You’ve been independent for a long time. Now, you may be sharing space with adult children, grandchildren, or other friends and family who need help during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
It’s a big change, and it’s not easy. Here are some tips to help you figure out this new living situation.
Agree on some “rules of the house.”
When people start living together, it’s good to set guidelines. Together. Talk about things like tidiness, cooking habits, noise, bedtime, and privacy. Perhaps you all agree to take on certain chores or jobs to help things run smoothly. Agree to respect each other’s time, needs, and belongings.
“Communication is key to success during times of stress on the family system,” says Mental Health Connecticut’s Chief Experience Officer, Remi Kyek, MA, MFT. “Carve out family ‘check-in’ time. This creates a protected opportunity to connect with each other, to share what’s going well, and brainstorm ideas to make changes when there is a bump in the road.”
Maintain your schedule.
It can be difficult to stick to your “normal” routine with others in the house. But you shouldn’t have to change your life completely. Let everyone know what you usually do, and when. They should try to accommodate your needs just as you are helping them. This might also encourage them to establish their own schedule. Plan for the time you each need to work, cook, exercise, do chores, and so on. For those who aren’t working, they may want to establish daily goals to help them stay on track.
Assign everyone some personal space.
Try to give everyone their own area, however small. It could be where they work or play, a special place to read, or where they sleep. Wherever it is, let them add personal touches. Creating a sense of “home” can make it easier to handle stress. It also gives everyone a place to go if they need time alone. “Many of us find ourselves migrating to the kitchen to get work done and wonder why we end up frustrated. It’s the hub and heart of the home so, when you sit there, others are drawn to you. Pick an area that family members don’t normally gather,” says Kyek.
Seek some solitude.
Talk to your new roommates about having some time to yourself. Take a long bath, go for a walk, listen to music, read a book, or meditate. Find something that gives you peace and add it to your schedule. Encourage everyone in your home to do the same. We all need a little break from time to time. It could be just what you need to clear your head. And there are plenty of other benefits to alone time, too.
Let kids be kids.
Develop a practice, mantra, or ritual to help reduce anxiety. One suggestion is to create a worry bag. “Have your child write about or draw pictures of things that upset them,” says Kyek. “Ask them to put the worries in a bag outside their door before bed. Once they are asleep, parents can take the bag and decide what to do with the ‘worries.’
“The family can talk about the concerns, see what the child thinks they can do to feel better, or simply throw them away together. This action can help the child let go of the worry and move on.”
This isn’t how anyone thought they’d be spending their time. But something good can come from the unexpected togetherness. Look up new recipes and cook as a group. Let everyone pick a TV show or movie to watch once a week. Host family game nights. Take pictures to remember the good times during quarantine. Fill your mental scrap book with memories you can reflect on when this is over.