My forty-year-old daughter and I had a relatively good relationship until the last few months when COVID-19 changed our lives. She believes that COVID is not dangerous and we should go about our lives as before. She started homeschooling her four children so that they won’t have to wear masks because she thinks that wearing masks is taking away freedom.
I am in my sixties, my husband is a cancer survivor, and I help care for my mother who is in her late eighties. I am trying to stay healthy for all of us. During this past month I have helped my grandchildren with their schoolwork a few days a week in the morning and go to my mother’s home to help her in the afternoon and evening.
When I am at both homes, I have been wearing a mask to help keep everyone safe. My daughter told me that she doesn’t want me to wear a mask because she wants me to “stand up for freedom”. I told her that I was unwilling to take that chance. She yelled at me for the first time since she was a teenager in front of her children. She later apologized and said that she has been treating her husband in the same manner. I am concerned about her, my grandchildren, and her marriage. What advice can you give me?
We are certainly living in strange times where conflict and tension are at an all-time high. I’m sure it’s bizarre for you to have your daughter react so strongly to your personal preference to protect the health of your loved ones. While I’m not going to weigh in on the great mask debate, I will talk about how you can respond to your daughter.
First, it’s important to recognize that if you’re tuning into the news or social media, you’re going to be surrounded with constant contention, death counts, debates, evolving findings, suspicion, and regular alerts. On top of that, we’re isolated from each other, have our familiar routines flipped upside down, and don’t’ see any clear end in sight. Quite frankly, I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired and exhausted from all of this. Even though you and your daughter might have differing opinions about masks, I’m certain you both can agree that all of this is difficult to navigate.
Your daughter felt bad for overreacting and did the right thing by apologizing to you. I’m glad she’s at least self-aware enough to recognize that she wasn’t her best self. You don’t need to do anything to protect her marriage or her children. Her husband is perfectly capable of working with her and their children on how they’ll respond to the pandemic in their own home. Carry on loving and serving their family and your mother. You’re If you are concerned about your daughter’s well-being, then I encourage you to approach her with love and compassion.
I don’t know the particulars about her life and what she’s having to juggle, but I imagine she’s had some disruption in her life. She has strong feelings about what she believes others are trying to take away from her. She clearly has strong emotions swirling around inside of her that could use a loving and empathic witness. This is the perfect time to reach back to her and let her know you want to better understand what’s going on for her. This doesn’t have to center around wearing masks. It needs to center on offering her a loving space for her distress.
Since it seems everyone is talking instead of listening, you can reach her heart pretty quickly by stepping out of tiresome debates and, instead, extend grace as you take in her experience. If she insists on talking about what you’re doing instead of sharing her own stress, then you can kindly redirect her attention back to her own life. You can let her know that you can handle yourself, your freedom, and that you’re taking charge of how you want to show up in this pandemic. If she needs someone to have her back and offer her some love, you’re in a wonderful position to bless her. You’re not in the trenches of her everyday life, so you can offer a refreshing perspective and less reactivity than she might get from her husband and children.
Ask her good questions so you can encourage her to share what’s on her mind. While you might disagree with her perspective, you can agree that she needs support and love. You’ve lived through other national crises and have a more stable and mature perspective. This is an opportunity for you to provide her with connection and emotional stability during these turbulent times.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If you’ve broken trust with your spouse and want a structured approach to repairing the damage you’ve created, I’ve created the Trust Building Bootcamp, a 12-week online program designed to help you restore trust and become a trustworthy person. Visit www.trustbuildingacademy.com to learn more and enroll in the course.
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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