Families’ Resilience Tested in Pandemic

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

By Annette Ermshar
Special to The Review

The circumstances in our world over the past two years have brought a myriad of changes, stressors and uncertainty that our society could not have anticipated or adequately planned for.
The COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine terms have certainly impacted everyone both nationally and globally. While the pandemic has contributed to many strains and struggles in everyday functioning for all of us, there are also challenges that are unique to individuals in provider roles.
With the onset of changes in job status, roles, availability and even job locations, workers have been forced to adjust their expectations and be flexible in order to create a new work norm.
For parents who work outside the home, they had a routine of leaving the house and going to a workplace, functioning within a delineated work environment and providing for their family. Amid shifts due to social distancing and evolving work demands, many have adapted their work schedule by working from home. Although this has some positives, including more time spent with family members and less commute time, there are also inherent difficulties.
For instance, those who are forced to work from home can experience less focus and more distractions, especially if they have a spouse, children, and/or pets around their immediate work space. They do not readily have access to in-person interactions with colleagues and clients.
Many parents have faced being laid off, furloughed, or have been forced to take a reduction in work hours, all of which can affect their ability to provide for their family and sense of fulfillment and purpose.
For those in a provider role, their identity, in part, includes being the breadwinner and ensuring a sense of safety and stability within their family. During the pandemic, this sense of safety and stability has been compromised and many providers feel responsible for the struggles they see within their family. These changes may have created more financial strain and burden as a result of less income and/or more unforeseen costs elsewhere. As such, many individuals have been experiencing added stressors, strain or distance in their family relationships, which has contributed to increased stress and anxiety, depression and even desperation.
In addition to work changes, working mothers and fathers have experienced significant changes in their social life and interpersonal functioning that can negatively impact their well-being. For example, quarantine terms and subsequent closures have more limited accessibility to various outlets including sporting events, recreational group sports, gyms and other interests they share with their peer group.
Full-time parents have also experienced significant changes in their lives. They may have utilized schools, daycare centers, play dates and other family members to assist them with caring for their children or to provide mental health breaks for their own mental wellbeing. In turn, with the onset of quarantine and social distancing orders, stay-at-home parents have had fewer resources in order to maintain the daily responsibilities and needs for their children, such as a reduced social support system.
Additionally, retired persons have been presented with a different set of challenges and issues resulting from COVID. Specifically, they have had to take extra safety precautions and have been told to significantly limit going out or spending time with others, even immediate family.
Likewise, retirees have had to postpone vacation plans due to travel restrictions. Consequently, retirees are forced to isolate. This pattern of reduced social interaction, less physical activity, reduced time outdoors, and diminished access to resources and forms of entertainment can all weigh heavily on individuals, particularly older individuals.
COVID messaging has highlighted that older individuals are at increased risk for contracting the virus, which has contributed to increased fears and concerns about personal and family physical health, and has contributed to feeling helpless about their well-being and their future.
Likewise, according to the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, the pandemic has created financial constraints for retirees with families. Specifically, one-fourth of all parents with adult children in the United States (24 million people) have provided financial support to their adult children. This shift in financial responsibilities can have implications on retirement planning and savings.
In spite of the harsh realities and effects of COVID in our lives, it is important to acknowledge the resilience and strength of the human spirit. Even amid these added stressors, our community has found motivation from family members, peers and coworkers.
Parents have also taken on their role as providers and protectors to a new level by supporting and working even harder than before, advocating for loved ones in need, and managing their own expectations so they can live each day with purpose and a new norm.

Annette Ermshar, CEO of Dr. Ermshar & Associates, is a clinical neuropsychologist who holds a doctorate degree. Her Pasadena-based private practice focuses on psychological assessment and treatment, neuropsychology and forensic psychology. She has served as an expert consultant for television and media.