Spencer van Vloten: Family Day is a time for reflection

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      https://www.youandmebc.ca/By Spencer van Vloten

      Family Day, first observed in 2013 to celebrate the province’s families, is perhaps most appreciated as an extra day off from the workweek grind.   

      While I share that appreciation, the challenges our province has faced make this year’s Family Day an apt time to reflect deeper on family and what it means to us.

      The big lesson: do not take your family for granted

      Over the past few years, family has never seemed so distant for many British Columbians.

      Border closures created invisible yet impassable barriers that seperated loved ones.    

      Restrictions on long-term-care visitations trapped ailing parents and grandparents inside cold, sterile walls, unable to see family other than by a glimpse out a window—if they were lucky enough to have one.

      Raging fires and rushing floods destroyed homes that had been in families for generations, driving people away from the only communities they had known.

      It was painful.

      But it was also a reminder of how quickly our loved ones can be taken away from us and to make the most of the time we have with them—a lesson to keep in mind far beyond the pandemic.

      Keep in touch with Grandma

      One of the most powerful forms of social connection is that between generations: between children and grandparents, young and old.

      Across ages, intergenerational interaction improves physical health, reduces anxiety and depression, improves quality of living, and combats ageist stereotypes.

      It also increases prosocial behaviour among youth, with younger and older persons showing recognition of their shared humanity and a greater appreciation for one another.

      For some Canadians, this is the normal way of living. In fact, multigenerational households, composed of three or more generations, have grown at a higher rate during the past few years than any other household type in Canada, owing largely to the arrival of newcomer families.

      But if having everyone under one roof is too close for comfort, you can still take each opportunity you have to attend family gatherings, host Zoom sessions between kids and grandparents, or even drop the kids off with your parents so you and your partner can enjoy a night out.

      You all deserve it.

      While a loving family is great, it only goes so far

      Five million Canadians live in poverty, and 1.3 million of these are children, with over half of Canadians admitting they struggle to feed their family.

      The impact of growing up in poverty is lifelong. Poor children are more likely to become poor adults, and poverty is associated with early death, higher suicide rates, as well as stunted physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Being born into a poor family means you are set back from the start.

      Disproportionately represented among the poorest families are Indigenous and racialized persons, families led by a parent with a disability, and families led by single parents—single women, in particular.

      To paint a sorrowful picture would be a disservice to their resilience; many poor families are led by incredibly strong, loving, and determined parents who are doing their best to overcome the barriers to their children’s success,

      But when living-wage jobs are hard to come by, housing and food prices are rising, and you cannot find a spot for the kids in an affordable and high-quality daycare, love and determination only go so far.

      The pandemic has magnified Canada’s inequalities, and, unfortunately, that is something many families can tell you firsthand.

      The changes needed

      We cannot legislate loving parents, but there are measures that can better support the province’s families.

      To start, rent continues to increase, and nearly half of Canadians say the price of housing is their biggest obstacle to affording food for their families. With little sign of the housing market becoming significantly more affordable, there needs to be a shift to nonmarket housing.

      Although the National Housing Strategy pledged to make a large investment in affordable housing, most of the NHS investment has been spent on loans for market housing when these resources should be shifted toward nonmarket supply for families being squeezed out of housing.

      Social assistance rates in every province are far below the poverty line and fail to keep up with inflation, meaning families already struggling are pushed back further each year. These rates must be increased above the poverty line, and the Canada Disability Benefit must be fast-tracked to tackle disability poverty.

      There are many other ways to help Canadian families and for them to help themselves: keep your kids connected to their grandparents, cook dinner together or volunteer as a family, call your long-distance relatives, and remind your loved ones why you are thankful for them.

      Because they can all be gone in an instant, so make the most while you can.