If one of the top issues couples fight about is money, then a worldwide pandemic where uncertainty fills the air is certain to magnify financial disagreements. It’s to be expected.

Stimulus checks

Job uncertainty

Job layoffs and unemployment

Food and grocery shortages

Kids at home 24/7

Whether you were in a financial rhythm or not, the changes or potential changes can cause significant conflict. And it’s not because there’s too much or not enough money. It’s because you both have an opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done with the money. And there’s a good chance that you’re both certain that you’re right. 

There’s some frivolous things that people can spend money on that are not helpful for the current situation. However, that’s not what I’m trying to address. The question is: How can we come together and make financial decisions for our family in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19?

Have Priorities Changed?

There’s an old saying, “If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their bank statement.” It may be time for a discussion between the two of you regarding what is most important during this time of change and uncertainty. Prior to this quarantine, education, being debt-free, creating memorable experiences and family togetherness were tops on our list. We often tried to take advantage of several educational opportunities, feverishly paid down debts and would go all out to celebrate birthdays and holidays to create memorable experiences.

That’s changed—at least temporarily. Financial security, home improvement and family togetherness are top priorities now. We’re saving as much as possible and working on repairs as if we’re preparing to sell our home. 

Family togetherness is in both lists, but it’s interesting how they look different when you are trying to save money instead of focusing on creating memorable experiences. 

Couples that can come to an agreement on the current priorities take a huge step into making financial decisions together. Before deciding what to do with money, first agree with what’s important to the family.

As a Team, Assess Where You Are. 

Basic questions to answer: 

  • Do we have enough money for all of our current and necessary expenses? 
  • Do we need to cut spending? 
  • Is it possible to increase our income? 

The ability to answer these questions together helps couples lay a framework for working together. Notice, we haven’t made any financial decisions or judgments yet about what those changes should be. We’ve simply identified our priorities and our current situation.

We’re Not Making Enough Money. What Needs to Change?

First, look at each other and agree that you’re going to make it through this together. There may not be enough money because of a pay cut, a layoff, increased medical expenses or you’re subjected to a natural disaster. This may be the first time that one or both of you has ever been in this situation. Fear, panic and anxiety can begin to grab hold. Being in a marriage means being on the same TEAM. Not having to face new challenges alone. Hugs, Kisses, and Affirmation are priceless when the money is tight. Turn toward one another, not away from one another.

Looking at your bank statement and financial decisions for the last month or two is really helpful in knowing where the money went—especially when trying to eliminate spending on things that aren’t priorities. Discussing payment options and deferments is something that many companies are willing to do during this time of quarantine. Check out this great blog my colleague wrote about getting help when the money isn’t there.

The key is to look at all options with an open mind and be creative. It’s easy to be attached to certain practices. We can get trapped in the mentality that if we don’t do this thing we do every year, then we’ll ruin little Johnny’s life. Is that really true?

Phrases to Avoid When Working Together to Cut Spending

  • We can’t cut that. This statement stifles creativity. You may ultimately land on some things that can’t be cut, but before using this phrase, you must exhaust all options.
  • That’ll make them so mad. Changes often evoke emotional responses that we must learn to deal with.
  • There’s nowhere to cut. This statement also stifles creativity. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Have an Open Mind. Be Creative. Work Together. Be Willing to Compromise. 

Your preferences can’t always be more important than your partner’s preferences. If you’re constantly fighting about what to cut, you may choose to focus on increasing your income. You also may develop a system to alternate who chooses what to cut. This is probably going to be painful for all involved. But that’s OK, you’re doing it together.

Is Increasing Income an Option?

You may be surprised at all the industries that are hiring during this season: cleaning services, delivery services (both food and packages), grocery stores, and landscaping, just to name a few. You may be good at tutoring or making specialty items of value. This may be the time to market your services. They may not fully replace your income. However, it may be better than nothing. 

Agreeing on the Assistance You Receive

Whether it’s the stimulus check, unemployment or any other infusion of cash, it’s important that the two of you agree about it before you spend it. You may likely have two different opinions on what to do with the money. Do we catch up on bills? Save it? Fix the car? Resubscribe to Netflix? 

Don’t feel like you have to make the decision the moment you get the money. Just be sure to work together. My wife and I have made an agreement that any infusion of cash cannot be spent until we come to an agreement together. Look at your necessities and priorities and work from there. 

Work Together—Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

This can be an anxious time. We can be susceptible to scams, quick fix payday loans, predatory loan sharks, and addictions. Committing to connect with one another to talk about money, to talk about life and to talk about your emotions can heighten your emotional security and peace when you’re not sure if you can pay the light bill this month. 

However, with the right attitude toward one another and a commitment to working together as a team, the two of you can navigate through anything and be stronger for it.

***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.***

Since we are in quarantine and I’m dying to get out, do you mind if I pretend we are sitting at a coffee shop, and you just said, I think COVID-19 has made my teen hate me, and we just have a chat? Cool. Oh, who am I? I’m the father of four kids who were teens and one who still is. (I’m looking forward to being a retired teen parent.) I’ve also spent 25 years in classrooms working with teens. So you’re having coffee with as close to a teen expert as you’re probably going to get in this imaginary coffee shop. It will help if you pretend we are really close friends, too, so I can be pretty blunt with you.

I have so many questions for you, my imaginary coffee partner: What was your relationship with your teen like before being in quarantine? Have you considered how this unique time may have changed your teen? Have you considered how this unique time may have changed you? Is it possible that this quarantine has magnified some pre-existing issues in your relationship? Have you considered that teenagers may be here on earth to trouble their parents?

Bottom Line: Your teen probably doesn’t hate you. But they might.

