2020 will forever be remembered as the year when life stood still; when a deadly pandemic changed the way we live our lives. Even as a new year has dawned, life as we know it has changed, and we cannot be certain what the future holds.
I spoke to three families who are undergoing transitions in Singapore to find out how they are dealing with these changes, as well as what strategies they have implemented to manage them.
Managing school, home and work
For Winnie Teo, 2020 was a year of major school transitions. Her daughter had just entered Secondary One, and her son was taking the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). Winnie shared that with the Covid-19 situation and work from home arrangements, it was indeed a challenge to manage the demands of both work and family.
As there were stressors on multiple fronts, Winnie decided to focus on what she felt to be more important. She chose to allow her daughter to cope with her new secondary school life on her own, as she wanted to give her daughter an opportunity to learn independence. While for her son, she engaged tutors to help him prepare for the PSLE.
On the work front, Winnie was thankful to have understanding bosses and colleagues. To some extent, there was a shared camaraderie as everyone was going through similarly stressful home-work situations.
What has helped them to stay afloat during such a challenging period is the mindset that “life is not without trials”.
Living away from home
Chadrick Yeo used to live in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and commute daily to Singapore for work. In the days before Covid-19, he would travel to Singapore in the morning and return home to Johor Bahru each night. However, when the borders between the two countries were closed, Chadrick, together with his wife Elaine and their three children, had little choice but to leave their Malaysia home overnight and live in Singapore, moving from one house to another, even as the pandemic dragged on month after month.
The situation was compounded as the couple had just sent up a boardgames cafe in Malaysia, and Elaine had to oversee the operations while physically in Singapore. Life was not easy to say the least, but the family chose to stay together even though their business was based overseas.
This year, the family is undergoing yet another transition as they welcomed a fourth child just before the advent of the new year. What has helped them to stay afloat during such a challenging period is the mindset that “life is not without trials”. They believe that it is essential to “stay fluid, look for the positives, and count every blessing”.
Caring for the vulnerable
The Mak family went through a transition of a different nature. Zhehao and Wenshan felt stirred last year to open their home to a vulnerable child through fostering. For about six months, they discussed as a family about the needs of these children and their families, as well as their concerns about fostering. They then went ahead with the plan and underwent fostering assessment and training, before finally being placed with a foster child in December.
For the Maks, although the two months of Circuit Breaker carried its own set of challenges, this also provided them with a lot of time at home, which allowed them to have unhurried discussions and helped prepare the family for fostering a child.
Maintaining a semblance of stability
Despite the changes that each family had to manage, safe and familiar family routines can provide some semblance of stability. For Winnie, her family continued to set aside time on weekdays to have meals together, reserving weekends for immediate family members. What also helped was that she made a conscious effort to segregate time for work, her children’s studies and personal time.
For the Yeos, they have learnt to cherish special moments together, upkeeping traditions such as family picnics, birthday celebrations and regular family devotions. Chadrick and Elaine tried to keep the family working towards a shared vision so they would not focus too much on the difficult circumstances around them, but continue to have hope.
As for the Mak family, their priorities and family values have remained at the forefront of everything that they do. The couple hopes to continue serving the people around them, especially the foster child who is currently under their care.
Coping with change as a family
While it is still uncertain how 2021 will pan out, we can be sure of one thing – change is the new constant. What can help us navigate such tumultuous seasons of change?
According to Winnie, having a strong family support and social network has helped her to cope with new stressors and changes. She has learnt never to be shy to ask for help, and in return, to also ask others if they are managing well and if they need help.
Chadrick and Elaine agreed, observing that trials and challenges don't last forever.
“We have to remember that as a family unit, we need one another to get through this Covid-19 challenge. We need to make our home a safe place for one another.”
These words were echoed by the Maks, who shared that families can continue to dream together by spending time to know one another – each family member’s unique strengths, burdens and passions – and to find ways that we can better work together as a team.
Perhaps this is the single most important challenge that the global pandemic has presented to us. Would we rise to the challenge?
© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy and counselling agency which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, mentoring and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two young boys aged 10 and 8.
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