Remember the first days after the initial stay-at-home order in March 2020? It felt like an early Spring Break. It seemed like the dream-come-true of working from home. It promised to solve all your issues of trying to balance work and family. All fun and games. Just a little vacation while the virus went extinct and then everything would return to normal again.
And then the kids never went back to school, at least not the school building. Work was just as demanding, even if you were at home. The fun stopped. The games got old. A new normal set in. And, if you’re like most families, along with it came a heaviness—a disappointment—and a growing tension that turned the sweetest relationships sour. The last thing you wanted was for your own precious family to get on your nerves—and, yet, there it was. That tension you never wanted, like a dark cloud that would not dissipate, hanging over you, your kids, your life.
While most of us were picturing paradise at the start of this pandemic, Dr. Henry Cloud
(famous for his book, Boundaries) began talking about the psychology of crisis. He knew we would need it. I had the opportunity to hear him. And his insights then prove just as relevant now since the pandemic has not only persisted longer than we expected but also pulled us to places we never wanted. But the good news is that they are actionable and immediate. In other words, you can choose one of the following simple steps today to help your family flourish in the pandemic!
1. Establish a routine.
Routines gives us structure by which we organize our lives. Without them (like when this
pandemic first turned life upside down) the adrenal overload and stress hormones
overwhelm the brain and send us into fight, flight, or freeze. This is what makes
establishing a routine – even a simple one – so critical. It’s also easy to do! Just choose
one activity that you can do at the same time (e.g. dinner together at 6pm) or in the same
order (e.g. a walk every day after lunch) with your family!
2. Be honest about it.
Yes, you are the adult. Yes, your kids are looking to you to help them regulate their
emotions. But when you model honesty you teach them in one of the healthiest ways. It’s
okay to say, “I’m going through this, too,” and talk about your feelings. Admitting you’re sad
and then finding ways to laugh and live in the midst of it teaches powerful lessons!
3. Limit your news intake.
You have control over what goes into your mind. You can choose to turn off the news feed
after a few minutes. You can even choose to limit screen time altogether. There is a lot that
you cannot control. Neither can I. But there’s a lot we can control, too.
4. Create connections.
We are wired for connection with others. While social distancing and e-learning limit that,
there are still ways to create meaningful connections. Call grandma and grandpa more
often than you would. Have your kids write notes to front line workers. Host a front yard
barbecue where all the families on your block cook out in front and greet one another!
5. Make memories.
If the Great Depression made an entire generation great (that is, selfless, courageous, and
wise) then this pandemic can do great things for our families, too. All it requires is
leveraging the unexpected opportunities to make lasting memories. Bake, walk, laugh,
dance, sing, sleep, watch movies, build forts, go driving.
Just don’t miss the moment!