COVID silver lining

Finding the silver lining in this pandemic

Looking at the positive growth that is coming out of all this family time

joanne kates

Parenting columnist Joanne Kates is an expert educator in the areas of conflict mediation, self-esteem and anti-bullying, and she is the director of Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park.

What exactly is a silver lining? First thought: It’s that thing we’re supposed to find under the cloud cover, to try to be okay with bad stuff. Second thought: Silver linings are what separate the wannabes from the people who soldier on despite their circumstances, however challenging. Like my friend Barbara who’s had four cancers. When I call her and ask about her day, she pretty much always says it’s a great day. Why? Because she made a commitment to herself to always dance in the rain, metaphorically speaking.

This is the COVID opportunity.

We would never have chosen it, but silver linings do have upsides: They grow grit. Every time we struggle to create or locate a silver lining, we become that person who responds to the rain by dancing. We literally create new neural pathways to positivity. This is what the yogis and the meditation folks call a practice. They say practice because the finding of silver linings is an effortful journey with no destination, but rather a labour to commit to a positive perspective – in the face of darkness.

It is the commitment to find joy in every day. And in making that commitment, we become that resilient person we so admire. COVID offers us that. Some call it cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

So, where to find the silver linings today? Family dinner! We are no longer the fragmented family of normal times, with everyone going in five different directions all the time, in a mad rush. We slow down. We connect. We listen better to each other.

Then there are chores, normally the province of parental nagging and offspring backtalk. COVID has made household chores both more visible, and more apparently necessary to human life.

I am embarrassed to admit that pre-COVID I was not on a first-name basis with the washer, the dryer or the broom. Since laying off the lady who normally does that work in our house, we have discovered that we are capable of cleaning. We do it together. My previous resistance to any act of cleaning, rather like an adolescent’s, has been demolished by necessity. This too is a silver lining.

Families are cooking together, bonding over banana bread, sourdough, barbecue burgers, and doing the dishes. Another silver lining.

Before COVID, our kids did not see us work. Now they see us working at the dining room table — and worrying about making a living, worrying about the future. They empathize. They see us a little more as people. We too see them differently these days. Deprived of direct contact with their friends, they have no choice but to be more friendly with us. This is the silver lining called kindness.

The people we love, who previously were often irritants, are now all we’ve got; necessity is making us more generous. Everyone’s vulnerability is so clear and obvious that we are inspired to be kinder to each other. Love can grow in troubled times.

Article exclusive to TRNTO