First, the bad news. A study from Flinders University published in January, 2021, found that 2% of their 1,040 participants tested positive for COVID and 5% reported have a close family member or friend who tested positive for COVID. More bad news, 13.2% reported symptoms of PTSD related to COVID. That’s over I in 10 people experiencing symptoms of PTSD in response to COVID and the stress it has created in our homes and communities.
I know we have all taken precautions to remain healthy and keep our families as safe as possible during this pandemic. We have done our best to avoid “catching” COVID or letting our family members “catch it.” We also need to do everything in our power to help our families avoid experiencing symptoms PTSD in response to COVID. How can we do that? Here are 4 ways I believe will help.
- Laugh and encourage your family to laugh. A study published in 2020 from the University of Basel (read a review here) revealed that the more often a person laughed, the fewer symptoms of stress they experienced in response to actual stressors in their lives. So tell a joke. Watch a comedy. Remember funny family stories. Joke around. Laugh. It may be just what your family needs.
- Manage news media and social media…do not consume it. Think of the news media as food. Do not overconsume. Do not binge. Consume only what you need to maintain a healthy life. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, like you’re getting too much, turn it off. It’s ok—actually, it’s good—to turn it off and walk away. Watching too much news media or binging on social media can increase stress. Turn on a comedy and laugh instead. (Didn’t we say that before?)
- Talk with your children and your spouse. Numerous studies show that secure relationships buffer the impact of stress and promote health. Give your family the healing benefit of your time, your listening ear, and your relational support through these troubling times. It may help your whole family escape the risk of PTSD.
- Participate in your faith community. Make an intentional effort to grow in your faith. Personal growth and participation in a faith community contributes to a better ability to manage stress. Involvement in personal faith and a faith community contributes to better mental health in general. Take the time to nurture your faith as a family. Participate in a local faith community, even if it is on-line right now.
Four simple practices that can help your family not become one of the 13% suffering symptoms of PTSD in response to COVID. Practices that can help your family navigate the pandemic and manage the stress in a healthy way. In fact, these four practices can help you manage stress and grow even when we are in “better times,” when the pandemic is passed. Practice them now. They’ll benefit your family forever.
Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution for your family would include religion. Why? Because raising kids with religion or spirituality may protect their mental health. I’m sure that sounds controversial and naïve to some, but a study published in 2018 suggests it to be true. This study looked at the data of 5,000 people who participated in a long-term study. It looked specifically at children’s religious involvement from pre-teen years into their twenties. Those who attended religious services at least one time a week with their families when they were children and teens were about 18% more likely to report being happier, 30% more likely to do volunteer work, and 33% less likely to use drugs in their 20’s. In addition, those who prayed or meditated every day reported more life satisfaction, exhibited a better ability to process emotions, and were more forgiving than those who never prayed.
Another study, published in 2019, reviewed 32 studies and found that religious training and involvement was associated with less anxiety in general. Religious training and involvement were associated with less anxiety in relation to various diseases and across different cultures and countries as well.
These are just two studies that suggest a positive impact of religious involvement on mental health. Why does religious involvement have this impact? Perhaps the recognition of “something bigger than ourselves” helps reduce stress and anxiety as does the social support inherent in most religious communities. In addition, there is the impact of a Benevolent Higher Power generously caring and providing for us. With all this in mind, could your family enjoy a potential decrease in anxiety? Then a good New Year’s resolution for your family might include involvement in a religious community. Happy New Year.
Family can be an amazing, joyous celebration…sometimes. At other times family can produce a struggle. After all, family is made up of imperfect people. Still, God can use your family for amazing things. That’s one of the lessons from Family Camp at Camp Christian this year. Rich Aubrey taught us several things about family. For instance, he showed us how restores through family and blesses through family. He explained how God loves and blesses families, not just traditional nuclear families, but all families. If your family has experienced hardships or losses, don’t worry. God can reshape tragedy within families to create blessings when we turn toward one another and join with one another in facing the challenges of life. Those family blessings continue to grow when we learn to express our power in humble service and accept one another’s influence, to submit to one another in the reverence for Christ. This is all great advice for our families, advice that will strengthen our families. Thank you Rich and Sherri for sharing with us.
