It feels like we’re in a weird transition in the pandemic right now. It’s like the world wants to go back to normal again. Officials are lifting some of the quarantine regulations, but we are definitely not out of the woods yet with the COVID-19 virus. 

I see people out in public and it seems like they are acting on two ends of a spectrum. Some people are continuing to be very cautious, donning masks everywhere they go. They’re following the arrows, standing on X’s in the store aisles and maintaining a hard “no” to people coming over for a visit. At the opposite end of the spectrum, folks are throwing caution completely to the wind, acting as if things are back to normal and ignoring any kind of preventative guidelines. 

Mix all this with what we’ve been going through the last two months, and what comes out is a lot of people on edge. It’s an emotionally-charged environment. Social media is fraught with all kinds of opinions and conspiracy theories and hostile exchanges about who’s-behind-what with the pandemic. It’s enough to make a person question their sanity.  

My kids see all of this. They take notice when other families are doing something different than us. They talk to their friends who are inviting others over for sleepovers and those whose parents are saying absolutely not. And they can sense the tension in each store line between those who wear masks and those who aren’t. 

So, how do we use this time to teach our children about emotional boundaries? 

What is an emotional boundary? 

When you see the lion exhibit at the zoo, there’s a boundary between you and the lions. And for good reason! The boundary is there to guard and protect you from the lions. It’s also there to protect the lions from you and all the other spectators. The boundary puts a healthy space between you and the danger. It defines which space belongs to you and which space belongs to the lions. Both lions and spectators benefit from this boundary. But if the lion makes its way to the spectator’s space (or, if a spectator shimmies his way into the lion’s space), well, bad things can happen. 

Emotional boundaries do the same thing. They serve to guard and protect us from threats to our emotional well-being. They also put a healthy space between you and other people. Sometimes people can cross the boundary. This happens in lots of different ways: bullying, shaming, name-calling, manipulation. If boundaries aren’t held, our emotional health and sense of self suffers. This can cause anxiety, depression or a sense of depleted self-worth. 

As we think about all that’s happening with the pandemic and the emotionally-charged opinions flying around like crossfire, emotional boundaries are compromised.

As parents, this is the opportunity to teach our children how to build and maintain appropriate emotional boundaries during this pandemic

How We Teach Our Kids Emotional Boundaries 

1. Model. Our kids watch us. Children take cues from their parents, especially when they aren’t sure how to respond to a situation. 

I was talking with a neighbor one day with my daughter present, and they began to explain to me their conspiracy theory on where the virus came from and what certain leaders were or were not doing about it. I completely disagreed, and normally would have made it known. But out of respect for my neighbor and because my daughter was watching, I kept calm and l listened. I validated his opinion without giving in to his hype and politely ended our conversation. Shortly after, of course, I got the chance to explain to my daughter that I didn’t agree with him and why, but that we must also be careful to respect other people’s opinions. 

How do you react in front of your kids when you see someone practicing a different habit of mask-wearing than you? Do you ridicule them? 

If you learn that another parent is allowing (or not allowing) their kids’ friends to come over and that’s not what you would do, do you allow your emotions to get the best of you and put labels on that parent? 

These negative reactions add fuel to the breakdown of emotional boundaries, and our kids sense this. Modeling appropriate emotional boundaries is essential to helping our children have appropriate emotional boundaries

2. Explain the importance of respecting others even when they do things differently. Modeling is one thing. But it’s so important to follow this up with a good conversation with your children about why you still show respect to others, despite the differences in the way they do things. 

After being in a store where some are wearing masks and others aren’t, take the opportunity to say something like, “Did you notice that some people were/were not wearing masks? Our family doesn’t do that, and this is why… However, that doesn’t give us permission to speak mean or disrespect people who don’t do what we do. They have their reasons for doing that, just like we have our reasons for doing this.

3. Be confident in who you are, even when others are disrespectful. Your kids are in situations where they see the glares between mask-wearers and non-mask-wearers in the stores. Or, one kid in the neighborhood might make fun of another for not being allowed to play outside with others. I’ve even heard some rather rude comments between strangers when it comes to social distancing. 

Help your children understand that people don’t always understand that it’s okay for others to do things differently and that they may react in ways that are disrespectful and make you feel bad. These kinds of reactions from others encroach on their emotional well-being. 

Say something like, we can’t help what other people say or think about us. But we have to be okay with who we are. We wear masks/don’t wear masks… play/don’t play outside with others… go to/don’t go to other people’s houses, because this is what our family thinks is best. It won’t always be like this, but right now we are making the best decisions for our family that we know how to. 

Lessons That Go Beyond the Pandemic

Resilience, self-confidence, security, respect of others and self-respect—these are all characteristics that come out of teaching our children about emotional boundaries. And there is no doubt we all need these to keep ourselves from going bonkers during this time in the pandemic. 

