By Ashley McGuire
You’re quarantined at home with your family, so now what?
Unlike the holidays, when families come together in a time of joy, celebration, gifts, hugs, and big meals, you might be looking at a few weeks of worry, uncertainty, and perhaps even fear. Even in the best of times families can find themselves quickly embroiled in conflict, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Consider that this time with your family is an opportunity to become more connected, to create good agreements about how to respect and respond to one another; make this time together meaningful, helpful, and healing for all.
Start with three key questions, and give everyone, even younger children, an opportunity to answer without interruption:
1. What would you like us to know about how you’re feeling right now?
2. What needs do you have (mental, emotional, physical) to feel safe, comfortable, and happy during this time?
3. What agreements do you suggest we might so that we can stay connected, communicative, and peaceful?
Make sure to take notes on everyone’s needs and requests, including your own, and honor them as much as possible. When looking at the agreements suggested, try to reach consensus on those agreements before setting them in stone. If one member of the family can’t agree to something that has been requested, see if it can be reworked to make it something everyone can agree to.
You’ll have time to spare when you aren’t rushing out of the house to this thing or that thing, so take the opportunity of this time to listen fully to one another. Give space when it’s needed and provide support when it’s needed. Understand that everyone may be having a different response to this challenge and everyone may have unique needs. All responses and needs are valid – if you take the time to validate those responses and needs by listening and showing empathy, it will help each member of your family stay calm and connected to one another.
If conflict breaks out, simply return to the questions above. Revisit your agreements and see if anything needs to be added or modified. Above all, demonstrate that you are in this together – you are a team!
Finally, take time to play! Be silly and laugh together. Learn what makes your kids or your spouse / partner happy. Teach each other a new skill. Be curious about one another. Bring out the dusty old board games and learn how to play the newest video games. Be together. You can take this time of uncertainty and make it a happy time of connection for your family. You’ve got this.