‘What if….’

The current situation has placed restrictions and circumstances that will not have been experienced by most of the population before. COVID-19 will challenge us as individuals and family life in numerous ways, with lots of us home working, home schooling and spending a lot more time together than we are used to.  I wonder if the time in ‘Lockdown’ will be used to re-establish and re-prioritise values and a feeling of community that extends post COVID-19 to demonstrate a new form of resilience for the future.

Resilience involves openness to adaptive change and the ability to rebound is often thought of as ‘Bouncing Back’ like a spring, to a pre-existing shape or norm. Most serious crises and transitions for families cannot simply return to ‘normal’ life as they knew it and a more apt metaphor might be ‘Bouncing Forward’ [5, 12].

Our children will miss a significant chunk of traditional schooling, maybe up to 4-months and many of us will be concerned about that loss of school education and the time away from the system having a negative impact on their future……‘What if’

  • What if instead of ‘missing out’, this group of kids are more advanced in different aspects of values and life
  • What if they have more empathy, enjoy family connection, can be more creative and entertain themselves
  • What if they love to read more and express themselves in writing and through innovation
  • What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own back yard, garden or just sitting near a window in the quiet
  • What if they notice more in terms of nature and spend time talking about thoughts and reflection
  • What if they wake up, come downstairs, clean the kitchen and bake a loaf of bread as they want to contribute
  • What if siblings are found to be reading and watching movies together as they seek different types of relationships
  • What if they prefer a slower paced life than the fast-paced world 2-months ago
  • What if this generation are the ones to learn to cook, organise their space, do their washing and keep a well-run home
  • What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and see this as the new norm
  • What if they are the ones to place great value on the millions taking care of us right now while we are on ‘Lockdown’
  • What if they only have a normal sized bowl of Crunchy Nut cornflakes, rather than half a box to allow space in the shops for those that need it

I could go on and admittedly I have struggled with not eating half a box on Crunchy Nut Cornflakes in one sitting..!


A lot of us will be focusing on the day-to-day and rightly so, but thinking forwards also has merit in how we prepare following a crisis. The ‘Bounce Forward’ might apply to family life and how we restore and re-prioritise family values but for those of us in healthcare it should also look at how models of care can be improved through innovation, shared decision making, patient choice and a wider sense of how communities can support patient care and public health…… ‘What if’

  • What if among our children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler way life
  • What if our children are ahead of the game, more fulfilled with richer lives & increased resilience
  • What if children learn to stretch a pound and to live with less and a more meaningful life


Most of our values are learnt from our parents and extended families with family values also coming from our social and cultural values. Sometimes new life experiences may change values we previously held and test our life priorities in how we apply those in our homes, communities and beyond. The decisions we make every day reflect our  Relationship Values in how we relate to people in our life, such as friends and family through openness, trust, generosity and caring. Social Values reflect how we relate to society, such as justice, freedom, respect, community, and responsibility [13]. Values can be contagious and if we practice them, many others, including our children, will hopefully draw on, reflect and implement in different forms that help define their contribution to society……‘What if’ 

  • What if our children ask if we can clap the NHS workers on a Thursday at 8pm despite COVID-19 being past
  • What if there is a newfound awareness of what healthcare means for society
  • What if a different perspective and emphasis in values and kindness emerges
  • What if value based care is considered in the end to end patient journey for all healthcare sectors


Adapting to meet new challenges and constructing a ‘new normal’ often means families need help in navigating uncharted terrain, re-calibrating relationships, and reorganising patterns of interaction to fit new circumstances. At the same time, families need to buffer and counterbalance disruptive changes to restore stability and think we can all see that a new norm of stability might be required and preparing for that transition will be important [2,3,4, 6, 7].  Key workers will have an important role to play in adaption, as we are often a first point of contact for children and society, whether that is during a school lesson, first contact in a GP practice or a nurse as part of discharge planning  [there are lots of other examples too]…. ‘What if’

  • What if the adaptation to the ‘new norm’ brings a refreshing approach to society
  • What if restoring stability brings new ways of thinking
  • What if adapting and overcoming a crisis gives us a different type of strength

Family Resilience

The Concept of Family Resilience entails more than managing stressful conditions, shouldering a burden, or surviving an ordeal such as a pandemic.  It involves the potential for personal and family growth that can be forged out of adversity. Through tapping into key processes for resilience, families that are struggling can emerge stronger and more resourceful in meeting future challenges [13]. Studies of strong families have found that when family members weathered a crisis together that their relationships were enriched [8]. I would take that as a positive every day and look to build on growing strength through families and relationships, even if on occasions that might be through Zoom at the moment.! There is a potential for all families to gain resilience and growth, with adversity being seen as a continual process, challenging and changing over the life course and throughout generations [1, 10,11].  Family resilience involves the potential for recovery, repair and growth in families facing serious life challenges [13]. A crisis can be a wake-up call, heightening attention to important matters and can also become an opportunity for reappraisal of life priorities and pursuits, stimulating greater investment in meaningful relationships [2,4,7]…….‘What if’

  • What if this generation is the one to turn travesty into opportunity
  • What if we shape a more meaningful future through family resilience
  • What if our children move into professions that support people and communities in ways we never thought possible

Staying Positive

The effects of a ‘Positive Outlook’ demonstrates positive outcomes in terms of coping with stress, recovering from crisis, and overcoming barriers to success. Hope is essential and fuels energy and efforts to rise above adversity, no matter how bleak the present, a better future can be envisioned. It is essential to re-establish hope from despair and for us all to see the art of what is possible, tapping into resources that can help support, bring knowledge and a sense of wellbeing as we strive to overcome adversity [9].

Times are tough at the moment and changing on an hourly and daily basis, but it’s always worth considering the ….‘What if’

Thanks for reading and #StayPositive



Twitter @Stevenawoor

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  1. Beavers, W. R., & Hampson, R. B. (2003). Measuring family competence: The Beavers Systems Model.  New York
  2. Hawley, D. R., & DeHaan, L. (1996). Toward a definition of family resilience: Integrating lifespan and family perspectives. Family Process, 35, 283–298.
  3. Mackay, R. (2003). Family resilience and good child outcomes: An overview of the research literature. Journal of New Zealand, 20, 98–118.
  4. McCubbin, H., & Patterson, J. M. (1983). The family stress process: The double ABCX model of adjustment and adaptation. Marriage and Family Review, 6(1–2), 7–37.
  5. Olson, D. H., & Gorall, D. (2003). Circumplex model of marital and family systems. New York: Guilford Press.
  6. Patterson, J. (2002). Integrating family resilience and family stress theory. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 349–373.
  7. Simon, J., Murphy, J., & Smith, S. (2005). Understanding and fostering family resilience. Family Journal, 13, 427–436.
  8. Stinnett, N., & DeFrain, J. (1985). Secrets of strong families. Boston: Little, Brown.
  9. Taylor, S. (1989). Positive illusions: Creative self-deception and the healthy mind. New York: Basic Books.
  10. Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 1–18.
  11. Tedeschi, R. G., & Kilmer, R. (2005). Assessing strengths, resilience, and growth to guide clinical interventions. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36(3), 230–237.
  12. Walsh, F. (2002b). Bouncing forward: Resilience in the aftermath of September 11. Family Process, 40(1), 34–36.
  13. Walsh, F (2012). Normal Family Processes 399-427 [4th Ed]. New York: Guilford Press.


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