However, what you need to remember is that these lessons go way beyond the here and now. And perhaps there is no greater opportunity than during this crazy, emotional situation. You have the chance to instill in your children how to have strong emotional boundaries in the face of adversity. Your kids will need these skills for the rest of their lives. Don’t waste this opportunity to teach them.

For many of us parents, this time of social distancing and self-quarantine caught us off guard.

Before, we might have had small chunks of time spent at home, like when a child was sick. However, quarantine has more than doubled and even tripled the amount of time that I spend with my children. Back in the good old days in March, my sons would spend over seven hours at school. Once they came home, it would be dinner, homework, chores and some video gaming time. Then it would be off to bed. In reality, we didn’t spend lots of time together. 

Now with concentrated togetherness, work from home and virtual school, I am starting to see parts of them that I didn’t know existed. (Some of those traits remind me of me.) I am starting to have all these doubts and questions creeping in:

  • Am I doing this right?
  • What am I doing wrong?
  • Do we have enough (time, money, energy) to do this?
  • Do I have what it takes to parent my child?
  • Is this really how my child behaves at school?
  • Am I ruining their life, education and future?
  • In my heart of hearts, I am asking myself:  Am I A Bad Parent?

Questioning yourself as a parent can be a GOOD thing! (But be careful!)

When we became parents, we dreamed of our child’s future—what type of schools they would attend, the activities that they would participate in, and the friends they would have. Never in that dream did we consider a “global pandemicand how it would affect school, interaction with friends, and our family.

I have chosen to view this time as a Reset Button for myself and my family. I haven’t camped out with fear and guilt, but I have been introspective:

  • As a family, what are our priorities?
  • What can I control and what can I not control?
  • When it comes to my children, what type of relationship do I want?
  • What does my child need from me as their parent?

Accept that you did the best that you could.

Most of us were not taught how to be teachers. We don’t have medical training. We have never experienced a pandemic that mandated shelter-in-place. This is uncharted territory, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, make it a learning opportunity. Have a family meeting and have a conversation with your children to see how they are doing. Take the emotional temperature of your family. Learn, then let yourself off the hook.

Recognize that there will be a transition out of quarantine.

As we prepare to “re-enter” the world, take some time to process how you have changed as a parent and what you may want to change going forward.

From Guilt to Action

Asking yourself these questions can move you from feeling guilty to taking action:

  • Am I confusing being a good parent with being a perfect parent?
  • Am I taking care of me to be the best version of myself?
  • Is the issue really exhaustion from work, virtual schooling and parenting?
  • What are the lessons that I can teach my children during this time?
  • Am I the parent that my child needs me to be during this time?

Asking yourself these questions can help you learn from this quarantine time:

  • What have I learned from and about my kids?
  • How has my family benefitted from this time together?
  • What has been a struggle for us?
  • How will we as a family be different after the quarantine ends?
  • How will I parent differently after quarantine?

It’s always good to be trying to improve as a parent, but it is easy to fall into the perfection trap and end up sitting in feelings of fear and guilt. This doesn’t benefit you or your kids.

Routines and consistency are vital to the growth of our children. Research tells us this and experience confirms it. But you know what? A global pandemic tends to be a routine-buster! Nothing rocks our daily flow more than the sudden closing of schools and businesses. 

So what did we do? Families had to make adjustments to meet a new temporary normal. Bedtimes shifted. Morning routines looked radically different. Navigating a “normal” day became a balance of school, work, video conferencing, and the ever-continuing struggle of screen time. 

For us, our kids’ bedtime shifted later in hopes that they might sleep a little later in the morning (that was a fail). The morning rush and commute was gone. Screen times increased for our kids, partially due to school, but mostly to help us get work done. Spring baseball was just a memory. Our biggest adjustments really were figuring out how to both work remotely and help our second grader with school. 

But here we are, eight weeks in and businesses and restaurants are reopening, childcare centers that may have been closed or limited to essential personnel are taking steps to welcome all of their kids back. Not only that, but the school year has ended, and for many of us, summer camps are now nonexistent. Virtual learning at least provided some sort of structure for our kids. My son knew he had assignments to do daily and when his video calls were… and he reminded us often. 

Now it’s time to shift routines again and get back on track. In just a few short weeks, my wife returns to work at a childcare center. My 4-year-old will also return to her childcare center sometime in the month of June. My son needs some structure for the summer as I still work remotely. So, what do we change? How do we return to some sense of the routines that we had before? 

Questions to Ask to Help You Get Back on Track

As we discussed this as a family, we asked ourselves some questions.

