One of my favourite things is to consult on projects with other groups who are sprinkled around the world! Since beginning at PLAN in 2020, I have had the privilege of supporting groups in New York, Australia, New Zealand, and Colorado and have had so much fun expanding everyone’s ideas about the power of networks and exploring the ways to develop them.
Currently, I am meeting with a Parent group in Colorado which is part of a project by PEAK Parent Center. This dynamic group of people are co-creating some learning about what might happen for their family members (youth and young adults) as they begin to plan for post-secondary life with a focus on establishing a network of caring people as part of that plan.
During the most recent parent meeting (that I co-host with the Project’s amazing lead – Sami Peterson), I was struck by the conversation centered around people’s deep worry about their loved ones going back to some pre-pandemic ways of life and the struggles they were having. Much of the conversation was about how to convince their loved ones that it is a good idea to start to return to activities, work and other events outside of the family home, and that leaving the comfort of home and all of its predictability was in fact, a positive idea.
One parent shared a story about their family planning to attend a local baseball game which in the past would have been less fraught with anxiety. Her son had so many questions about the safety of attending, what the new rules for attending might be, would everyone be following the rules, and I thought about my own circle of friends and loved ones who on a different day were expressing the exact same worries and scenarios for themselves.
This group of families, who for the entire life of their loved ones had been navigating tough spots and working endlessly to predict the needs of their sons and daughters were now talking about a “return to life” that was proving to be challenging to say the least.
Somehow the pandemic has levelled this playing field for all of us – and I wondered – how might we help each other? What strategies might we create that could benefit all people as restrictions are lifted. The fact that families are spending a lot of time thinking about this, leads the way for society to begin to puzzle through the next stage of the pandemic.
I realized that there is a wonderful gift in this conversation that would benefit EVERYONE and that the struggles that these families were describing had (through the pandemic) become universal struggles that most people in communities are now facing. Families are leading the way for all of us to consider how the pandemic has affected our mental well-being and the depth of what we might be facing soon.
What are you doing for your own mental wellness as life begins to open up again?
Written By: Shelley Nessman
Artwork: Elizabeth Etmanski