Nicola Watson, our Additional Needs Support Coordinator, reflects on the early months of lockdown and considers why some families appeared to adapt more quickly than others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for all. Even the most stoic and irrepressible among us struggled to adapt and stay positive.

However, during the early months of lockdown it became apparent to me that some of the families we support through our additional needs befriending service appeared to cope quite well, to adapt more quickly and some even flourished. Could it be their ‘resilience muscles’ were better developed than most?

Please don’t misunderstand me: that’s neither flattery nor a judgment on other families, just a personal observation. Suddenly everyone was ‘locked in’. Everyone’s world shrank. Opportunities were limited and access to services denied. A simple trip to the supermarket required careful planning. With the exception of keyworkers, life slowed down, diaries emptied, invites to weddings ceased, nights out stopped, and all the kids were excluded from school! Worse still, for many those first sun-filled days were overshadowed by great loss, fear and anxiety. Sound familiar?

Some of you might even have said, “Welcome to my world!”

The point I am trying to make here is that there was a great deal of levelling. We were not all in the same boat but we were all in the same storm, and there were times when the boats of those with children with additional needs seemed more stable than the boats floundering around them, perhaps because we are used to weathering storms! Our resilience muscles have had a lot of exercise. So I want to say to you as the storm calms, well done.

I can already hear some of you protesting and saying, “Obviously you were not in our boat!” Nevertheless, you didn’t drown, did you, or you wouldn’t be reading this now – so well done.

Speaking of resilience … which is the most resilient: a tennis ball or a tomato?

Throw a tennis ball on the ground and it will bounce right back. Squeeze it in your hand it will resist. Throw it many times and it will still bounce. Throw a tomato on the ground and it probably won’t bounce back. Apply pressure to a tomato and you will get a handful of mush. Throw the mush on the ground and walk away.

But given the right conditions, there’s a chance that some of the seeds in that ‘mush’ will start to germinate; those little seedlings may become saplings; those plants may produce fruit and in time … hey presto! More tomatoes.

Now which is the most resilient: a discarded tennis ball that will fester on the ground for 400 years before it decomposes, or a tomato that can reproduce again and again?

I like this illustration, it encourages me. It reminds me not to be so hard on myself when I’ve lost my bounce and I feel like mush on the ground. The mush may not be the end -in fact, hidden within it is remarkable, life-giving potential.

Now, go and make yourself a cup of tea and watch how that boiling water (ouch!) transforms those dry black leaves into something truly refreshing. The longer it is immersed in the hot water, the stronger it becomes.

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