Can We Still Be Grateful for 2020?

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Can We Still Be Grateful for 2020?

Reclaiming a sense of hope in an unusual year

By Susan Koh | 22 December 2020

With just days to go before we close the chapter of a tumultuous year behind us, is there anything worth being grateful for?

The year 2020 has been a particularly difficult year for many of us as we navigated the many unknowns thrown our way by a global pandemic. According to a study, 3 in 4 Singaporeans felt anxious over the pandemic, with job security, health and the economy disruption topping their list of concerns.

Despite the year being fraught with doom and gloom, 3 families found the silver lining in their challenging circumstances. I spoke to them to find out what they are most thankful for in 2020.

A healthier way to resolve conflict

For second-time father, Su Cui, the travel restrictions announced just weeks before his wife’s delivery sent him scrambling in panic as his parents and in-laws from China were both unable to travel to Singapore to meet their newly-minted grandchild. Without the support from their extended family, the stress of having a newborn took a toll on the couple’s relationship.

“I was a second-time dad, but being a hands-on father and supportive husband while working from home was a struggle. Moreover I had just switched jobs in March, so I was expected to pick up the ropes quickly while managing multiple projects on hand.” he said.

Before long, the boundaries between work and home started to blur and resulted in a lack of work-life balance. Su Cui bemoaned that a loss of productivity and pressures to meet expectations at work led to increasing tensions – both at work and at home. His relationship with his wife Became strained and their words became more cutting as patience drew thin and tiredness overcame them.

“Very often, my train of thoughts would get interrupted by my baby, my five-year-old daughter or my wife and I’ll take out my frustrations at them.”

It takes time to undo years of unhealthy communication, but we are slowly seeing a positive change.

Reconciliation wasn’t easy as both parties often felt misjudged when harsh words were spoken in anger. What moved Su Cui to take steps towards making up was when he put himself at the receiving end of his words and recognised how hurtful they were to his wife.

These days, Su Cui and his wife are quick to reconcile after a fight. They also make the extra effort to speak in less confrontational tones.

Su Cui added, “Taking the first step to apologise has taught me to humble myself and keep my anger in check. It takes time to undo years of unhealthy communication, but we are slowly seeing a positive change. By supporting each other, we are confident we can overcome the challenges in our marriage as a team.”

Staying connected in the new normal

For Deborah Gifford, a Singaporean mum of 3 living in the UK, COVID-19 has brought her family’s travel plan – which was two years in the making – to a complete halt.

“We were planning a reunion trip to America for my family who are living in 3 different countries. Naturally, we were painfully disappointed when we had to cancel our long-anticipated plans to visit Disneyworld and celebrate my youngest son’s fifth birthday. We also worried about our families falling ill during this period when we were far apart.”

Instead of feeling despondent, Deborah sprang into action when her father suggested setting up weekly Zoom meetings on the weekends to stay connected with her family – at a time slot when everyone was awake. This was on top of the several WhatsApp chat groups Deborah had with her extended family members where they would exchange photos, videos, memes and even hold competitions to liven up their interactions during this difficult period.

Making sure that no one got left behind, Deborah also set up email accounts for her children and her parents would email them puzzles and brainteasers to solve.

When asked about the one thing that she is thankful for, Deborah replied, “I am grateful for the various ways that technology can bring us together. You have to make an effort and think of as many different ways to motivate each other to keep in touch, like being silly together and not just by sharing news.”

I’m thankful that through this pandemic, my kids have learnt to be resilient and adaptable to handle whatever life throws at them, even if it means doing something out of their regular routine or comfort zone.

Strong family bonds help tide through the pandemic

When the Ministry of Education announced that all schools were shifting to full home-based learning (HBL) in April, parents had to make adjustments to help their children adapt.

As an educator and parent to two primary school students including her daughter taking PSLE, Karen Lee, had to juggle taking care of her children, teaching and managing household chores.

“Even though face to face teaching is still the best, we understood why HBL was implemented. And as parents, it's important that we support the school and teachers with a positive attitude.”

Karen was initially worried that her daughter would not be able to catch up with the Primary 6 syllabus over HBL. However, her concerns were allayed with regular Google Meet sessions arranged by the teachers and exemption of some parts of the syllabus for PSLE.

What was surprising to Karen was seeing both her children take to HBL with ease and how disciplined they were in completing their school work. Karen added, “I’m thankful that through this pandemic, my kids have learnt to be resilient and adaptable to handle whatever life throws at them, even if it means doing something out of their regular routine or comfort zone.”

Through supporting her daughter for the PSLE, Karen realised that she should not impose her own expectations on her child and be discerning about when to push and when to stop – especially when her daughter was feeling the heat.

“One key takeaway is to accept my daughter as a unique individual. It means not imposing my expectations, understanding her strengths and weaknesses and spurring her on to pursue her interests. To me, building a strong identity is very important and as a Christian, I do my part to encourage her in her walk with God.”

Despite a challenging year for the mum who had to wear many hats, the number one thanksgiving for Karen is the closer bonds forged with her family. “With so much time spent at home, we stepped on one another's toes countless times. But we’ve also learnt to give and take, and found new ways to show care and love for everyone.”

As we wrap up 2020, let’s end the year on a note of gratitude. It may be difficult to be grateful for everything that has happened, but don’t let the year go by without sharing with someone your greatest thanksgiving as we look forward to 2021 with a sense of hope and optimism.

© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Susan is a self-confessed C+ mum who lives for coffee, chocolate and heartfelt connections. As a mum of one she believes that the best parenting style is parenting with intention and shares her motherhood journey on her blog A Juggling Mom.


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