Our pandemic culture is rapidly changing- Thank God. Change is often an opportunity for discord, but it can be an opportunity for family unity. Here are 10 principles for managing family change in the face of rapidly changing times. The good news is that by September, the bulk of the nation will have at least had a first vaccination if not a second.
However, the vaccine is NOT a guarantee that there won’t be risk from Covid 19. In fact, there are currently plans for vaccination boosters to take into account new strains of Covid. In other words, there will still be risks. At the same time, as we shift from our somewhat isolated lifestyles to one with more freedoms, we will still need to maintain SOME boundaries in terms of how we interact with others. Here are ten principles you can use to plan and manage the upcoming changes with your family whether you are married or divorced.
Start With the People
Any change in a family (or an organization) requires taking into account the needs and roles of the players. Start with your own needs, what do you need to stay healthy, well and maintain emotional balance? Next take into account the needs of your “partner”. Whether married or divorced, you have a child rearing partner. The better you both can coordinate, the easier balancing the needs of your children and work will become. Of course you will want to understand the needs of your children and how to fulfill them as well,
Work Top Down
One of the most important principles for managing family change is you (and your partner) will need to be completely bought into the same set of values and expectations. Specifically around how to manage the realities of change as the risks change and shift during this time of pandemic transition. Your children will be looking to you to see how certain and safe you feel during this time. While change is often an opportunity for discord, it can be an opportunity for shared vision as well. Take time together to make a plan for different scenarios. Get the moist up to date info on where we are in terms of exposure and balance the needs of your family with the risks.
Engage all the Players
For any plan to work, everyone needs to buy in. Once you and your partner(s) have a strategy, make sure that everyone who is part of your family is aware of it and has some buy in. Change is often an opportunity for discord, but when all the players are bought in it becomes an opportunity for harmony. This means not only the children, but grandparents, aunts and uncles, caregivers, anyone who is a player in your household.
Make the Case for Change
Make a formal case for the strategies for managing change that you are promoting. When engaging all the players, they will need to understand the “why” of your strategy. When they understand the “why”, even if they don’t fully agree, they will be more likely to honor your requests at least out of respect for your perspective if nothing else.
Avoid top down commands! You create ownership by making sure that you address the needs of the players into your plans. When strategies and plans take into consideration the needs and goals of all the players, there is inevitably greater buy in. Individuals are more willing to listen and compromise when they feel heard. Everyone will come together as a team when they see that there is sacrifice and compromise happening all around.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Don’t think for a second that buy-in is permanent. Keep driving home the plan at every opportunity. Particularly in the moment, always reminding the players of why it’s important that specific choices and actions are taken at specific moments. For example, if there is a big birthday party that your teenager wants to go to and they don’t want to ask about the details, remind them that you need to know if it’s inside or out, and so on.
Assess the “Landscape”
As the plan unfolds, how well is everyone adjusting to it? How well did the plan take into account ALL the factors? What changes have happened that were not accounted for? How well is everyone communicating regarding their day to day? How well is everyone in the family unit cooperating with one another? How are you managing the inevitable breakdowns? Keep watching, communicating, and reassessing.
Address Your Family Culture
What is your family culture? What is the vision you have for your family? What are the values and principles that you are encouraging in your family? What traditions do you have that reinforce them? What habits do you encourage? Rituals that you have around dinner? Going to school? Family time? Religious practices? Whatever you come up with will by definition need to fit in this framework and reinforce it.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Another one of the most important principles for managing family change is preparing for the unexpected. This seems like an oxymoron. How do you prepare for something you are not expecting after all? By definition, if you’re prepared then you are expecting it yes?
It’s probably more accurate to say “expect the unexpected” which really means have plans for crises. You probably won’t anticipate the crises, but you will want to have plans in place that will cover most kinds of crises. For example, who will cover the home base if you need to take someone to the hospital? What are the things you might need to take with you in the event that you might be called away for a day? How much money should you set aside in the event that you are between jobs or laid off for some reason? These are the kinds of questions that will help you prepare for unexpected situations.
Speak to Each Individual
It is easy to get sucked up in the systems and forget the individual. Change is often an opportunity for discord, but when we take time with each individual player and make sure they feel cared for, we encourage like-mindedness. Take regular time with every individual in the family orbit. Understand what’s going on in their lives. Be compassionate. Systematically spending time with all of your family team will also help you make adjustments and shifts as you move forward together in these changing times.