  • What do we begin to shift now to prepare our kids to return to a new schedule?  Bedtimes, for instance, need to adjust. Take gradual steps to resume a pre-quarantine bedtime. The same could be said for morning routines. We can make small steps to reclaim some of our routines in this area starting with what time we all get up. Abrupt changes are difficult for everyone—but especially for kids.
  • What have we started doing during this quarantine that we want to keep? Our kids have had tremendously more free, creative play. We have spent more evenings around the fire pit. More time has been spent in the hammock. How do we protect these things that have brought so much joy? 
  • What do we want to learn over the summer? As I look for ways to fill my son’s days, I’ll start by asking him what he wants to learn more about. What can we explore as a family that will continue their learning? Just because summer is over doesn’t mean learning has to end, but it can be fun learning experiences.

Prepare for Transition to Get Back on Track

As your family begins to discuss this next transition, here are 3 recommendations I have:

  1. Get your mindset right. Mentally prepare for transitions in your routines. Get ready for the battles that you may have to fight.
  2. Get your plan together. Have a family meeting to discuss this time of transition. (Check out this blog for some great ideas.) What does your specific situation require? This is a great opportunity to reinforce with kids why routines are important and why we have to also be flexible and make changes sometimes. 
  3. Get tough skin. (If you don’t already have it.) Let’s face it—kids don’t like change. Many of us adults don’t either. You may have had weeks with much less structure, but now we have to make more changes. Not everyone will be happy, but that’s okay. 

★ Nothing says that we have to return to the same routine as we had before the quarantine. Take this opportunity to evaluate what you as a family really want to do and what you value. You don’t have to make life as busy as it was before. ★

During this pandemic, we have been inundated with guilt overload and messages about how our families should take advantage of this concentrated time together. The internet has become the panacea of all work and productivity-related, education-related and family engagement information. It has provided activities for families to do together from going to virtual museum tours to home improvement projects that include the kids, to all types of digital familial interactions.

There’s lots of good information out there, but it can make you feel guilty if you aren’t careful.

Some of us feel encouraged and empowered by this time. That’s awesome! Some of us are overwhelmed, or, dare I say, feel a lot of guilt. We are trying to keep up the multiple roles of worker, teacher, spouse and parent. It has been difficult to manage these roles with any sense of balance. 

The Problem of Guilt Overload

If I focus on work, and my children need me, I feel like I failed as a worker.  

If I spend time with my family, and I take a work call or email, I feel like I failed as a parent. 

Guilt is the name of the game. To be honest, if I see another article about how to work productively at home, I might scream. If I see another picture-perfect moment of family togetherness on social media, I may hurt somebody (metaphorically, of course).

I am weary of feeling unproductive as a worker and guilty as a parent. I’m supposed to meet deadlines AND spend quality time with my family since we are together at home. Somehow. This is the first time we have ever dealt with a situation such as COVID-19 and its impact on our lives (at work and at home). Many of us have sought to keep those two parts of our lives separated. Now, they are crashing into one another. 

How Can We Get Out Of This Rut Of Guilt Overload and Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda? 

1. Realize that there is no ONE right way to deal with parenting and working during a PANDEMIC.

As parents, we pressure ourselves so much to be the PERFECT PARENT when we spend time with our children. We want “magic moments” all the time. Now that we are home together during this time, we often have the same expectations. Be realistic and intentional about the family activities you choose. Most times the “magic” happens as we give ourselves permission to do things DIFFERENTLY, not PERFECTLY. 

We are also tasked with being productive while we work at home as well. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK. This is new for everyone. Productivity will look different. We may work after the kids go to bed or get up early before “home school.” Work will get done, but maybe not in the same way as before COVID-19.

2. Choose the voices that you listen to.

We are BOMBARDED with messages from friends, family, news, social media and even our own voice on how we “should” be dealing with social distancing, homeschooling and working from home. You have an opportunity to make a conscious decision on how to handle homeschooling, upcoming summer plans and continued work from home. Now is the time to make your own way—not to be or feel judged by another “picture-perfect” Facebook or Instagram moment. 

3. Our kids are listening to and watching us.

Kids feed off our emotions. If you feel anxious or stressed, your child’s behavior or mood may mirror yours. If teaching history to your youngster is frustrating, ask yourself, “How can I do this differently?” Friends of mine watched the movie National Treasure to get their daughter curious about history. Remember, beating up yourself does no one ANY GOOD—especially your KIDS. 

I have recognized that GUILT, “the gift that keeps on giving,” benefits no one. I have to be okay doing the best I can with what I have and what I know. In the midst of my upside-down crazy life, I am choosing to remember the words of John Lennon:

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

Children are funny—at least mine are. I love them to death, but if I had to explain why they do, say or think many of the things they do, I’d be up the creek. Sometimes there is no rationale or logic. Kids are weird sometimes. 

And it’s very possible that, if your experience is anything like mine, they are doing just fine in quarantine during this COVID-19 pandemic situation. I asked my youngest (she’s 11) the other day if there was anything she liked about being in quarantine. She muttered, “Eh, I guess so. Maybe.”