Great teaching is only part of the experience of Family Camp though. The children play. The adults talk. Whole families join together for activities and meals. Everyone shares. I especially enjoy seeing families in all stages and walks of life coming together to encourage and support one another. It’s a beautiful sight to see the expressions of love between family members and between families…to watch a father fishing with his son, a father teaching his daughter music, a couple walking hand in hand with their children gathered around them, parents offering loving correction and teaching …. These are beautiful sights. Perhaps the most touching moments come when families gather together to worship, to sing and learn about God’s plan for family. Even more amazing is when families actually practice what they learn–giving of themselves to their spouse and children; serving one another by getting a drink, clearing the dishes, or serving the food; or lifting up another family’s need to help them through a hard time. All in all, it gives me great hope.
If you have not experienced family at its best, I invite you to Family Camp next year. Terri and Jim Jones organize a wonderful weekend with plenty of free time for family fun and great teachers for encouraging words to strengthen families. They get better every year…so can’t wait to see you there next year!
We need to plug in to build family happiness. No, I do not mean plug in the TV or the internet. Plugging in to technology won’t bring greater family happiness. In fact, too much technology tends to distract us from family happiness. In order to increase family happiness, we need to plug in to relationships. Positive relationships give us our greatest joy. They enhance our immune system and increase our life expectancy. In fact, positive relationships have the same level of health benefit as quitting smoking. Good relationships make us happier, healthier, and stronger. So, if you want a happy family, build stronger relationships within your family and with those outside your family. Here are some practical tips to help you do this.
- Invest in building a positive relationship with your spouse and children. This investment will demand your time. Invest time in playing with your family. Enjoy doing work together in the yard or house. Volunteer together. Find out what activities your spouse and children enjoy then engage in that activity with them. If they enjoy jogging, take up jogging. Be present at their activities and in their daily life.
- Participate in activities with another family. Go on a picnic with another family. Have a family over for dinner. Get together for a game night with other families. Go camping with other families. Have fun together. When you engage in activities with other families you build relationships with people in similar circumstances. As a result, you can offer mutual support and encouragement. Other families can provide you with a “reality check” when you feel like the kids are driving you “crazy.” You also find other trusted adults that your children might go to for advice when they don’t come to you. Family friends build family happiness and security.
- Go on a double date. Studies have shown that “double dating” enhances intimacy. Those who participated in double dates found their attraction to their own spouse grow stronger. In addition, other couples might model desirable behavior for us to emulate or undesirable behavior to avoid. Either way, befriending another couple tends to strengthen our marriages and add joy to our lives. A happy marriage contributes to a happy family. So go on a double date for the sake of your family’s happiness.
- Get involved in a community with a higher purpose, like church. Children who attended church with their family are more likely to see expressions of love and affection. Parents are more likely to know their children’s social network when they attend church as a family. In addition, involvement in a community creates the opportunity for mutual support and encouragement. Other parents can share their experience of raising children and support us in our efforts to raise healthy children. Creating friendships in a larger community adds support, encouragement, accountability, and positive experiences to family life. All this adds up to a happier family.
My family and I just returned home from Family Camp at Camp Christian. We go every year…and every year we enjoy great fellowship of other families, moving worship, and wonderful teaching. This year, Rob Grandi was the speaker. He spoke of family as the “most important place on earth.” In one of Rob’s messages, he spoke of “thin places,” places where heaven comes close to earth. He noted that the temple, with the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, is a thin place…a place where God and heaven come close to earth. The manger where Jesus lay after His birth was a “thin place” where angels gathered near the earth to watch the Son of God become man. Family Camp seems a “thin place” to me. God draws near as we draw together to celebrate family and worship Him. I agree with Rob that families, especially Christian families, are “thin places.” In Christian families, God and heaven come near to earth. God bridge the gap from heaven to earth in order to commune with our families, making our families a “thin place.” The more we, as parents, commune with God and draw near to Him, the closer heaven comes to our family…and the more our family becomes a little taste of heaven, a communion with God, a “thin place.” That is a beautiful image of what we desire our families to become and I plan to strive harder to narrow that “thin place” even more.
