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Family Relationships during the Pandemic
Hsu Su Fen (Advisor for Counselling Ministry)
Sep 2021

1. Preface

Since March last year, I have made walking a daily activity, to reduce the stress brought about by the culture shock of moving to a new country, as well as to keep myself healthy and lose some weight. For more than a year, except for the two days of rest due to fever from vaccination, I walked 10 km every day.

As I stay in Trinity Theological College, I would walk from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve trail to the small park by the riverbank every evening. Through my walks, I saw all kinds of people who were exercising, just like me.

At the start, I observed that there were not many middle-aged women out walking – I assume they were probably taking care of their children after work and preparing dinner? This year, however, there seemed to be a gradual increase in the number of women exercising. Another thing that caught my attention was the increasing number of young men walking dogs, or bringing their babies with them.

What struck me was that, after the pandemic hit, the lives of many families would have been affected, and the entire economic structure would be significantly changed. As such, imagine the pressure on the breadwinners of the household, who not only has to support the family, but also shoulder the responsibility of the country’s economy!

Perhaps this would help you understand when I say that during this period of time, I have helped to counsel more cases of family conflicts than all other kinds of issues!

2. Why do families quarrel?

  1. In general, salaries and work positions will gradually go up after one works for several years. The young adults that just stepped into the workforce for the first few years, whom are expected to care of the family’s needs and support their parents, would most likely be the first group of people to suffer when the economic structure is reorganized and the ‘cycle’ is affected.
  2. For blue-collar workers who already have been receiving lower wages and status due to the nature of their jobs which are nonetheless indispensable, I do hope that the impact of the pandemic will not affect them too much.
  3. During this pandemic, faced with income uncertainty, health threats and with everyone cooped up in the house all day long, many tiny disagreements are amplified, resulting in family conflicts gradually surfacing.

So with this wave of job and income instability, I was wondering if some of these reasons could be behind my observation of more young people pushing strollers and walking their dogs? Of course, going for walks is always healthy.

3. So what are the quarrels about?

  1. The allocation and completion of household chores: I guess for many of us, when we are all stuck at home, we have more free time and tend to feel lazy, since there is plenty of time anyway, I’ll do it later. So the more free time one has, the messier the home; the quarrels are always about the unclean dishes, the dirty floor and non-supervision of children's homework etc.; sometimes even in smaller details: clothes are not put away in the right places, toilet papers are not properly thrown, the cup is not returned to its place...
  2. In the traditional way of thinking, women are usually expected to take care of their husband's ‘face’ (reputation), thus we can quickly uncover a man's inferiority complex covered by violence and bickering in a fight; but where does the inferiority complex come from? In fact, it has always been there all the time, but disguised as ‘responsibility’. During a counselling session, when we attempt to work out the responsibilities the person is unable to bear, all you need is to gently ask: "Do you feel despised by your wife and thus feel terrible?” and that alone is enough to make a strong person teary-eyed.

4. Christ is the head of our family

I love the reminder in Joshua 24:15 that “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. This wave of pandemic is worldwide and no one is spared from it. I found from the experience of serving families who are in conflicts, that the impact of the society at large, coupled with the amplification of traditional thinking, could also make loving couples fight and refuse to give in to each other. This is the time to be reminded that it is inevitable to encounter difficulties in our journey in life, and men all the more should not feel inferior, but know that this is a common problem that we all have to face. Let’s not forget that we have Jesus Christ, the Lord of our household, and pray for each other during such a time. Couples should think early on about the ways to cope with the disaster of this century as a small family, and be reminded that they have already decided to let the Lord be their guide when they made the vows before God - that they would be together through thick and thin until death do them part.


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