Typical. 

Then she proceeded to play outside for three hours, baked some cookies, and watched a movie with the family. I think she’s doing alright. 

So this article is for all you parents out there whose kids seem happier being in quarantine and have thought, what do I do with that? And I’d like to suggest that exploring why our kids are happier during quarantine can make us a better parent. 

The Two Sides of Why Kids Are Happier 

So, just why are the kids happier during quarantine? There could be two sides to that answer— a healthy side and a not-so-healthy side. We can learn from both. 

Maybe you’ve seen the not-so-healthy side of happier-quarantined kids. You see the signs:

  • The video game console burns more electricity than the refrigerator
  • Their bedroom door is always shut, all day, and you’re starting to wonder what your kid looks like. 
  • The pantry is now a free-for-all, and you’re beginning to miss those sweet school lunch ladies who you had never met before. 

Granted, this doesn’t necessarily reflect every happy kid’s quarantine experience. But if it does, these are signs you might not have noticed before in the normal humdrum of life. Now that you are together more often, you notice the patterns and the red flags go up. 

But there’s possibly a healthier side to why children might be happier in quarantine. 

Kids are happier when families do stuff together. They love being around each other. Even teens, who typically need time away from parents as a normal part of their development, find comfort, belonging, connection and a more solidified identity when the family is more available. (But don’t expect them to tell you that!)

True, many kids miss seeing their friends (as do many adults). But consider the idea that the last few years of technology have possibly conditioned kids for quarantine. They, especially teens, are already accustomed to hanging out with friends and family electronically. 

Another explanation for quarantine-induced happiness in your kids: During the quarantine, have you noticed how much you are jumping from activity to activity, grabbing dinner on the go, not enough room for good family conversation, just like in pre-quarantine times? No? That’s because you probably aren’t. 

With the cancellation of baseball, dance lessons, band practice and other extracurriculars that devoured the family calendar, the pressure of jumping from activity to activity with little downtime has disappeared. Consequently, so has the pressure to do everything well. And kids really like this. 

One more possible reason kids are just happier in this crazy situation: They can focus on schoolwork better, and for shorter periods of time during the day. 

Schools are wonderful places, and the hardworking educators and administrators who devote their lives to kids are invaluable. But I also know that schools inherently contain distractions that, frankly, aren’t present at home. Rowdy peers, bullies, loud environments, busy hallways, busy lunchrooms, busy work—these can easily interfere with an otherwise productive day at school. At home during quarantine, kids can do what we all like to do—get in there, get their work finished and move on to more exciting things in the day. 

Ask ‘Em About Happiness

So how do we go about exploring these ideas with your children and gaining some parenting perspective? One simple answer to this is, ask them

  • What have you liked about being in quarantine? 
  • Is there anything you have not liked? If so, what is it?
  • What has made you happy being in quarantine? 
  • How has school been different for you in good ways? In bad ways? 
  • Are there things we’ve done in quarantine that we normally didn’t do before as a family? Are there things you would like to do as a family that we’ve not done before? 
  • Is there anything we did in pre-quarantine that we haven’t been able to do now, and you don’t miss it?

I believe knocking around these questions with your kids can make a big difference in how we parent and what we can look forward to in the future. It’s going to take intentional conversations, and depending on the number, age and personalities of your children, you may need to choose your strategy carefully. 

Younger kids may need help to articulate answers to these questions without putting your words in their mouths. With preteens and teens, you might have to wait for the “the right time,” the “teachable moment,” to bring up the subject. Some kids like to know these questions ahead of time before giving answers so they have time to think about it; others love spontaneous conversation. You know your children well and can figure out (sometimes through trial and error) how best to approach these questions with them. 

How It Will Be After The New Norm

The big question here is, how will what you learn from your kids about being happier in quarantine affect how you parent after the quarantine? 

What will your family focus on more? Less? And how do you want to direct your parenting based on what you discover during quarantine?  

These are the kinds of questions that simply take time and ongoing conversation in order to draw solid conclusions. But keep this one big idea in mind: The experience of going through quarantine will impact our kids for the future, but not nearly as much as how we parent during the quarantine. 

The ways in which your family has shifted during the pandemic—spending more time together, eating more meals together, slowing down, enjoying the outdoors more, having more intentional conversations, making time for more play and fun (in other words, all the reasons my funny, weird kids say they’re happier)—these are all touchstones to be cultivated by us, the parents, for the future. 

What we do now helps kids navigate transitions, deal with change and stress, develop resilience, foster positive values, make tough decisions in the face of the crowd. Because, hey—that’s life, right? 

Talk to your kids about what’s making them happy right now. Lean into what they say (or what they do after they mutter I don’t know). We can learn a lot from what’s making our kids happy.

