TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Sometimes, too much time with the same people can make you long for a little social isolation.
Families around the world are spending much more time together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of time together in close quarters can leave people without a release valve for energy and stress. Other people’s habits that were easy to shrug off in normal times might become irksome during a period of stress and constant contact.
“It’s a completely new and unique situation,” said Murray Krantz, a professor in the College of Human Sciences.
There’s little research into the family dynamics of this particular situation because it is unprecedented, he said. However, previous scholarship provides a guide for strategies that might help make this time easier for families living together.
Krantz shared a few of those tips:
1. Look for signs of resilience among family members.
People are going to have bad emotions because of the changes brought on by this pandemic. To help cope with those emotions, look for people in your family who are showing resilience.
Resilience is “surprising strength in the face of adversity,” Krantz said, and there’s plenty of research into it. In this case, some people might show that they are doing well at handling pandemic anxiety. They may show signs of leadership, like figuring out how to make a commonplace recipe taste better or bringing a sense of humor that brightens the mood for everyone. The resilient person will show individual strength and may also manage their emotions in a way that creates a path for everybody to follow.
“Don’t insist that it has to be you. You may not be the person who saves the day here,” he said, but by watching for those signs of resilience and encouraging them, you can help.
2. Have a family schedule.
In almost all circumstances, having a schedule helps people stay stable.
With more people together under one roof, general guidelines for when the household is sleeping, awake, or participating in a family meal are helpful. If some family members are trying to sleep when others are making noise, that will add to disharmony, Krantz said.
“I think everybody should be reasonably expected to get up roughly at the same time, give or take a half-hour or maybe even an hour, but at least we’re all on our circadian rhythms here,” he said.
Eating together at least once a day can also bring predictability and reliability.
“If we can get around the table together, we’ll find something in common that is probably healthy for all of us,” Krantz said.
Some families may never have had a schedule. Adopting one now may seem artificial, and if that’s the case, it’s OK not to suddenly regiment their lives. But for families who have found schedules useful, keeping them in mind during this unusual time may be helpful.
3. Find something fun that everyone can do together.
“Maybe every day — or OK, every other day — find something that’s reasonably constructive and reasonably fun to do for at least most of the people who are living in the house,” Krantz said.
This doesn’t have to take long, but it should be something where everybody’s doing the same thing. It could be as simple as watching the same television show together.
“It shouldn’t be a chore,” he said. “It’s something that suggests some fun, some fulfillment, something enjoyable. I think if you find something that most of the people are really enjoying, it’s probably going to be magnetic and draw other people’s interest.”
Previously published on permission.
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