Compassion and Family Stress

Tips for surviving a quarantine with the family.

Quarantines and lockdowns have become a common feature of our lives, and while we may be grateful for not being exposed to dangerous viruses, we are also suffering in a real sense from too much closeness to the people we live with.

Weeks of stay-at-home orders may still be ahead of us, so it is time to consider ways to make living in close quarters a better experience for everyone.

Here are some methods and approaches you may want to try with all the members of your household, especially if there are children and adolescents in your home.

  1. Schedule silent times or alone times for the whole household.  If “go to your room” or “time out” has been a punishment for kids in the past, it may be necessary to have an open discussion about why we need alone time, and how a time (maybe an hour after lunch or before supper) of silence can be valuable for us while we have to spend so much time together.
  2. Schedule a daily check in with the whole household.  If your family practices prayer or meditation, this could be a time to share those practices together, and it can also be an important chance for everyone to share how they are feeling or what they are thinking as the lockdown progresses.
  3. Acknowledge grief. Many things have come to an end, been postponed, or even come crashing down around our heads.  We can’t know if some of those things will be restored, or may never be the same again.  Make a cairn of stones, or a tree with leaves, where people can write what they have lost and keep the memories alive.  Conversely, we can also acknowledge gains.  Keep a diary or list of new skills learned, or wisdom gained, throughout the pandemic period.  This list will be a resource in the future when we need to remember what we have been through.
  4. Prioritize and share the burden.  Make sure everyone knows what everyone else has to do in the way of work, school, housework, homework, etc.  Be considerate of what each person feels able to handle and keep the lines of communication open about what needs to be done and who is doing what.  If one member of the household is doing a lot of online or remote work, they may not let others know how heavy their workload is, which makes for misunderstandings when other people need them for something else.  Be clear about what you need to be doing each day.
  5. Use neutral feedback tools like non-violent communication or other communication disciplines that train in letting others know what your feelings and needs are without assuming that other people have the same feelings and needs, or that others will automatically know what your feelings are without you having to tell them.  Emotional intelligence is very important in stressful situations.

Following common-sense wellness practices is very important in high-stress, high-uncertainty situations such as we are all facing now.  Listen to what others in the household are saying, and try to give everyone the support they need in difficult times.  When you give support, you get support, so reaching out is always the best way to get what you also need.

– Nancy