Are your kids driving you crazy? Is your partner driving you nuts? Are you sick of your pets? Are you even annoying yourself?
You’re not alone.
Staying at home for long periods of time is not something most of us are used to. In fact, many of us probably took for granted how little extended time we spent at home with all of our people prior to the last few weeks.
The point is this: spending full days, weeks and possibly months at home with our family is new to almost everyone. And when we do something new, strange, or out of our normal routine – there is bound to be a little, um, discomfort. And in this case that discomfort might look like:
- General nastiness
Is any of that happening in your home? Surely mine isn’t the only one with a little conflict?
So what can we do to keep the peace at home? How can we all just get along?
First and foremost, we need to be honest with ourselves about who we (you, me, our families – everyone!) are. Were you the picture of Pinterest-perfect closeness before COVID-19? Did you and your partner routinely spend evenings whispering sweet nothings to each other? Do your children play in harmony for hours each day while praising your parenting skills?
No! Of course not. You live in the real world and so do I. We are who we are and keeping our expectations (of ourselves and our families) realistic during this time is crucial to keeping the peace.
Everyone needs space and time of their own.
Most of us are used to having at least some time and space of our own each day. And this includes our children! When creating your new routine, make sure to include some time and space away from each other.
You might have to get creative: Is your time alone sitting in the car on the driveway? Is your son’s time alone in the backyard? Is your partner’s alone time on a jog in the morning?
Even the littlest among us can benefit from some time alone (napping, reading, watching a cartoon). However you carve it out, make sure everyone gets time and space to themselves each day.
Take a break from COVID-19.
My children kindly offered this tip to me the other day:
“Stop talking about COVID-19 and everything we need to do because of it!”
Upon reflection, I can see that I was, in fact, talking a lot about:
- The latest reports about the virus
- The things that are cancelled because of the virus
- All the things we can now do because of the virus (i.e., clean our rooms)
- What the long terms effects of the virus will be
- What we can be grateful for in the midst of the virus
As I am writing this down, I can see how it was getting pretty annoying. It can be a bit challenging at first, but there are lots of other things to talk about that aren’t COVID-19 related:
- Games (board, online, etc)
- TV shows (we may or may not be re-watching Cheer for the third time)
- Politics (who ever thought politics would provide a nice break?)
- The meaning of life
It takes some discipline, but it is possible.
Avoid criticizing everyone for everything.
Just as in the above example, all of our resilience is a little compromised at the moment. Resist the urge to criticize all the people for all the things all the time. It’s so easy to get fed up and rattle off a list of frustrations and irritations to our housemates. But, guess what? Nothing good is going to come from that.
Instead try slowing down and considering what one or two (at the very most!) things are most important for you to address. Then calmly (i.e., not screaming or in the midst of a fight) communicate to your loved ones. Ask them to help you to come up with a solution and agree on a course of action.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
- Me: RICHARD, GET YOUR *&^FG@#$KKS SHOES OFF THE FLOOR!
- Richard: I HATE YOU!
An example of what you might try instead:
- Me: Richard, I am starting to feel overwhelmed by the piles of shoes you have by the front door.
- Richard: OK
- Me: Can I help you organize them differently or put them away?
- Richard: But I like to have my shoes right there, it’s easier for me
- Me: OK, Can you maybe pick just one or two pairs to keep here and put the others away?
- Richard: Sure
Silly example, but you get the picture. How and when we approach people with our concerns makes all the difference. And don’t forget to be thoughtful and patient when your family comes to you with their own concerns. Kindness works both way!
If you and your family have tried a few strategies for getting along and are still struggling, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who has experience working with families. Many psychologists are able to provide sessions via phone or video chat, so don’t let the virus keep you from accessing good support.