Who’s in Your Family?
By Shama Yunus-Joynt BA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP
The crisis brought about by the current pandemic is a global one; virtually every country is dealing with unprecedented changes and challenges because of the nature and reach of COVID-19. While the news buzzes with statistics and heartbreaking stories of illness and death, the impact of the pandemic for each of us depends largely on our individual circumstances before COVID-19 even existed. Those that have the financial and social support to weather the drastic life changes are doing much better than those who don’t. For a lot of us, this translates to the resources we have within our own families; whether we are surviving or drowning depends largely on whether we have people in our lives that are carrying the burden alongside us. It is important to note that the concept of family has evolved rapidly in the past few generations, and that our collective understanding of family dynamics today may not always match reality.
Until very recently, pictures of families in the media consisted of one man and one woman and their offspring, usually all of the same race and colour. Mixed race marriages were rarely portrayed, let alone same-sex or interfaith marriages. Fast forward to 2021 – we have an abundance of variety in family structure, and in Canada, we are lucky enough to have the freedom to decide who will be in our family regardless of race, religion or gender. However, the essential basis of family, no matter the structure, consists of strong bonds that carry an overarching sense of commitment to one another. As strong as these bonds can be, sometimes family relationships are complex and dysfunctional. This has implications for how families are coping during this pandemic.
The media by and large still portrays an idealized version of families. While watching TV, I often come across home renovation shows where you see families looking for a place to “make memories”. I love this idea of course, and who wouldn’t, except for the fact that currently, the pandemic has put an inordinate amount of pressure on families. Families have largely borne the brunt of the crisis, testing the bonds between family members in ways that they may not have encountered before. Not only are family members trying to protect and take care of each other in new ways, but the close proximity to each other and lack of options have thrown them together in ways also not experienced before. It can be said that this global crisis is affecting our families in ways nothing else has.
On this International Day of Families, we need to reflect on how our social system supports families; it is not enough to provide social assistance to those that are struggling. Rather, we need to form a deeper understanding of the meaning of family and family dynamics in today’s world and provide resources to strengthen every type of family. Just as family dysfunction can appear to ‘squander’ resources, the strong commitments in most families can multiply and make the best of these same resources. It is time to revisit how our families function in today’s world and create a new and better understanding of family life during this pandemic and beyond.
About the Author
Shama Yunus-Joynt is an experienced Human Resources professional specializing in culture and engagement. She has a background in coaching and mental health which she combines in a very unique way towards helping companies define and execute an extraordinary people strategy. Connect with Shama on LinkedIn to learn more about her.
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