. Youth sports begin at age 5, sometimes younger so there’s practice or a game, if they’re not into sports there’s something else for someone in the family. We quickly run to the drive thru to grab fast food, if we have more than one child, we’re picking one up from one activity and dropping one off at another and this cycle continues until 8 to 8:30. We run home, everyone is stressed out, crabby, tired, arguing and family time consists of the time we spent in the car getting from one thing to the next. If we do get the opportunity to all sit together in the evening, everyone has their devices out, no one is even talking and then we go to bed because this is how we have been programmed to relax. Tuesday morning everything starts over and we do the same thing. This continues until the weekend when we’re on the road traveling to the next event we’ve signed ourselves or our children up for.

If we’re lucky enough to have a weekend off, we don’t even know how to relax because we’ve been “rewired” to run, run, run. If we stop for a moment, we’ll find there’s very little time left to focus on the important things we should as we try to prepare children for the world in front of them. Before we know it they’re all grown up, graduating and moving out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all these things are bad for our families; however, I do think it’s important to find a healthy balance in a society that doesn’t lend itself to that “balance” at all. It’s no wonder so many, including our children suffer from anxiety, depression, etc…

I see this pandemic as an opportunity for us to reconnect as a family unit. Let’s give ourselves permission to slow down and rediscover the things we enjoyed when we were young with our own children today. Let’s find time to teach our children the life skills and values we know they need but struggle to fit in. These are the things that often pull and keep our families together. I know we need to stay close to home for the time being but we can start small with activities we can do safely for now and add to them as things get back to normal.

Please take care, God Bless.

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