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Lessons from the coronavirus pandemic — Part 1

Raulston
Nembhard

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Just before the coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China, and began its devastating trek across that nation and now the globe, the world economy had been humming along. There were hiccups here and there, but there were no fundamental fallouts to raise serious alarm. The trade battle between China and the United Sates, with their punitive tariff regimes, continued apace. The two countries were able to sign the first phase of an agreement. All this has receded into the distance now with the unrelenting onslaught of COVID-19 on the world economy.

In America, the stock market which had been humming along briskly, and was well on its way to DOW 30,000, was stopped in its tracks. Under two weeks the DOW industrials slid from over 28,000 points to under 20,000, shaving trillions of dollars from the market. Now there is serious talk of recession, if not depression.

Here, in Jamaica, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) was going gang busters. Initial public offerings (IPOs) and additional public offering (APOs) were in the pipeline, or were in spate like a river after prolonged rainfall. Personal, corporate, and national budgets have had to be recast in light of the real and imagined impact of the coronavirus. What we know is that there is uncertainty and unpredictability — things that markets hate and which are like gasoline on volatile markets.

This is a time for sober reflection, as all pandemics should be. People all over the world are literally quarantined in their own homes. There has never been a time when the adage, “No place is better than home” rings truer. The best place to ride out the virus and prevent yourself and your family from being infected is certainly your home.

Even if you have the virus, and are in self-isolation, there is no better place to be. While you are at home, you will now have a lot of time for sober reflection, and my hope is that you will use this time wisely.

There are very important lessons to ponder as we sweat it out at home. The first for me is to take a second look at the value of family. Many parents are adjusting to their children being at home for an inordinately long time in the school season. They did not bargain on this and will have to make the necessary adjustment in their budget and the time they will now have to allot to their kids. My hope is that we will use this time to reinforce the value of family. This is a great teaching moment for kids as they get to understand that they are important “soldiers” in the fight against a common enemy. They can be taught the values of togetherness and solidarity and build resilience that they might not have had before. Our children have a sense of what is going on. The younger ones may not be able to appreciate the complexity of the crisis, but the older ones have a greater grasp of what is at stake.

The key for the parents is not to inject fear in their minds. As a family therapist, I would urge parents to be realistic. If they give the impression of not coping this can cause panic within the household, which can lead to other unintended consequences. Now that families are huddled together, negative issues that were present in the household before the virus struck may emerge and cause hostile situations to develop. Spousal friction can arise that can place further strain on relationships. One would urge caution and full doses of common sense in treating these matters. We are in a serious battle with a deadly virus and defeating it should be the preoccupation of each household. We have to work together as families for the greater good. How you help your family in this time of crisis will largely determine how we can help others, and thus flatten the virus. Your significant person craves a special hug of assurance at this time. Don't be found lacking in giving it.

As I am on the matter of familial response to the virus, a word must be said about mental health of family members. Everyone brings their own coping mechanisms to a crisis. Some family members are more resilient than others. There are those who will crumble if an ant crawls on them and there are those who will want to ignore a snake bite. There are different levels of vulnerability that must be appreciated in a household, and even in extended family situations. So, we must be mindful of the mental health of our family members, encourage them when we can, and get them the help that may become immediate. This goes, too, for the wider society.

We are in this thing together and we have to work it out.

 

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com.