Are you ready to scream now that you and your “loved ones” are together 24/7? Are those cute little expressions that you found so endearing like “Poopsie” or “yah know” beginning to grate on you? Are you fighting for more space or clinging for more attention?
You may feel like the best of relationships are being tested in your sequestered home environment right now. And the hard thing is, there’s no way out for the moment. If you are a working parent and fortunate enough to still have work, your darling children can become adversaries as they compete for your attention to avoid boredom. Your normally resourceful spouse or partner suddenly checks out and becomes withdrawn. There’s no easy solution. Here are some thoughts that can help you build a “new normal” strategy to get through the pandemic together.
Have a Family Meeting and Set Groundrules – as a facilitator, one of the core skills we use when we meet with a new group who has worked together for a while is to develop communication guidelines for the new learning environment they are in together to make it more productive. Stopping to discuss how to handle conflict won’t work in the heat of an intense disagreement. These guidelines of communication are often used by the group in their future interactions and improve communication all around.
Think about it, has your family ever discussed what their communication preferences are and how they would like to be communicated with in general? When you are in the heat of conflict, trying to define what would work for you as a guideline like “no yelling,” is pointless. Will it be perfect? Of course not. Will it help? Absolutely, especially if your children are old enough to reason. During times of crisis, humans want to feel like there’s some control, especially kids. You can benefit by having a family meeting regularly and setting some simple communication practices that you all commit to like:
- Stop and listen to each other
- Respect each person’s need for work, school or quiet time
- Make time for decision-making discussions
- No yelling
- Ask questions to understand
Build Your Resilience – Many of you are operating in crisis mode and not taking the time for self-care, especially women. Self-care involves getting enough rest, continuing to exercise or starting a new “at home” regimen, and eating well. When you feel stronger physically, you are more tolerant of disruptions and uncertainly. I’m not minimizing the fact that some of you can’t sleep at night from stress and the “what keeps you up at night” stuff is real and valid. However, not having healthy habits in place will only erode your resilience. For more info on getting to sleep, click here.
In my work as an executive coach, I’m aware of the power of the mental models people hold and how it affects their resilience and happiness. If you think it’s a good day only when something you perceive as good happens to you, you will spend a lot of time disappointed. Stop to appreciate and be thankful for even the simplest things or for just being alive and your life will change. Thankfulness impacts the neuroplasticity of our brains – what we think, do and pay attention to changes our brain chemistry. We build our resilience when we adopt healthy mental models. We can be more patient if we find appreciation in the little things.
For more extensive ways to shift your emotions and build a positive mindset, I highly recommend the book Search Inside Yourself by Chad-Meng Tan.
Establish New Structure & Reframe – One of the women in our Key Women’s Leadership Forum shared with me that her four-year-old daughter asked her, “Are we going to stay home again today?”
Her daughter quickly added, “the virus is keeping me from doing anything.” Her mother was surprised that her young daughter seemed to see going to pre-school as something productive and despite activities at home, saw herself as not doing anything. That was a signal for the mom to set up a different structure at home and communicate differently about her daughter’s home schedule.
So much of structure happens accidentally because of the situation and our own personal habits. Working at home together gives you the opportunity to re-set the structure of your day consciously and to even start new habits. It also gives you the opportunity to re-frame your activities so that you and your families can view what you are doing differently.
How we frame things makes a difference in their meaning. Saying to your child, “We are going to organize your play box,” seems like a task. Re-framing the activity to be “part of our family’s re-organizing our home so that we can use the things we need and like more easily,” makes the task bigger and more important. For more on re-framing, click here.
Starting a joint practice or ritual can help you and your family develop a healthy structure and focus on something you find important and meaningful. Going back to the thankfulness example, you could start your day or end it by coming together to share something you are thankful for with each other. It is a simple and powerful practice. Like any practice, being thankful works best when it becomes part of your routine.
There are no easy ways around some of the chaos and stress some of you may feel. Like in all challenging situations, there’s always a gift or opportunity waiting to be discovered.