I grew up in a family of 11-kids, so I know all too well how hard it is to be stuck at home with the same faces for days, months, and years on end without totally losing it every once and awhile. There’s always that one person (or in my family’s case, that half-dozen…) who talks to herself, or chews too loudly, or just stares at you a little too long in a way that makes you want to pull your own hair out. Seeing the same faces every minute of the day can wear down even the most loving family.
Here’s the thing: You aren’t alone. Everyone is struggling a bit right about now. As JustAnswer parenting counselor John-Michael wrote when I asked this question on the site, “it would be abnormal not to struggle under the circumstances…anytime any two (or more) people are together any extended period of time, it’s healthy to disagree. It’s just how you argue that matters.” We’ll get to more of that solid advice in a minute.
Here are 7 tips to keeping your family’s sanity until the quarantine is finally lifted and we can all return to a semi-normal life.
Tip 1: Set some basic house rules.
Everyone has house rules, like not wearing dirty shoes in the house, not using cell phones at dinner, not lighting your sister’s hair on fire. Make a poster of quarantine rules if you have to. Or better yet, get the kids to do it. Each person gets one request. Here are some examples:
- Treat each other how you want to be treated.
- Do your chores without a parent having to ask.
- No screaming, fighting, yelling, turning the fish tank upside down during work hours. (Or ever…)
- Think before you act. And talk.
- Don’t get hurt because no one is going to the hospital.
Okay, those last two are totally for me, because I often do dare-devil DIY projects like hammering upside down on the roof, and inevitably smash a finger or two. Let each person in the house state their own rule, and do your best to stick with them. No one is perfect, but just understanding what’s important to each other and why is a great first step.
Tip 2: Make sure your kids know what’s going on.
Luckily, my own daughter is only 7-months old, so she thinks everything is just hunky-dory. But if your kids are old enough to know that something’s different, talk with them about it. There are a great many resources for how to talk with you kids of various ages about life during a pandemic. Some of my favorite sites include Livescience, Harvard Health, NPR, and the New York Times. Each has suggestions and pointers for the various ages, and the best advice is very simple, keep it simple and stick to the facts.
Look, your kids can’t help out if they don’t know what’s going on. If they just think Mom and Dad are just grumpy, or that this is just an extended vacation, you’re setting yourself up for hardship.
Tip 3: Schedule fun.
As we suggest in our post about hacks for schooling at home, it’s important to stick to a routine, but just as important is to schedule some time for fun. John-Michael, a father of four ranging in ages from 13-21 says, “we try to schedule distractions, such as game night, family movie night, and so on. If you can squeeze in some outside time, that’s even better.”
Outside time, especially with kids, is a total life-saver. With everyone going stir-crazy to begin with, sometimes just getting some fresh air and a change of scenery can make a huge difference.
Tip 4: Try positive reinforcement.
It also helps to step back and see each person in your family not in relation to how you’re feeling, but as their own person going through their own struggles. For instance, is one child acting up because they need more one-on-one attention? Schedule twenty minutes of alone time doing something that child wants to do, rather than sending him to another time out when he throws something at your head.
Tip 5: Escape to your happy place.
I have been hearing from a lot of married couples at the moment complaining that they are just spending too much time around each other. Some of us seem to only be able to manage our spouses in small doses.
Rather than slowly driving each other crazy, both of you should escape separately to a place in the house or even out in the yard that can be your sanctuary. Make the place off-limits to the rest of the family if you must!
Tip 6: Tackle your to-do’s.
Forced time at home is out of our control. Being productive with our time is one thing we can still control. Now is a great time to paint your porch, or spend time in the garden. Bonus points if you can make it a family affair.
If you’ve had a goal or an idea that you’ve wanted to get started on but hadn’t had the time–now is the time to start. and maybe look back on it as the silver lining to uncertain and anxiety-provoking circumstances.
Tip 7: Take care of yourself.
Time alone is important too. When I begin to feel frustrated or annoyed with being in close quarters I have to remind myself that taking time to take care of me is important. “Going to the gym,” (which is really just my garage set-up with some dumbells and a jump rope), reading, or even making dinner are just a few ways I reset so I can come back and be the husband and dad I want to be.