I was in my home office when I heard gut-wrenching screams and wild barking. The dad-adrenaline shot straight to my brain, and I was out the front door quicker than you can say “ankle-biting poodle.” 

Teaching your child what to do when confronted with a strange dog is one thing. Teaching her what to do when confronted with a charging dog while overcome with terror is quite another. 

As my feet left the top porch step and hit the grass of the front yard, my eyes perceived in slow-motion a medium-sized canine barreling across the lawn toward the heels of my sprinting, wailing 8-year-old daughter. In a matter of near-perfect timing and full stride, I jumped in between them, gave the beast my best WWE professional-wrestler-stare, and (quite literally) ROARED at the animal (think Mufasa confronting the hyenas). 

The pursuing mutt immediately wielded a sharp U-turn and trotted in the opposite direction, head hung low and tail between legs. (It was hard to tell through all the adrenaline, but I’m pretty sure he whined out an apology from a safe distance). 

I admit—I felt pretty darn cool. It’s just a shame the rest of the neighborhood wasn’t outside to see it. 

But the most important part of this story is what followed. Once the adrenaline drained from both of us, my daughter and I sat down to talk about what happened and for me to bestow my invaluable fatherly wisdom.

You see, I was taught growing up that if a dog comes at you, don’t run; if you do, you’re acting like prey, and its wild wolf-like instincts are going to kick in (even with the little ankle-biting poodles), and it’s gonna chase you. Stand your ground, look it in the eye, and establish your dominance

Yeah, try explaining all this to an 8-year-old shaking in her sneakers. And consequently, through our conversation I learned some dad lessons on talking to your child about fear. But now we have something else nipping at the heels of our kids: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Virus?

COVID-19 has our world in a fearful, anxious tizzy. And children are not the least of who are impacted. Kids may not fully understand the situation (Heck, most adults don’t fully understand…), but they sense enough to know that things are amiss—so much so that it feels like this virus is right behind them, ready to pounce. 

And, as much as we want to, it’s not like we as parents can step in between with a wrestler stare and roar the virus into a U-turn. Things are just more… complicated than that.


So how do we help our kids through the fear of COVID-19? I’d like to offer some steps you can take: 

Help your child understand good fear and bad fear.

Fear does serve a good purpose. It protects us, keeps us from harm, helps us survive. But good fear happens in the context of short-term, isolated threats. It gives us the ability to run away from ankle-biting poodles. 

But fear isn’t helpful to us when it’s long-lasting. This is good-fear-turned-bad and can be detrimental to the emotional and physical health and development of children.  

Help your child to understand good fear and bad fear by using words like these: You know, some things scare us because we know there is danger, like unfamiliar dogs or snakes or electrical sockets. And this fear is goodit helps keep us safe

But sometimes we have fear about something and we don’t know why. We think it might be dangerous, but we don’t know for sure. And so it makes us worry for a very long time. For example, sometimes people are afraid of the dark; it’s not because they know what’s in the dark, but because they don’t know what’s there. And what’s happening with the virus might be scaring you, not because you know what’s going to happen, but because you don’t know. 

Normalize fear for your child—even if it’s irrational.

Let your child know it’s okay to be afraid. Say things like, Everyone is afraid of something. And there are a lot of peopleeven adultswho are scared of what’s going on with the virus. It’s okay to be scared. What we want to do is learn more about it and what we need to do to be safe. That way, we don’t have to worry so much. We’re going to work through this together. 

Keep in mind that normalizing fear for your child means validating their fear as a real thing, no matter how irrational it is. Yes, you as an adult know that chances are extremely low that your child could catch the virus simply by walking outside. However, if this is the fear your child has, it’s their fear. This means it’s very real to them no matter how unreasonable it might seem. 

Understand as a parent that fear isn’t something to “get over” but to work through.

It’s a process. Fear is an emotional reaction, and you can’t just fix emotions—especially in kids! So you have to have patience, and encourage your child to be patient with themselves. 

And keep in mind that there’s a bigger picture with helping our kid work through the process of fear. Yes, we are helping them to work through the situation at hand. But perhaps more importantly, we are helping them to build RESILIENCE and PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS that will go with them into their teen and adult years. 

Teach emotional self-regulation.

Encourage them to verbalize how they feel. If it helps, have them write down a few sentences that describe more specifically what they are afraid of. 

Use a tool like the Wheel of Emotion (below) to give your child the language about how they feel about COVID-19. Sure, they may be “fearful” or “scared,” but this helps kids pinpoint some feelings like “helpless,” “nervous,” or “worried” which helps them process what they’re feeling inside. This opens up great conversation with your child, which is essential for processing fear. 

