From the coronavirus pandemic to cell phones at the dinner table, family life has experienced dramatic shifts. 

In 1993, the United Nations formally recognized May 15th as the International Day of Families. Since this occurrence, family life has undergone drastic changes — and oftentimes not for the better.

These changes have forced the International Day of Families to take on a whole new persona of importance, as family life struggles to grasp momentous changes due to technology, coronavirus restrictions, and alarming divorce rates.

Concerning Changes to Family Life in the Modern Era

Technology

When I started college in 2015, I recall my father exuberantly proclaiming how easy it must be to make friends at school in the new age of technology. Yet, upon taking a brief walk through a hallway at nearly any university, one can expect to see practically every student quietly glancing at the bright, flashing screen of their cell phone.

This phenomenon, of technology interfering with the natural tendency to engage in face-to-face conversation, is not one that is solely encountered in upperclassmen hallways. Just last year, The Guardian reported that the majority of children own a cell phone by the age of seven and that 90% of children will own one by the age of eleven. 

The more time that children spend on the phone or computer, the less time that they play outside with friends or interact with family members.

The dinner table — once a place of refuge for those who enjoy uninterrupted family time — has declined in importance. Over the last 20 years, the frequency of family dinners has declined 33%, with only 50% of families regularly partaking in family dining. Technology, too, has become commonplace at the dinner table, with approximately 33% of families reporting that they watch TV during family dinners.

Even more concerning is the fact that teenagers spend an average of seven hours each day on their cell phones. 

These changes have impacted the family dynamic, as family members spend less time interacting with each other and more time playing with their devices.

Coronavirus Restrictions

The consequences of the restrictions that were sprung upon our society in response to the coronavirus pandemic have primarily created two opposing problems. 

For some families, who may be spread out geographically across the country or who may have elderly relatives who live in nursing homes, the lockdown restrictions created an inability to visit a beloved family member. Those who faced those restrictions had to wait many months before they could schedule a visit. Unfortunately for many families, relatives passed away during that time period secondary to illness and old age. Many beloved family members spent their last moments of life alone, grieved alone, or missed out on moments that should have been shared in the heavenly arms of one’s family members. 

Contrarily, the coronavirus restrictions also caused many families to deal with the opposite problem — too much time together. For families that were in quarantine under the same roof, an inability to have alone time or to leave the house led to a terrible increase in domestic violence

These contrasting problems highlight the need for a proper balance of time spent with one’s family members. This balance was unduly shaken by many unrelenting restrictions that families still struggle to fully cope with.

Divorce Rates

While much of the country was rapt with curiosity following the announcement of Bill Gates’ divorce from Melinda Gates earlier this month, thousands of couples in America have followed suit and called it quits on their marriages.

Approximately how many thousands of couples might that be? 6,646 couples file for divorce per day, or roughly 1 couple per 13 seconds, according to family law attorneys. More concerning is the fact that the divorce rate in the United States has roughly doubled since 1960.

The number of marriages has also declined as only 2 million couples tie the knot each year in our country, which is roughly 500,000 less couples per year than in the early 1980s. This decrease exists despite the fact that our population has increased dramatically since then.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom — Families May Be Facing a Brighter Future

Nobody who reads this article should leave with a negative outlook on the survival of the modern family in our nation for three consequential reasons:

1. The internet has allowed families to connect with relatives that they once never knew existed, and inventions such as video chatting have created considerable ease of communication amongst loved ones.

2. Coronavirus restrictions are being lifted nationwide. 

3. Divorce rates have been declining steadily since 1980, with 2019 being the lowest year in recent history.

As we hark back to the significant changes to family life over the last few decades, we must learn from our mistakes and our triumphs as we work to become better parents, better sons and daughters, and better individuals. 

International Day of Families on May 15th is a wonderful opportunity to show your appreciation for your family, to spend time together in a positive manner, and to maybe even start a new chapter as you decide to tie the knot with your significant other. 

Our Her Nexx Chapter Community invites you to join us where women are connecting with each other’s stories, exploring different experiences, and transforming ideas.

The Future of Connection for Women

Ross Mellman

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