The emergence of COVID-19 has plagued our world with numerous problems in a short time. Within weeks, multiple businesses have been forced to shut down, leaving people scavenging for sources of income to support their families. While we consider the economic downturns, let us not forget how this pandemic has affected the mental health and wellbeing of our people.

In many ways, COVID-19 is much like the SARS epidemic in 2003. Both viruses are influenza in nature, have similar symptoms, and have taken countless innocent lives. The difference is the extent of their detrimental effect on our world and it can largely be blamed on globalisation.

While we have enjoyed interconnectedness and economic prosperity between countries, the detrimental consequences of globalisation have also hit us with comparable strength. We have had no choice but to push forward and family is an integral part of this process.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence has already been on the rise in Singapore and it is considered to be a ‘taboo’ subject by many. According to statistical evidence from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (SG), the number of cases of the physical abuse of children investigated has risen from 188 in 2010 to 660 in 2019. Coupled with the economic downturn and rising unemployment in Singapore, this statistic is projected to rise exponentially.

This phenomenon can be explained psycho-therapeutically, and has already existed way before the pandemic. It is due to a theory called displacement. This is a defence mechanism where we redirect our emotions onto “safe targets” and in this case, it could be those living in the same household.

Anger, by nature, is understandable and perfectly normal. However, when this anger is taken out on innocent people, especially our loved ones, it is not just selfish but there is a complete disregard of our responsibility as a parent, child, or spouse.

Though COVID-19 has brought struggles and unavoidable problems, it has shed light on mental wellbeing and the importance of family. What does it mean to have a family? In my opinion, having a family is to have people around me when even if the whole world gives up on you, they will still be there to support you.

Personally, during the lockdown period from April to June where we had to stay at home most of the time, there was greater time for family bonding and understanding which was otherwise more difficult before COVID-19 due to commitments and heavy schedules.
I have come to understand my family member’s struggles in their everyday lives which were unknown to me, allowing me to be more sensitive and empathetic towards them. Also, with the strains of COVID-19 and its effect on our lives, there were emotions expressed such as anger and sadness among my family members and me. I feel that human emotion is one of the most precious things in life and be it positive or negative, it shows vulnerability and trust in others to not judge which I feel, allows my family to forge stronger ties in the midst of trying times.

While the crisis has affected many of us negatively, it has nurtured bonds between families and reminded us of what’s really important. Much like the proverb “Tough times never last, tough people do”, as we brave through this period of uncertainty and struggles, I hope that Singaporeans will become more resilient and empathetic.

 

About the writer:

Hi! I’m Ravin, currently a year one undergraduate student in NTU. I feel a great passion for helping and understanding people, which is why I would like to join FamChamps. My dream would be to become a counsellor who is well-known for not just a mentor but also a good friend.


When I was first invited to join FamChamps, I was apprehensive as I’d be the only one from my school and almost everyone would be a stranger to me. In spite of that, I registered for the camp and my fears instantly disappeared when I met my group; the team of eight others from the School of the Arts warmly welcomed me into their fold! That set a great tone for the action-packed camp.

After settling in, we got to look into our family histories, letting us understand ourselves and our families better. By drawing my family genogram and identifying relatives by various characteristics, I saw that we share a positive pattern of open-mindedness. It was exciting to see how similar I am to my dad; we don’t only seem alike in appearance and mannerisms, I’ve also picked up some of his characteristics like perseverance and determination when it came to work.

At one Family Dialogue session, Jason Wong shared his motivation behind the Dads For Life and Yellow Ribbon Project movements. He saw how children are constantly influenced by their parents’ good and bad behaviours and how children learn values. Through his session, I felt the urgency to change for the better as well as learn to forgive and forget, while trying to forge stronger relationships with my family.

On the second and third days, we learned how important it was to appreciate, honour, communicate with and forgive our parents; I realised how huge a role body language played in the way my message is conveyed when I talk to my parents. For a change of scenery, we took a field trip to The New Charis Mission — a halfway house for ex-drug offenders — and it was eye-opening to hear some residents’ stories and also see how dedicated the organisation was to care and restore hope for these individuals!

We played a competitive role-playing game FamQuest, based on Family and overcoming dilemmas as a unit. It let us practice the skills we’d learnt during the camp to improve family relationships and resolve disagreements.

All of us hit the streets for #FamilyFTW to get a sense of the public thought about the importance of family in Singapore. It was really heart-warming to hear their stories and enriching to understand different viewpoints, and made me consider how I would continue to treat my family when life gets too busy.

My highlight of the camp was Honour Night. Besides being away from the family for 3 days, all the lessons I’d learnt had caused a lot of warmth and love to bubble up for my parents and I worried if they would feel overwhelmed by it. As soon as they arrived, a big hug was all it took to break down all the uneasiness. It was wonderful that my parents both came by that evening; what started out as an awkward dinner date became a night full of laughter and tears. Their favourite parts of the evening was learning their Love Language and receiving the letter I wrote for them. Having their full attention to bond with them was something I had longed for, so it gave us the chance to connect on a deep level and share our feelings.

As I look back on the camp, I’m thankful to have been a part of the camp and learn so much! No family is perfect, so we need to extend forgiveness to others and make efforts to make our relationships stronger and better.

I’m motivated and excited to share the importance of family with my peers, helping them see how crucial our role is in the family and build stronger families.

 

Charlotte Chow (CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School)