The Pandemic as a Portal for Global Families

Photo credit: Pixabay

When we experience a shake-up, be it a move, job change, or a health pandemic, we have the choice to respond in one of two basic ways. We can break down by letting fear and stress overpower our ability to act. Or, we can rise to the challenge by taking stock of what works, creating goals and opening windows to a better tomorrow.

The Covid pandemic is not just a challenge, but also a chance to start over. As author Arundhati Roy reminds us, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine the world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway, between one world and the next.”

What Positive Strategies Can We Put Into Place Now to Ensure a Healthier Future?

For me, as a physician, the portal to the future would include improving educational disparities and creating equal access to healthcare regardless of socioeconomic background. As a parent, it would include building on the rituals we have come to enjoy during the stay-at-home time, such as regular family meals and game times. As a cross cultural adult, it would include expanding on the new virtual connections we have made with friends and family across the world.

Global families are in the perfect position to use the current situation for creative brainstorming on how to recharge and redirect. Here are a few ideas to consider.

Keep a Journal or Log

Journals are an excellent way to reflect on life and lessons learned. As writer Gretchen Rubin points out, “by keeping a narrative of what happens to us, we help ourselves process it and make meaning from it. Keeping a journal can also help us get a feeling of control which though irrational may be helpful.” What better time than the pandemic to start regaining control?!

Pandemic journal
Photo credit: Pixabay

Take Time to Have Important Conversations

Conversations build connections. When kids feel connected to their parents and caregivers, they are more likely to feel good and make healthy decisions. Ask your child or teen about the roller coaster of feelings they may be experiencing related to the covid-19 pandemic.

Also, delve into more sensitive topics that you may be putting off like body changes, vaping, and consent. Kids may not say much now, but you are laying the foundation for future conversations.

Build on Strengths and Passions

Every child (and adult) has natural interests, whether it is music, arts or writing. Building on strengths helps kids develop resilience to handle life’s challenges.

When online school started, one of my sons started making origami cranes to unwind. He has since filled our home with his colorful creations. My other son, who enjoys technology and videomaking, has been using the Covid period to develop a YouTube channel based on his own Do-It Yourself projects.

Finally, how many of you have heard the phrase “I’m bored” during this pandemic? Remember, encouraging a little non-digital boredom is a great way to promote creativity and self-sufficiency.

A little boredom might result in a creative endeavor like these origami cranes
Photo credit: Anisha Abraham

Make an Action Plan for Change

While uncertainty can lead to feeling anxious and vulnerable, developing a plan can create a sense of control. Now is a great time to map out your intentions and to do some goal setting.

Create various goal-setting categories such as health, work, family, spiritual, or financial. Then, create specific time frames for achieving those goals such as 3, 6, or 12 months. Write out the short-term goals you want to accomplish in each time frame by category. Finally, keep yourself accountable by reviewing them periodically with a family member or friend.

Create New Rituals and Milestones

Use the current situation to establish rituals you want to continue even when the pace completely picks up again. Also, brainstorm new ways to celebrate missed milestones or events.

To help celebrate my father’s birthday during lockdown, my mother arranged five zoom calls with family members and friends around the world based on time zones. They had so much fun connecting. Now, they want to make the global zoom calls a regular part of their birthday celebrations!

According to author C.S. Lewis, “you can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Now is the time to make a plan for a brighter path ahead.


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Anisha Abraham, MD, MPH is a pediatrician and teen health specialist based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and on faculty at the University of Amsterdam and Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. She has lived with her husband and two sons in Asia, Europe and the US. As a clinician, Anisha helps cross-cultural kids manage a wide range of issues from media use to substance use and stress. She also leads seminars for young people, parents and organizations using her years of international experience as a physician, researcher, and educator. Anisha’s book “Raising Global Teens: Parenting in the 21st Century” will be published this October. For more information or to preorder Raising Global Teens, see
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