Life as we know it, with the Coronavirus, has changed for all of us and as humans, we aren’t great at change. For most of us, we struggle to adapt quickly and accept the changes. What we are all living through now is confronting on many levels.
For most of us, we find ourselves confined in our homes with our families, or even worse perhaps, alone, and we need to employ some strategies to support our mental health. Already I am hearing from clients about the individual challenges they are facing being confined in their homes. These are some ideas that might help you and your family cope well with this strange way of living.
- Change the rules. Effective homes run on routine and rules. Since we can no longer run our homes around schooling, sports and outings, we need to redefine the rules. To take the pressure off parents, take a step back. Soften your rules on gaming and screen time, allow kids to play longer or chat to friends online. It may not be ideal but it ca be corrected when life goes back to normal. Doing this allows parents to relax a little more and helps keep kids occupied. Now is not the time to stress about perfect rules.
- Try and keep a new routine and schedule. Schools are trying to conduct home schooling as much as possible. Get your kids out of bed for school time, have breakfast, get dressed and do the school work. Don’t stress if you aren’t a math’s expert, you’re not alone, simply do your best and set some sort of schooling routine.
- Change focus and set this time as positive family time. Never in our lives have we been in this situation and we can find some positives if we look for them. Pull out the board games, set up a treasure hunt, set up your tent in the backyard on the weekend if you have that option. Dye the kid’s hair, give yourself a funny hair cut (or maybe just the kids!!), do some family drawings, keep a family journal of this time. One day our kids will look back on this time, let the have some fun stuff to recount. Let your imagination go and create some great memories.
- Accept that at some stage people are going to get on each other’s nerves. Have a plan for this. If you can, set aside a different room for people to use as a timeout room. Try and make use of the space in your home in a different way. The garage can be a great place to throw a chair in, put some music on and read a book, if that is the only space you can get. Be respectful of each person needing their own time.
- Plan family functions in the home. Set up a family video chat over dinner with another family and have a good laugh at what is happening in your home in this strange time. Set your kids up to have online chats with their friends. Adults arrange a girls or guys night online. Zoom and Houseparty are great apps that support us doing this. No, it isn’t the same but you are creating history here and we have no choice so get creative.
- For partners, have a date night. Pick a room, set the kids up with a movie in another room and go on your date. Get dressed up!! Have some fun in your home with your partner. Who knows? Maybe you’ll create a great new habit that you’ll take into the world at the end of this.
- Expect this to be hard at times. Call a friend, take time for yourself, or call a counselling service. This is what we do, it’s what we are good at. No we haven’t lived this situation either but we are great at listening and helping others get clarity in their lives. Already I have had a few clients call me distressed and end up feeling excited at the end of the call about what they can do with this time.
- Try and keep younger kids away from the constant news flow. We don’t want to create problems for ourselves and scared kids is a problem we don’t want. Share with them the basics at an age appropriate level and assure them the adults are dealing with it and they are safe.
- As I write this, we are still able to go for a walk so take advantage of this. Getting the kids out once a day can have a big impact on the rest of the day. A quick run around the block with them is all that is needed to break the home cycle. Make it fun. Challenge them to look for all the red doors or all of the pink flowers. It can be an amazing way to connect with our kids. The world has forced us to slow down and smell the flowers so let’s do just that.
- Be kind. Some family members will find this easier than others. Be respectful of each other’s needs. Talk about it at dinner. Ask each person what the hardest thing is for them or what the best thing is. Keep communication about this open. Often being heard can be enough to feel calmer.
I am a parent and am locked in with my kids. There are moments when I wonder how we will survive this for a long period, but mostly I am trying to embrace the fact that I have been given an opportunity to spend time with my family and I am forced to try and make this fun for all of us. My hope is that when they recount this time to their kids one day, that they’ll remember this as a hard time but great family time too!
Good luck, stay safe.