With social distancing becoming the norm during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, daily routines are drastically changing. As schools close and many parents work from home, adjusting to the changes can be quite challenging. It is common for anxiety to increase during times of change and uncertainty. However, there are some things you can try to help protect your mental health and make it easier to cope with family isolation due to the coronavirus.
1. Create Some New Family Rules
Family rules help keep everyone on the same page by establishing expectations and consequences. As everyone adjusts to spending a lot of time in close quarters with each other, it will be easy to see where rules might be needed to maintain the peace. You may need to establish rules around personal space, work needs, daily chores, and screen time. If you are working from home, you may need to discuss with your children what that means and what you expect from them. Rules should be clear, stated positively, and have consequences that everyone understands. Consequences can be either negative or positive and can increase if the rule continues to be broken. Creating some new family rules can make it easier for everyone to understand what is expected during this time.
2. Maintain A Flexible Schedule
Following a daily schedule is normal for most people, this is especially true of children who often do well with a structured routine. In times of uncertainty, a daily routine can create a sense of normalcy. Having a schedule in place can help families cope with the current situation more effectively. However, a strict schedule could be very difficult to follow during the adjustment period. At this time, many children are participating in online school and many parents are working from home. While it’s helpful to have a schedule, without some flexibility the schedule can add more stress to your lives. For instance, if your children are supposed to do their school work from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., and the system is down then, arranging the schedule differently will be necessary. A schedule that allows for flexibility when needed will be most beneficial to your family at this time.
3. Support Each Other
This situation is new for everyone. There is a lot of uncertainty and unknowns and anxiety typically increases under these conditions. Talk about your needs, worries, and concerns. Ask for help if you need it. Come up with a plan for dividing responsibilities and chores that works for your family. Your children also need a place to share their feelings and experiences. If you listen to each other and encourage open sharing, you will be less likely to start resenting one another. Children are less likely to act out and have a tantrum if you are able to help them put words to their feelings. This difficult situation can be made a little easier for everyone with proper support.
4. Teach Life Skills
Use this time to teach your children important life skills. Children and teens often have busy schedules. Between school, homework, and after school activities it can be hard to find spare time. Since you have time to spend with each other during the family isolation period, you can use this time to teach your kids important life skills. You can teach your children how to cook a meal, clean the house, do their own laundry, maintain a car, and balance a checkbook. Younger children can help you by putting together ingredients, or handing you tools. Older children can first complete some of these tasks with you, and when ready can try to do it on their own. When it is time for your children to go out into the world on their own, it will be easier to let them go when you are confident they have the necessary skills.
5. Spend Time Together
Spend time together as a family. Even though you are together more at this time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are spending quality time together. You still want to be intentional about scheduling time with your family. Spend time playing together outside, exercise together, or practice meditation and other mindfulness activities. Family game nights, make your own pizza nights, and family movie nights are some ways to encourage spending quality time together as a family. When you spend time together focusing on fun instead of your worries, the entire family will benefit. You can use this time together to grow closer to one another.
6. Implement Quiet Time
While spending time together at this time is important, so is spending time alone. Both children and adults benefit from scheduling a quiet time during the day. This is a time during the day that everyone spends time alone engaging in quiet, solitary activities from 30 minute to 1 hour. Quiet time provides an opportunity to engage in self-care, focus on and process your feelings, utilize your imagination, and practice mindfulness. Having this time away from one another can minimize arguments between siblings and gives everyone personal space. Spending time engaged in solitary, quiet activities is good for everyone in the family.
7. Encourage Acceptable Social Interaction
Humans are wired for connection. Social distancing can make it harder to feel connected to others, which can increase feelings of loneliness. While it may not be a good idea to connect with others face-to-face, there are safe ways to stay connected. Video calls, staying connected on social media, phone calls, texting, and even letter writing are safe ways to stay connected with friends and family, while maintaining a safe distance. Making sure your family members stay in touch with their social connections during this time is important to their emotional well-being.
Although family isolation during the coronavirus outbreak can be difficult, you can survive and even thrive with some adjustments. If you have tried implementing the above strategies and are still struggling, virtual family therapy can help. By putting a plan in place, your family can come out of this isolation period with an even stronger connection.