At the peak of my hectic schedule in university, I saw my parents only twice a week. A lot of my time was spent juggling CCA, work commitments, and socialising. I was living in the student hall at that time, and my calendar was always packed.
Once, my mum exclaimed that she had to make an advanced booking just to have lunch with me! She asked, “Is our house a home, or more like a hotel — just a place to stay?”
While she mentioned this as a wry joke, it was a wake-up call of sorts.
During this period, her words have been replaying a lot in my mind. We are living in unprecedented times as the global Covid-19 pandemic continues to escalate. Singapore has officially entered “circuit breaker” mode and so, we have to stay at home in order to practise effective social distancing.
It may feel unfamiliar to be in such constant contact with family. A friend of mine shared that the whole dynamic of her home has changed and it has become tempting to withdraw from her family. For many of us, it is a stark change to spend so much time with the family when we are used to spending a lot of time in school by ourselves or with our friends.
While we cannot choose our circumstances, we can, however, choose how we respond. Exodus 20:12 tells us to “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Paul repeated this command to the Ephesian church (Eph 6:2–3) and encouraged the youth in the Colossian church with this — “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Col 3:20).
As children, our primary responsibility is to obey and honour our parents, for it pleases God. It may seem tricky at times, especially during this stressful period, but here are three tips to help you love your family throughout this season!
PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR SIBLINGS’/PARENTS’ SHOES
Some of us may be wondering why our parents seem to be moodier or more short-tempered than usual. We may not be able to fully understand or process what is going on with so many changes taking place. However, perhaps trying to understand the root causes behind why our parents behave the way that they do can help us to be slow to anger and quicker in love.
Aunty Sook Neo, who has two children, is concerned that she may fall sick or be quarantined and may not be able to look after the family. Another mum, Aunty Cheryl, is worried about her family and business finances, so she hopes that her children can be thrifty and spend within their means.
Lately, I’ve started noticing how exhausted and spent my parents are after a long day of work, especially in these times. They run a business, and it’s not easy during this pandemic. But they grit their teeth and bear it anyway so that we can have food on the table.
It’s tough to walk through life alone. That is why Paul encouraged us to carry each other’s burdens, so we fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). By taking time to put yourself in your parents’ shoes, you may be able to help bear their burdens more.
BY TAKING TIME TO PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR PARENTS’ SHOES, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO HELP BEAR THEIR BURDENS MORE.
APPRECIATE AND COMMUNICATE
With most of us coming from conservative Asian families, open communication may not seem like the easiest thing to do, but love can be expressed in various ways. More often than not, many of our parents communicate their love through actions rather than words. These are usually small but important actions, and we shouldn’t miss what’s right under our noses.
Charlotte, 20, said that she understands her mother’s love is expressed in what she does for the family, whether this is walking under the scorching sun to buy groceries, collectingmasks, buying food, or cooking the family’s meals. In some ways, she is thankful for this season. For one, her parents get to spend more quality time together — they have all three meals together and can even catch up on Korean dramas!
“I genuinely feel like my mum is happier to have company at home with her,” said Charlotte. “I found that ‘enforced time’ at home can be bittersweet.”
Being at home with the family has also helped Charlotte to see her family in a very different light. “In the past few days, I’ve learned that my dad is a very driven and hardworking man. He is never late for his conference calls, very firm in his decisions, and is able to think critically should a problem arise.”
Charlotte hopes that she will be able to do more for her family this month, such as cooking a good meal and going on ‘outings’ with her elder sister — right in their rooms — by watching their favourite childhood movies.
I have realised that a simple “thank you” is very powerful and that my mum’s face lights up whenever I intentionally acknowledge her efforts. I am also learning to make it a point to keep in contact with my extended family over video calls. Unfortunately, we had to celebrate my grandpa’s 80th birthday over a video call. But judging from his broad smile, a simple check-in to let him know I was thinking of him made all the difference.
Living together all the time can reveal family fractures that can be ignored in our busy lives. We can rub each other the wrong way with our living habits, and feel frustrated that we can’t just leave the house. Learn to communicate your feelings honestly but kindly face to face, through a handwritten note, or a text message. Aunty Sook Neo shared that since none of us have gone through something like this, it is important to validate everyone’s emotions, be it anxiety, frustration, or fear. Having empathy and being kind to one another helps to build each other up.
TAKE TIME OUT TO RECHARGE
Taking ‘sanity breaks’ can also help — this may just be a quick 15-minute cool-down away from everyone else in a quiet corner of your home if you feel like you need a breather. Another way to recharge is to spend quiet time with God. This means intentionally taking out time to be still.
I recall having problems falling asleep when I was around the age of 18. The looming pressure of exams and the need to perform felt like very heavy burdens to bear. Each night, I clung on to the Word of God tightly in all my anxiety meltdowns. It felt like a lifeline each night. I found that journalling while meditating on Scripture was a good way for me to process my emotions and be renewed.
By taking breaks to strengthen yourself in the Lord, you can find new strength and patience to love your family.
We now have a rare opportunity to have the family together for an extended period of time. As we grow up, such opportunities are likely to be rarer, so let’s love more boldly in this season. As my mum often tells me, “Family is precious, so look out for one another!”