'I Feel' - Emotional Word Wheel

Finally, encourage your child to engage in healthy behaviors regularly such as active play, engaging with their friends and family online, and plenty of rest

I’ve found it helpful to teach my youngest deepbreathing techniques to use when she feels stressed, which can be found on various mindfulness websites and apps. These are all skills which will help your child regulate their fear and gain a sense of calm. 

Coach your child to give their fear a name.

I heard of one family whose child was afraid of the dark, so they directed her to give her fear a name, much like you’d name a pet. The moniker she chose for her fear was “Bob.” Whenever she felt that fear creep into her head at night, the little girl would call it out verbally, and say something like, “Not tonight, BobI don’t have time to deal with you because I really want to get some sleep. So, Bob, you need you to scram!” 

This might seem sort of trite, but in reality this helps children (especially the younger ones) realize the control they have over their emotions. Giving it a name takes the edge off of fear. It also empowers the child to boss it around rather than allowing it to boss her around. 

Regulate your own fears.

Your kids follow your lead. They look to you as an example of healthy emotional regulation and fear management. How well are you taking care of yourself in the midst of the pandemic? If you’re freaking out and not practicing self-care, your kids will play Monkey-See-Monkey-Do. So be sure you are taking care of yourself and regulating your own emotions well. For good resources, read I’m Too Afraid To Leave the House Because of COVID-19 and watch this video on self-care during COVID-19. 

Let’s be real: Ankle-nipping dogs have nothing on the COVID-19 pandemic. But as parents we can teach them either to run away and wail, or to process through it and face down the fear with a ROAR. And they’ll take that ROAR with them the rest of their life. 

A crisis can teach us a lot about ourselves. It can magnify our shortcomings and challenge our beliefs. It can shine a light onto our priorities—from how we spend our time, to what we spend our energy talking about, to where we spend our money. This is as good a time as any to reset and be intentional about how we, as a family, open back up for business. 

Let’s not leave anything to chance. You must be intentional. Intentional about time together, building relationships within the home, connecting with those you care about, not over-scheduling and self-care. Make a family plan to live on purpose post-COVID-19

THE EXERCISE

Step 1: Gather with your spouse and/or children.

Call together a family meeting. A family meeting shows that this is important. It also shows that you want everyone’s input. 

Step 2: Play a game, have a dance-off, start a pillow fight! Get the blood flowing!

Doing something fun first helps create a positive atmosphere where ideas can flow. It can set the stage for amazing creativity.

Step 3: Things to discuss that can help you develop your family plan.

Note: Pick and choose the questions that are most appropriate for your family. Older children may appreciate the opportunity to write answers to some of these questions ahead of time.

  1. What did you like most about being quarantined?
  2. What was the toughest part about being quarantined?
  3. Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what?
  4. How do you think the quarantine affected our family in a positive way?
  5. Did we do anything during quarantine that we want to keep doing?
  6. What parts of pre-quarantine family life do you not want to go back to?
  7. What are our family’s biggest strengths? Biggest weaknesses?
  8. What does success as a family look like? How can we work together as a family to achieve that success?
  9. Who are the people outside of this family (extended family, friends, neighbors) that we care about?
  10. How could we be intentional to care for them and stay connected?

Step 4: PLAN

Work together to develop a family plan that reflects the thoughts and conclusions from your discussion in Step 3. Be sure that your plan includes how you will:

  • Spend time together as a family. (Number of meals you’ll eat together each week. How often you’ll do a family activity. Schedule one-on-one time.)
  • Choose a family-friendly number of extracurricular activities to participate in. (Consider how much time it will take. Pros and cons. Is this just a good thing or is it the best thing for me and our family? Are we over-scheduling? The cost to the entire family.)
  • Regulate screen time. (Check out our technology in the home resources.) 
  • Connect with those outside of your family that you care about. (Visits, phone calls, video-chats, gifts, etc.)

When crafting your plan, aim to be realistic. Be willing to adjust your plan if you overshoot your expectations. The goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s to have stronger relationships. Your plan may start with 5 meals per week. After a few weeks, you may realize that 5 meals per week are not realistic for your family. You may end up adjusting your plan to 1 or 2 meals per week. 

What’s important is that you prioritize your time as a family. Hard decisions may have to be made by everyone– often, starting with the parents’ choice of activities that they are involved in. This must be done if you’re going to purposefully bring the lessons your family has learned during the quarantine into your post-quarantine life. 

Dr. Gary Oliver, Executive Director of the Center for Healthy Relationships, wrote: “When 1,500 school children were asked the question, ‘What do you think makes a happy family?’ the most frequent answer was ‘doing things together.’”

The happiness and the belonging that comes with doing things together helps children have the confidence, security, and identity they need to leave their home and face the world.

