In a post for the International Day of Families, ANDY HAMILTON SJ writes that the manner in which families cope with the pressures of COVID-19 will, in turn, shape the broader contours of the society that emerges from the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put enormous pressures on all of us as people, and on the groups and institutions to which we belong. The response in the community to the measures taken to address it have been mixed. Sometimes the response has been narrow and divisive, but more generally it has been extraordinarily good-willed, generous and patient, leading to a far broader and balanced conversation about other areas of life that have been affected by the virus. World Family Day invites us to reflect on the impact of the virus on family.
The consequences of the pandemic have made us attentive to the complexity and breadth of the relationships involved in families which struggle under its burdens. The economic and social changes brought by the virus have shown, for example, the consequences for the family of relationships involved in losing casual work, in working from home, in the expectation that all adult members of a family will work, in schooling, in recreation, staying in touch with extended family and friends, and educational institutions, of relationships with sport, television and social media, and in a house design that offers both common and personal space.
After COVID-19 the way in which these relationships have been shaped can no longer be taken for granted. We shall have experience of the disadvantages and advantages of other shapes we may not have considered. The merits of working from home and of home schooling will be considered as real possibilities of which we have experience and not simply as abstract ideas.
We shall see more clearly, too, how tightly the internal relationships within our families are connected to broader relationships with society. We shall have noticed how pressures of living together in a narrow space can be reflected in family violence and in mental illness. We shall find it difficult to reflect on the inner life of families without setting them against the social conditions in which they live. We shall know that if we wish to address antisocial behaviour we shall have to take account of the social problems that give birth to it.
At Jesuit Social Services we work with young people from families which have been disadvantaged. This has often reflected lacks in the way our society cares for families.
World family day is a time to celebrate the generosity and goodness displayed in families, and the resilience that finds life in the most unfavourable circumstances. It is also a day to ask how as a society we can best to accompany families as they prepare children for a full and generous life.