I am always impressed with the generations that gather together at the “thin place” of Family Camp. Couples who have already “launched” their children mingle with parents of newborns and everyone in between. I love to watch the interaction between generations. Parents of young children learn they can survive (even thrive and enjoy) the time of active toddlerhood and busy teens as they hear grandparents describe the joys of watching their children start their own families. Couples whose children have “left the roost” enjoy interaction with youth. Wisdom and energy is shared between the generations. I find great joy in seeing a young child feel comfortable enough to worship between a family member and an adult that is not biological family, to receive love and affection from both, to share conversation and fun with both. It reminds me that it really does take a village to raise a family…and our village is one big family, with God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother. Together, we draw near to God and one another. We encourage, build up, guide, and support one another through the joys and trials of life. (Sounds like a “thin place” doesn’t it?) For that, I am most thankful.
Thanks to the Jones’s for another great weekend of Family Camp…and thanks to all who volunteered and all who attended to make is such a beautiful weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year at Family Camp!
This weekend we attended Family Camp at Camp Christian (click here for info on Camp Christian). Jim and Terri Jones (camp deans) organized another wonderful weekend of family time and learning. The speaker this year was Rob Grandi (for more about Rob, click here). He spoke to us about giving a blessing to our families and sang several songs of blessing as well. We had a wonderful weekend—the weather was good, the time was relaxing, the fellowship was awesome, and the teaching was excellent. Each year, I like to share a few things I learned at family camp; so, here are 3 blessings I received from Family Camp this year.
1. A new bridge is being constructed at the entry way to camp—the foundation of the old bridge was falling apart. Right now, the new supports are in and the foundation is up. However, the platform of the bridge is yet to be added. This weekend we learned about giving a blessing to our family—about valuing each family member enough to serve them and honoring them enough to verbally share how much we value them. That sounds like the foundation of a family, the supports that make it possible for a family to travel over the white waters of life and make it safely to the other side. Giving a blessing builds a stable foundation of intimacy and love. It supports a bridge that leads to a mature sense of personal value and acceptance. Even the bridge to camp told the lesson of a blessing!
2. Children are one of our greatest blessings! We enjoyed the company of many children at camp this weekend…children of all ages. We even had a visit from the “world’s oldest camper” who is but a child at heart. We have now attended 11-years of family camp and had the joy of watching several children “grow up” into mature young adults. It is a beautiful blessing to see these young adults now passing on the tradition of blessing younger children with their attention, affection, and service. To those young adults who remain so active in the lives of all those attending family camp, thank you for your persistent faith; thank you for carrying forward the tradition of family camp; and thank you for sharing a tradition of loving family with the next generations. You have built a bridge over the gap of age to give us hope and confidence for the future.
3. Our lives often come with pain and troubles. However, when those difficulties arise we have our church family. Each year, I come to better realize the importance of my church family. Our church family provides support through various difficulties and joins us in celebrating our successes and transitions. Our church family touches the lives of our children and helps them grow. As Family Camp so eloquently communicated this year, our church family blesses us in innumerable ways. So, if you find yourself in a “season of trial,” turn to your church family. Let your family support you and guide you through this difficult time. Realize there are those in our church family who have crossed the bridge over this troubled time before you. They can help you avoid some pitfalls along the way. Let them support the bridge as you cross it today…and hold you secure as you step onto the “other side.” Yes, our church family is a tremendous blessing.
We learned many more lessons at family camp, some we learned as a group and some we learned individually. If you attended family camp, you might want to share a lesson you learned in the comment section below. Thank Jim and Terri for putting together an incredible weekend. Thanks Rob Grandi for the inspiring music and lessons. Thanks to the band for a great worship time. I hope more of you can join us next year!