You are probably at home. Honoring the stay-at-home order, hoping it will slow down the COVID-19 virus while treatments are found, and much-needed medical supplies are produced. Family life was changed instantly as businesses sent workers home, schools sent students home, and then we were all asked or ordered to stay at home. In the blink of the eye, there were no more church gatherings, weekend getaways, date nights, no running errands, or getting out with friends.
Before, you could escape to your workplace, school, exercise class or meet with a friend. You could enjoy a change of scenery, socialize, get energy out, be creative, stay focused and be productive.
Now at home, the close quarters create a different kind of stress. Kids wake up to what feels like a vacation, quickly turning into boredom and sibling squabbling. Working from home seemed ideal at first, but it quickly turned into a lack of boundaries, with no private space in which to even make a phone call. Marriages can be stressed with no hope for escaping into a fun date night. Social support shrinks when you can't go to church or run out to meet friends for coffee or lunch as life closes in, and the craziness of being quarantined at home increases.
How can you calm your crazy household? How can you reorganize family life to make the best of the situation? Here are a few tips for getting along when everyone is home:
1. Establish a new routine — we all do better when our lives have a rhythm and routine. Unpredictability about what our day will look like creates chaos, a cluttered mind, and frustration. Keep a routine, make your bed, get dressed, plan your day and meals. These small tasks will help keep you centered. Even your kids need order, a healthy and expected rhythm of the day. Get them up, dressed, and started on a project. A schedule helps you and your kids focus on what they are to do now, and anticipate what is coming next.
2. Do what fosters healthy well-being — Keep doing what you know keeps you and the family emotionally and physically healthy. Exercise, eat well, get outside (nature is a great de-stressor), have a project to focus on as well as a fun activity to look forward to. Read books that foster the imagination. Keep family prayer time, devotional time, and turn toward God for hope, courage and the meaning of life.
Often, when kids and family are running through the home together, there can be a bit of chaos and not enough space for one-on-one contact. Continue to spend time alone with each child, so they feel special. Put together a "poster" documenting their strengths and uniqueness. Be careful not to be obsessed with your phone. Be emotionally present for your children and spouse.
3. Grieve together and comfort one another — Each person in your family is probably afraid or anxious about something during this confinement: financial loss, job loss, retirement funds decreasing, impact on grades or graduation, inability to visit aging parents, losing touch with friends. So, try to be attuned and sensitive to each other. Pray for (and with!) them. Be extra kind.
4. Be your best version of you — How will you react in the quiet moments during the day? When you are stressing over finances, the constant mess, the frustration of confinement. It is easy to get irritated with others and react in negative ways. You might defend yourself and even feel justified in getting upset. Instead, dig deep and find the strength to be kind, considerate, and well-mannered. Share your emotions with a friend rather than reacting negatively toward them. We'll all need to be more patient with each other. Be your best version of yourself. You can do it!
We are praying for all of you that you will rise above this current situation and find amazing, new ways to thrive. Stay connected with others while maintaining social distancing, stay grateful, be kind, and for the sake of everyone else, stay calm!