How to Better Spend Time with Family

The changes to our lives in the year 2020 were something that few of us could have predicted. With mandatory lockdowns and curfews, mandates on social distancing and mask-wearing, and other steps meant to keep the COVID-19 virus in check, we found ourselves in an unfamiliar territory over the past year. But there was one significant change that towered above all the rest. Families where mom and dad spent every weekday at work and the kids spent every weekday at school were suddenly thrown together in the same house for months on end. Many parents began working from home, and many students spent an excessive amount of time learning from home. This kind of adjustment can take a toll on the family unit. With that in mind, here are suggestions for better spending time with your family during this challenging period.

Quality Family Time

Now that you have an abundance of time together, you may not be sure what to do with yourselves. If you’re stuck, here are a few suggestions on ways to have quality, fun, and even productive family time together.

  • Game it up! Few things form lasting family bonds and great memories, like laughing it up over a good old-fashioned board game. Not only are the old standards like Monopoly and Uno still available, but many new styles of family electronic games like Jackbox Games are available for download.
  • Get moving! Getting sedentary during isolation is almost natural, but you can successfully fight that temptation by getting in shape together. Use online workout based classes like Zumba or games like Just Dance, or go out on a walk through the neighborhood as a family. Do whatever appeals to you; just get creative and get off the couch!
  • Learn something new! With all this time on our hands, it’s a perfect opportunity to learn something new. Why not start a family hobby like painting or take online cooking classes together? You’ll learn something new as you spend quality time together, building lifelong memories.
  • Build it! Are there projects around the house that you’ve been putting off? Why not get the whole family involved and make it happen together?

Spending quality time with your family in creative ways can help everyone cope with being stuck in close quarters for long periods. However, it’s not a cure-all for keeping your sanity.

Keeping Your Sanity

Being cooped up together for long periods is stressful. Dealing with the uncertainty of a worldwide pandemic is a variety of stress that none of us has ever dealt with before. So it is OK not to be particularly OK. Let your family know that if they are not feeling good or average, that is not unusual. Encourage your family to share openly about how they are feeling. And once they do, get creative and find ways to help everyone feel a little bit better and lead as everyday life as possible under the circumstances.

  • Keep structure in your day. It is easy to get out of a daily routine when you are working and schooling from home. Establishing a new daily regimen with specific times for going to bed, waking up, and working will help normalize your day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. A lack of sleep causes irritability, which is the last thing anyone needs when spending so much time together. Be sure everyone is getting enough sleep or take steps to solve any sleeping issues that arise.
  • Use electronics to stay in touch. It is tempting to shut down socially during isolation, but we encourage you to continue to keep in touch with friends and family. Whether you use your good old-fashioned phone or Zoom with friends on your computer, keeping in touch with others builds relationships and increases your overall happiness at the same time.
  • Be good to yourself. Take time just for yourself each day. Unplug from work and family and do something that relaxes you, like a nice hot bath. And although snacking out of boredom is tempting, try to eat healthy so that your body gets the nutrients it needs to handle the stress of isolation.

Also, encourage your family to keep communication lines open so that resentment and frustration do not build up. It is usual for people to get on each other’s nerves during periods of confinement, so learn how to say you’re sorry and then teach your kids to do the same.

Setting Boundaries

Mental health experts extoll the need for boundaries, especially during times of isolation. Some limits are specific to the loved ones you are isolating alongside. For instance, you may decide that it keeps everyone happier if the entire family refrains from talking about COVID after dinner or if everyone watches less new coverage or engages in social media less often. But everyone should consider other boundaries if you decide to have family and friends over.

The first thing you should do before any get-together is to speak with your guests about expectations regarding social distancing, etc. Before having friends and family over, advise them of expectations when they are in your home, be open to opposing opinions, and stay flexible. Your guests may offer suggestions that you may not have thought of but would still be comfortable performing. If a guest is adamant about something you are not pleased with, like refusing to wear a mask, respond to them calmly. Respect their opinion and try not to take it personally. If you cannot reach an agreement with your guests, then perhaps everyone should postpone the visit until everyone can agree, or Covid-19 is no longer a threat.

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