Measures necessary to slow the spread of the Coronavirus have dealt a severe blow to family life as we know it. In Trinidad and Tobago and across the globe, the pandemic has interrupted access to food, income, education, and social and health services, placing households under immense pressure.

People who have been laid off or furloughed worry about meeting their financial responsibilities while those who work on the frontlines face either separation from their families or anxiety about contracting and passing on this infectious disease. Children with limited or no access to online learning facilities are at risk of falling behind and elderly people who live apart from their relatives must cope with loneliness and depression, and although some families have enjoyed spending more time together since the onset of stay-at-home regulations, others have experienced an increase in domestic tensions and abuse.

The International Day of Families 2020 promotes the importance of strong and resilient family units and the need for adequate social protection and support for vulnerable groups. Families are the building blocks of society and their strength is critical to our ability to weather the Covid-19 storm. During the past few months, many patriotic individuals and organisations have supplemented state efforts to assist struggling families by providing food, clothing and other essentials, free of charge. Employers have generously supplied their out-of-work employees with hampers, businesses have produced protective equipment for frontline workers and various service providers have offered concessions or grace periods to their customers. We can conclude that the bonds of family transcend blood and household, as these selfless acts demonstrate that, at the end of the day, we are one big family.

I encourage families to make the most of this stay-home period. Parents, normally busy with work and other responsibilities can take this time to reconnect with their children. Spouses, some of whom are like ships passing in the night, should seize the opportunity to improve communication and rekindle the fire in their relationship. Have family game nights, exercise, cook and eat together in order to mitigate the stress and uncertainty of our present circumstances. Let fast food become an occasional treat rather than daily fare. Do not forget to check in with the elderly or disabled to counteract creeping loneliness or depression. Let us all be our brother’s keeper.

The dark cloud that is the Covid-19 global health emergency presents a silver lining in providing an opportunity for all of us to remember what family is truly about. If there is no other positive outcome from this pandemic, there will at least be the strengthening of the family unit in all its manifestations including the workplace family, school family, neighbourhood family and of course our national family.

On this International Day of Families, we celebrate our connections and take the necessary steps to safeguard and empower our families as we navigate the future.