I am used to seeing families in one of the toughest situations they could face. Now, as we enter the second month of quarantine for most families, it looks to me as though many “intact” families are now in a similar situation to those with parents who are considering divorce.
Although every unhappy family is unique, right now, a lot of families are unhappy in a similar way for similar reasons.
Parents are stressed from having to work from home – or from financial worries if they were laid off – while homeschooling and caregiving with no relief. Children are upset about their routines being upended and by not being able to play or hang out with their friends. Familial relationships are taxed by frayed nerves. In short, it’s a lot like going through a divorce.
4 Tips for Keeping Your Family Intact During the Coronavirus
If you want to keep your family intact, I have a few tips based on my years of working closely with families.
1. Take time apart from your spouse.
You and your spouse may not have spent this much time together on a daily basis since your honeymoon. Set aside a little time each day where you can each be alone, even if it’s just going in the other room to read. If you don’t have much space, give each other permission to put on headphones and listen to music or watch a movie without interruption.
2. Set up a daily debrief.
By the same token, you can talk all day with someone without really communicating. Take five to 10 minutes at the end of the day to really talk. Put the kids to bed, put on a kettle of tea, and set aside your smartphones. Share your frustrations and concerns, make plans, or just vent. But really listen to each other, with no distractions.
3. Get a hobby.
If you haven’t already taken up sewing, making bread, or gardening, now’s a good time. If you worked in an office before the stay-home orders, you had routines – whether it was commuting or grabbing coffee – that gave you a break. Now all you do is work and parent. You need something else in your life to serve as a distraction or you’ll get burnt out very quickly.
4. Remember this is only temporary.
Staying at home during the pandemic is hard in part because we don’t know how long it will last. But it will end at some point. Don’t let the stress of the last few weeks undermine your relationship. As we saw in China, some disgruntled spouses who divorced after spending a little too much time together soon regretted it and got married again not long afterward.
Keeping your family intact during the coronavirus is important in order to come out of this stronger. In short, if you want to get through the pandemic without ending up in divorce court, you need to focus on maintaining and strengthening the bonds that tie you together. Cut each other some slack, give each other some space, and make sure you really connect at least once a day.