Mother’s Day is just a few days away and if you’re anything like me, the thought of how to celebrate your mom when you can’t be together during a pandemic has been a little bit of a challenge. This year is going to look different. Travel plans have changed. Restaurants aren’t functioning at full capacity and her favorite stores are still in the middle of trying to open. Having the whole family come into town to celebrate is unlikely, so we must be creative.

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re miles away from your mom this Mother’s Day. If so, let’s find a way to make the special woman who always goes out of her way for you to feel celebrated.

Instead of guessing what my mom would like or settling for something an ad told me would be perfect for her, I got personal

I went to the source and had a conversation with my sweet momma, Suzette.

Earlier this week I asked her if I could interview her for a blog. She was excited to help from the get-go. What better way to show your mom you love her than by showing her you need her, value her words of wisdom and opinions? So, we hopped on FaceTime.

Me: What is your favorite way to be celebrated?

Suzette: There’s nothing I love more than family gatherings. Spending time together, having real conversations and talking just to get to know each other.

Me: With this pandemic keeping us from all getting together, what do you think we could do instead?

Suzette: Well, technology has made it easy to be all under one roof despite the circumstances. All I have to do is set my laptop on the kitchen table and you all will be sitting here with me. I think it’d be nice to share a meal at the same time together in different cities and change up what we talk about. Have fun conversations like, “Where do you want to travel to when this is over?” and “Is there anything you’ve discovered recently that keeps you up way later than you anticipated?”

(I think it’d be nice to go around the Zoom screen and say one thing we are grateful for or admire about our mom.)

Me: What do we do to make you feel loved when my sisters and I all live in different cities?

Suzette: Honestly, responding to my silly texts and watching the videos I send you all. Having longer conversationswhich quarantine has blessed me with you all having more time to talk because you all aren’t running around as much! Is there a way I can keep that? When you all were growing up [starts to laugh] I could just trap you all in the car and say we are going on an adventure and we’d have all the time to talk I wanted, and you all loved it!

Me: [Laughing and nodding] I mean this is true.

Suzette: I also love it when you all ask about my interests and want to get to know me as who I am now. Because it’s really different not having you three girls around and being a single mom. There’s no one here to encourage me with just a smile or by spending time together. I’ve always been my own woman, but nothing can beat the pride of being your mom.

Me: I know we can get busy and have a bad tendency to put off responding to a text or calling back or only talking when we have to. I’d love to encourage you in what you’re doing, you’ve always been very supportive of me!

Suzette: I would love that! You girls’ opinions mean more to me than anyone’s. I think I would feel celebrated and loved just by hearing you all interested in the things I love, like Scotland! It doesn’t take anything but effort. If I know you’ve spent time picking out and then writing me a letter or crafted something or set aside time to Facetime and see each other’s faces and see into each other’s daily lives, I feel loved. It’s pretty simple really.

Just from taking the time to interview my mom, she felt like a more valuable part of my life. She reminded me that kids are a mom’s most prized relationship and that there’s nothing she’s more proud of.

The bottom line is to talk to your mom before Mother’s Day. Ask her some of the questions I asked my mom. Enjoy learning about her (and getting the answer of what she wants for Mother’s Day) all in one call! It’s a win-win.

If you want to physically thank your mom for all she’s done, here are some gift ideas my mom gave me!

  1. Send a card. Take the time to write why you appreciate your mom.
  2. Make her something! She will love that you thought about her and took the time to follow through. Yes, go back to the artwork on the refrigerator days! I must confess, my drawings would not look much different now, so I would opt for making her a pair of earrings because that is something I’m good at.
  3. Send a bouquet of flowers. Ask what her favorites are. Add a note and tell her she’s been a big part of helping you bloom (everyone loves a good pun).
  4. Choose a book to read together. Not only would you be sending her a book, but you’d be inviting her into more time together. How’s that? By sharing thoughts on the book during and/or after you both finish it!
  5. Order a takeout delivery from her favorite restaurant. You all can plan to eat dinner together virtually if you usually take her out!

This Mother’s Day, let’s be intentional about how we celebrate our mothers despite the circumstances that may keep us apart. She always found a way to do the same for you—whether there were a million things on the schedule, money was tight, you were sick or plans were canceled. 

It is your turn to do the same.

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. And when it comes to COVID-19 and quarantine, most of us have experienced some sort of trauma around the situation. Actually acknowledging that is part of our healing process as people seek to get on with their lives.

As we all mentally prepare for life after quarantine, it will be helpful to consider what we have been through. It will also help us if we are intentional about creating a path forward. Many have said they don’t want to go back to the way things were.

Consider these things as you prepare for life after quarantine.

When we entered into quarantine, quite a few adults and children were exhausted from the chaotic pace we kept. Now, it is totally possible that you are dealing with exhaustion because of the intensity of what you’ve been through. Being mentally and physically tired can cause us to not think clearly. It can also cause us to make irrational decisions that we normally wouldn’t make and behave in ways that are unlike our typical selves.

