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April 21, 2020

Too Close for Comfort: 10 Suggestions to Make it Through Quarantine as a Happy Family

By Kathryn Meiners, MSW, LCSW, CFLE

“Daddy help me! Look at me Daddy!” “Mommy what are you doing? Come and play!” A child demands while their mom or dad are in a video conference with their boss. “Why can’t I play with my friends?” “How long until I can go to school?”, the child continues to ask. Parents ask, “How do I teach algebra?” or “How can I take care of my family?” and “Where can I find toilet paper!” Seniors in high school are watching as their rites of passage are being stripped away. Proms are cancelled and graduations are questionable.

Children and parents alike are asking difficult and sometimes unanswerable questions at this time when as a nation we are experiencing a pandemic and have been quarantined. Most people in the United States are under stay at home orders and social distancing has become the norm. Families find themselves in close quarters. Kids are home from school and parents are working from home or not working and facing financial crisis. Some parents are essential workers and concerned about childcare. Parents are learning how to home-school their children as schools scramble to change their learning formats. Families are banned from their local hangouts, restaurants or fun zones. Schedules and routines have been thrown out during a time when they can strengthen families.

This does not have to be bleak time. Families are strong and resilient. Families will weather this storm and continue to overcome these challenges together. Through being intentional, families can become stronger, have fun together, and build relationships.

How do we keep our families together during this unprecedented event? Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Develop a schedule:

Schedules provide a rhythm and a routine to our days. They provide consistency and predictability which can be comforting. Schedules can be as flexible or as rigid as you need them to be. Make blocks for necessary tasks and things you enjoy. Make clear lists of things to do for children and refrain from adding on one more thing or one more chore, so they know when they are done. If you are a parent working from home, be clear with your family regarding when you are unavailable and when you can watch your children.

2. Set boundaries:

Be honest about your limitations. If you have children and are working from home, it’s OK to let your employers know your limits. Advocate for yourself. Better to be proactive than to have your child run in during your meeting. Set boundaries with our family too. Its OK for your family to know you are unavailable. However, working from home sometimes leads to work creeping into more than the 40-hour work week. Try to maintain a hard stop to your work and focus on your family at the end of the day.

3. Exercise:

Yes, the gyms are closed. It’s time to be creative. Exercise can provide physical, mental and social benefits. You can walk, run, ride a bike, throw a frisbee, or kick a soccer ball all within safe social distancing or in your own backyard. Many online streamers are providing at-home workouts. Take time out of your day to get your body moving and you’ll notice your mind will be clearer.

4. Maintain routines already in place:

Are you still in your pajamas throughout the day or have you stopped your regular morning routine because there is nowhere to go? It’s time to get up, get dressed and return to your morning and evening routines.

5. What are you watching?

In the age of electronics and easily accessible internet, it can become the norm for a family to be in the same space while each is on their own electronic devices. Interactions are at a minimum. I am not endorsing throwing out the electronics but use them to strengthen your relationships. Teach your family how to use electronics as a tool and not solely for entertainment. Share with one another what you are watching and play games together as a family. Be interested in what others are doing.

6. Go old school:

Play together as a family with non-electronics. Re-discover old crafts, science experiments, board games, cards, fly a kite, sing together, create a play together, run outside and play tag, go for a walk and do I spy. Many neighborhoods are being creative by placing a bear in a window and having the children play I spy. Another idea is to make a chalk drawing for neighbors to see when they come by on their walks.

7. Cook together:

Spending time to cook, bake and eat together can build relationships, teach independence and new skills. You can make family specials or grandma’s old recipe. You can introduce a theme night and learn new recipes. After you create it together, take time to eat with one another. If you have difficulty coming up with new topics, you may want to look at the internet for conversation starters, Would You Rather questions or Ungame questions. These provide new conversation topics to explore with one another.

8. Teach housekeeping skills:

Take this opportunity to teach age-appropriate housekeeping skills. This can develop new skills, foster independence and responsibility. Make it fun. You can become your own Mary Poppins.

9. Take time for yourself:

This may seem like I’m being contradictory but setting boundaries and engaging in self-care is beneficial to the family. Take time to recharge yourself by choosing activities which rejuvenate you. This may not be binging a few TV shows. Instead engage in a hobby you enjoy, exercise, or take a bath.

10. Provide service to others:

Many people are in need during the quarantine. Take inventory of your gifts and be grateful. As a family identify the needs of those in your house, neighborhood, community. Brainstorm ways you can help others. This may be as simple as calling an elderly neighbor on the phone. You can support a local small business by buying a take-out order or a gift card. The possibilities are endless. Your family will be strengthened as you work together in serving others.

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