Fast-moving changes in the effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus have pushed families into uncharted territory.
With parents and children confined to their home for an extended time, it’s best to make the most of a difficult, stressful situation. Social distancing has become the new norm, and complying with the extraordinary measures we must all take means we will have less personal contact with the outside world.
The most at-risk among us, the elderly and other vulnerable people, must be protected at all costs. Thinking through the pathways that the virus might travel to infect those we love and care about should be the common denominator that guides our interactions, and also our preventative measures.
The mantra spreading across America is to view these measures as our patriotic duty in the fight against this deadly infection.
So, how do we survive the isolation and stress of being cooped up at home? Rachel Campos-Duffy, mother of eight, children’s book author and TV personality, offers these tips to make the most of the extreme abundance of family time in the weeks ahead.
— Demystify coronavirus. If you haven’t already, have a family talk. It can be scary for kids who are hearing stories from friends, social media or the news. Answer all their questions and empower them with information on what they can do to keep germs at bay.
Knowing that isolation will be harder for teens and college kids with more free time to hang out with friends, parents must be firm and place limits on personal contact with friends. Shifting group gatherings from school to the mall or other hangouts will do little to prevent exposure to the virus at home. This may be the one time that lifting restrictions on social media use makes sense.
— Soak in the family time. As long as you are stuck inside together, enjoy each other. Cook and bake together, play cards, dance, watch movies, bring out old family albums and home movies.
— Set a schedule. Try to set a rough schedule for homework, meals and bedtimes. You don’t have to be rigid, but setting a goal, for example, of getting schoolwork done before noon, will leave plenty of time for fun after.
To get into a schoolwork mode, it helps to get the kids out of their PJs, dressed, teeth brushed and hair combed — just like we do before a normal school day.
— Work out. It’s hard to do when everyone is home and needs you, but making time to work out and shower — even for just 20 minutes — will make mom/dad feel better.
— Work from home. If you don’t have a home office, designate a room or place in the house to do your work. Make your workspace as pleasant and work-friendly as possible. Maybe you work better near a window with natural light. Move a plant, framed photo, or painting you love near your desk.
Trade off with your partner for conference calls and quiet time to return emails. If you are the only parent home, ask (or pay) an older sibling to watch the other kids while you work. When all else fails, a movie will keep them quiet for a chunk of time.
— Delegate chores. Work out a breakfast, lunch and dinner clean-up schedule instead of the usual ad hoc method. Even the littlest kids can do more than you think, cleaning doorknobs and light switches around the house with Clorox wipes, etc.
— Read. Now is the time to encourage your kids to read the classics — many of our kids aren’t reading them at school. Plus, bonding over a book you loved as a child is a beautiful thing. If you don’t have them in the house, order online. Kids love getting mail.
— Get some fresh air. Walking the dog, a grocery run or even a walk to the mailbox can be a relief from cabin fever. After homework, let the kids run out in the backyard, hang out on the balcony or the front stoop if there aren’t others in close proximity.
— Pray together. Pray as a family for those who are sick, our health care workers, scientists, lonely grandparents in nursing homes, and wisdom for our president and leaders.
Focusing on others and counting our blessings is another way to help kids realize that things are going to be OK.
The road ahead will be tough, but by strictly sticking to virus prevention guidelines the rewards will be a higher survival rate and a quicker return to normalcy. In the meantime, make the most of your time with family.