Perhaps the first order of business is to take a few minutes and assess how you are feeling. Many of us, out of necessity, have had to keep our guard up throughout these last 40-plus days. Unfortunately, that may have kept us from actually ever acknowledging how we were really doing. As we prepare to come out on the other side of quarantine, now is a good time to consider that.

What are you physically and emotionally ready to jump back into? Although many say they would never have stopped all their family activities, the break has been nice for some. As things ramp back up, do you have the bandwidth or even the desire to go back to that level of busyness? Or do you want to use this as an opportunity to eliminate some things from the schedule? This could be a great exercise for the whole family.

What if we’re not feeling okay?

Some of us might feel like we are not okay—whether due to job loss, money tension, intense anxiety about getting COVID-19 or dealing with family members. There are many who may need the help of a third party to help us process everything, acknowledge emotions around the experience and create a game plan for being able to move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know a good counselor, you probably have friends who do. Keep in mind that selecting a counselor is a lot like choosing a doctor. Having good chemistry with your counselor can help you accomplish the work you need to do to feel better.

Don’t underestimate the importance of good self-care as you move into life after quarantine. I know we’ve all been hearing it throughout the time we have been sequestered. However, it really does make a difference in our ability to think straight, make healthy decisions, problem solve and interact with difficult people. Exercise, get good rest, eat well and be intentional about having conversations with people who make your heart happy.

Keep in mind that while your children may not have been under the same types of stress that you have, they have still experienced something traumatic. As you develop your plan for re-entry, talk with them about what you have in mind. Seeking their input will help ease anxiety and give them a level of comfort about adjusting to a new routine.

And, let’s just not forget the power of unspoken expectations. You may have ideas about how things will go for you and your family when it comes to re-entry. For example, you may say you are for sure not going to be involved in so many activities. You might even say you are going to take it very slow when it comes to putting yourselves back out there. However, if everybody is not clear about your expectations and what moving forward looks like, it could lead to some unnecessary drama… and can we all agree that we’ve had enough of that?

Before we wrap up, just want to put this out there: It is possible and probable that you will have friends or family members who don’t agree with your plan. They may think you’re not being cautious enough or you are being too cautious. In the words of a 4-year-old to her father as she was trying to buckle herself in her carseat: “You worry about yourself!” There is no one right way to navigate through life after quarantine. Figure out what works for your family and encourage others to worry about themselves. Respect and kindness toward everybody, even those we don’t agree with, goes a long way. 

So, it is important to make a plan for life after quarantine, but it may be best to hold the plan loosely because we have no idea what lies ahead. Being willing to adapt and adjust over time will probably serve all of us well as we move forward. 

Businesses are opening. Restaurants, gyms, retail, places of worship—all opening or communicating plans to open. You can feel the shift in the air. Are you ready for life after quarantine?

Family and friends are politely gauging my interest in social gatherings. 

Updates from little league coaches are hitting my notifications. 

People are having discussions about going back to the office. 

Lots of people are tentatively planning birthday parties. 

The kid’s scout troop is considering one last event.

My small group is toying with the idea of moving from virtual meetings to in-person.

It’s not official yet, but just realizing “life” is looking to restart is making my head spin. 

This quarantine has some advantages. We’re not eating out so much since we’re not going from work to whatever activity is on the schedule next. My wife and I are not having to “divide and conquer” to get everyone to their respective destinations. Instead of saying, “Everybody out of the car, get a snack, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas and go to bed!after we get home from another late night engagement, our evening and bedtime routines are more peaceful. I actually know my kids better now, and I’ve taken the time to connect more deeply with my wife. 

I am genuinely afraid of losing all that positive momentum we’ve gained. I’m afraid that we’ll become too busy again. Is not entering the rat race an option? Why do we do it year after year? Do we have to?

We do this for noble reasons:

  • Wanting to make significant contributions to our community.
  • Wanting our children to be well-rounded and wanting to expose them to individuals who were set up to succeed in anything they chose. 
  • Sitting at home is not as fun or engaging as going to event after event. 
  • It seems to be the right thing to do for ourselves, our marriage and our kids.

But, I like the nighttime pillow talk with my wife that I’m not too tired to have anymore, the spontaneous fun with my kids, and the extended conversations with my mom who lives by herself. I’ve had more meaningful conversations with some of my closest friends than I’ve had in years. I’m afraid of losing all that.

As you prepare for your world to open back up, intentionally reflect on how the quarantine affected your life. Instead of busting out of your home as soon as you can, consider any lessons you’ve learned about yourself, your spouse, and your family. What did you learn during quarantine? Bring the growth you’ve experienced into your post-quarantined life. As afraid as we may be of becoming too busy again, we should be more afraid of wasting this moment in time. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***