– Ram V. Iyer

When COVID shut-downs became commonplace, families reacted with shock and disorientation. Their normal lives were unimaginably changed. School, sports, work, lessons, and entertainment came grinding to a screeching halt. Grocery aisles, once stocked with staples like cheese, bread, and cereal, lay empty. Restaurants were as quiet as ghost towns. There were runs on staples like toilet paper. Hand sanitizer was in short supply nationwide. The N95 mask became a national obsession. Stuck in their own homes and apartments, families got better acquainted with each other. Seeing more of each other and doing things together bonded the lives of family members. They went on walks, played board games, rode bikes, and cooked at home. For the first time in years, the lives of family members centered around the home, whether it was work or domestic activities. They gathered several times a day around the house and at the dinner table–just like they had for centuries.

Some families reverted to the “old normal” as soon as a few of the restrictions were lifted, but others vowed they would never be the same. To these families, choosing to live a new normal felt like a necessity—and a better way. Reverting to their previous, somewhat disjointed family lifestyle felt like a fraud.

After all, a family-centric life is the key to so much more than the home. It’s the key to wellness, dialogue, relationship building and stronger communities—and for a better and stronger culture.

“With widespread fear and uncertainty, regular family conversations around the home are the bedrock of individual and family stability.”

'A family-centered life is the key to wellness.' Click To Tweet

Due to the slower and less-hurried pace during COVID shut-downs, families spend a lot of time together. They learned about each other and found many things they had in common—becoming closer in the process. Sure, some families imploded during the shut-downs, but many got closer and built stronger bonds.

During COVID, families suddenly had hours of unexpected extra time. Dozens of activities were slashed from their calendars. Flights were cancelled and vacations put on hold. Schools shut down and workers were sent home. Sporting events, conferences, birthday parties, and weddings could no longer take place. It was a unique (and bizarre) time for almost everybody.

Normally, busy families find a way to fill every spare minute. If one event is cancelled, they simply replace it with another. If they have an unexpected free afternoon, they might go on vacation, visit grandma, or go to the zoo. But during COVID, Plan B didn’t work. Older people were secluded in nursing homes. Borders were shut. People couldn’t travel, plan a get-together with friends, or go to the amusement park. Dozens of alternative plans were cancelled.

The only options left were old-school, natural, at-home and outdoor options. Families could still play in the back yard, work in the garden, or paint the house. Many turned to crafts, art, or cooking. Nature parks were open, so people enjoyed hiking and walking as a family. I saw numerous families congregating on the beach on the Jersey Shore over the summer.

Families discovered that these down-to-earth options brought deep relaxation and rest. The solitude provided by COVID gave time to reconsider: Many people dug deeper and made changes to their finances, emotional health, physical well-being, and mental health. Others pondered changes to their family. They wanted an intentional, slower-paced lifestyle that would last. 

'A family-centered life brings unity.' Click To Tweet

Since the advent of electronic devices and social media, families and communities have been growing apart. Especially since COVID, social media interchanges have become increasingly harsh. With rampant violence and confusion, the image of uniting around a family dining room table is an important key to unity.

The family dinner table is an excellent place to practice face-to-face social skills. In-person conversation is an art that is being lost in our digital world. Around a shared meal, kids learn empathy, social skills, and listening skills. As they converse and listen to others, they learn to see things through others’ eyes.

The website, The Family Dinner Project, provides practical ideas for conversation. This initiative helps families engage in life-changing conversations. The organization encourages parents and kids to talk about losses and growth related to COVID. The Family Dinner Project’s one-line questions and ideas help parents start real conversations that build resilience and empathy. For instance, one conversation starter is, “During the pandemic, what has been the hardest for you to lose out on?” Another conversation guide asks families to remember how they overcame past challenges, like “a broken water pipe or a parent losing a job.” Such questions, in turn, will build stronger families that can reach out to the community and beyond.

“Families spending more time at home could enable the building of stronger individuals, families, and communities nationwide .” Click To Tweet 'A family-centered life can lead to new family purpose and entrepreneurial ventures.' Click To Tweet

Working at home has become a big part of family life since COVID broke out. For some, working at home was frustrating; for others, it was gratefulness for the opportunity to spend more time with their children and spouse. Stuck at home, many people realized how much they enjoyed spending time together as a family.

Some families saw COVID as a unique opportunity to switch careers. Some jumped full-time into  . Others worked to grow their  such as sub-letting a room of their home, photography, or selling health products. They were able to become  , working from home!

Families discovered that working from home as freelancers or entrepreneurs provided more flexibility. Families could open their homes to students who had no place to do online school. They could provide a safe haven for travelers through hospitality. Families could go on adventures, because they were not tied down with work. They could strengthen family bonds that would last a lifetime.

Need help getting started?  Are you ready to embrace the new normal and make sustainable changes for your family? Here are some great resources to get you started.

  • Family dinners. The nitty gritty details of pulling off a successful family dinner can be overwhelming. Making realistic goals, thinking of conversation starters, and finding time-efficient recipes is a daunting task. An easy-to-use manual called will give you practical suggestions, easy recipes, and conversation starters to get you started. In that book, “you will find tips for bringing your family to the table to set dinnertime goals, overcome obstacles, manage conflicting schedules, and engage everyone in the conversation.” offers additional quick and simple homemade meal ideas.
  • Outdoor Fun. Find some practical tools to enjoy the outdoors with your family. Relax in an indoor-outdoor Lycra Hammock cuddle swing. Try the to get your family moving in the great outdoors. Bring back simple activities like blowing giant bubbles, and watch your kids’ faces light up.
  • Test and evaluate your business ideas with Will It Fly? Gain inspiration and sustainability from SOLO: Survival Guide for Creative Freelancers. What dream do you want to chase with your family?
  • Slowing Down. Sometimes we all “feel overwhelmed with the demands of work, family and community,” want to “connect and spend time with… family,” and are “tired of being anxious, lonely, and burned out.” To Hell with the Hustle shares practical tips about slowing down and getting the most out of life.

Read Aloud with Your Kids. Reading is a wonderful activity for family bonding. Start with a classic like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Try using silly voices and an animated voice to make reading fun for the whole family. The Sign of the Cat is a page-turner that will have you and your kids sitting on the edge of your seat.

As you spend time with your family, we hope you come to see that COVID is not just a roadblock or an obstacle. Instead, it can be the jumping-off point for a whole new way of being. Your family can flourish, bond, and engage society in a whole new way, building stronger citizens for a better tomorrow.

Let’s continue the conversation here.

  1. What are your thoughts about family-centric living?
  2. How do you think families can build better relationships among themselves?
  3. How do you think strong families can help communities and society?
  4. If you like this article, PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. And, come back often to read more about many other aspects of living in the ‘new normal’.

 

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