Let me share the wise words of American author Ralph Waldo Emerson. (By the way, I taught English. Please pass the cream.) Anyway, he says in his essay Self-Reliance that “Every great man must learn how to estimate a sour face.” Paraphrased for our purposes, “Every great parent must learn how to estimate an I hate you from their teen.

I’m trying to lovingly raise a future independent adult. I’m operating from principles, for a purpose—not for popularity. Some of the wisest things I did as a parent were met with fierce anger from my kids and some of the dumbest things I did as a parent were met with great joy from my kids. I’m not into this parenting thing for an approval rating from someone whose brain literally will not fully develop for a few years. I’m trying to work myself out of a job by preparing my teen for the real world.

So, I’ve had to ask myself if my child was mad at me because I’m doing what’s right as a parent or is my child mad at me because I blew it and was way out of line and I needed to make it right.

Do I need to stick to my guns or be honest, humble myself, and apologize? That’s kinda why I said: Your teen probably doesn’t hate you. But they might.

Don’t Rush to Judgment.

But this whole COVID-19, quarantine, shelter-in-place, global pandemic thing, right? I wouldn’t rush to any judgments or hard conclusions during this time. Nobody is their best self right now, including you and your teen. You may have been thrust into the employee-teacher-parent role. That’s a lot to juggle at home. You may be really stressing out about the future and your finances. Maybe all of this has affected you more than you realize. Maybe you are treating your teen like you don’t like them. Are you taking care of yourself? (Mmm… This is a great latte!)

And don’t forget how all of this quarantine situation might be affecting your teen. Their life has been turned upside down. They’ve lost the cool parts of school—their friends, sports, band, and clubs, but they are left with the lame part of school—the work. (Which at this point in the year, might pretty much be online busy-work.) They might be really missing what they are missing. They might be worrying about the future and your finances, too. Or, they might not understand how to process the stress and anxiety that they feel. They might be bored. You become the prime target for them to take out their frustrations.

Finally, there’s the possibility that this quarantine has revealed and even magnified some issues in your relationship with your teen. That’s okay. Face them head-on and capitalize on this quarantine to connect or maybe reconnect with your teen. This blog, pretty much written by a teenager, might give you some pointers for connecting with your teen. It was really helpful for me.

Whether you and your teen are in quarantine or not, one parenting adage remains true: Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. Give that equation some real thought. Hang in there. Thanks for having coffee with me.

They told us we had a moderate chance of severe weather Easter night and to be weather aware. How many times have we heard that and the weather amounted to nothing to write home about?

Many went to sleep thinking if there was severe weather in the area, storm alerts would go off on phones and weather radios. Sadly, between 11 p.m. and midnight, a severe storm turning into an EF3 tornado ravaged our community. Thousands were left without power and hundreds with homes that were either destroyed or uninhabitable until repairs are made.

While we can see the physical devastation from the storm, there is an invisible aftermath. That aftermath is taking its toll on those who lived through the event, especially the children. It reveals itself in different ways depending on the age of the person. 

I have spoken to a number of parents who shared with me that their children are struggling to go to sleep at night. Some say their teenager, who has been totally independent, is now clinging to them and won’t leave their side. Others just seem lost and afraid. I thought it might be helpful to talk about some ways parents can provide comfort for their children as they try and deal with the trauma.

As children try to cope with what they experienced they might feel increased fear and/or anxiety that shows itself in different ways. It may be in the form of tantrums, crying for no apparent reason, acting in ways that seem defiant, not wanting to go to bed by themselves or not wanting to be alone, period. They could become especially clingy, not wanting to leave a parent’s side. 

As parents try to manage repairs and create some sense of “normal” for their family, this behavior could create additional angst for parents.

Here are some things you might find helpful as you seek to help your child process what happened.

Even though you are juggling a lot of things, be intentional about spending focused time with your children. Although their clinginess may get on your nerves, know that sitting in your lap, holding your hand, snuggling up next to you on the couch or in bed are all comforting to children who have experienced trauma.

For your older children, you may see them somewhat withdraw as they try to process what happened. Provide opportunities for open, honest conversation. Answer their questions as best you can. If your teen asks you if you think this could happen again, tell them the truth: It’s possible, but not likely. Consider how old you are and whether or not you have been in the path of a storm like this before. I have lived through a lot of storms, but nothing like the tornado. This helps give perspective to them as they process their experience. 

If you don’t know an answer to a question, say so. You might be able to find the answer together. Or it may just be a question that nobody really knows the answer to.

Where possible, create routines and structure. These two things can help restore a sense of normalcy for your family. People in general thrive on this because it helps them feel more in control (at least to some degree). 

Acknowledge the grieving that is going on and the loss of innocence for young children. In reality, they will never NOT remember this moment in time. Take care in how you talk with them, and assure them of your protective presence. Giving them the opportunity to write, talk and/or draw about what they are feeling and then explain it to you will help them process their emotions.

Playtime is important. Even in the midst of trying to get things done, take time out to do something fun. This can help to decrease anxiety and stress and help the healing process – even for the adults.

Adapting to change in general is often hard for people. It can be unsettling for everyone, especially children, when you are uprooted from your home and have to live somewhere else permanently or until repairs are complete. Don’t assume they grasp what is going on. Talk them through it by explaining it clearly. You might say, “Because of the damage to our home we are going to have to live in another place for a while, or we are going to have to look for a new place to live.”

If this is the only home your children have known, there will probably be some sadness and anxious feelings that you can actually talk about. However, don’t underestimate the calm that this can bring even to a 4-year-old who may not understand everything. Keep it simple and age appropriate. It helps decrease surprises which tend to increase anxiety in children. You might have to have the same conversation a number of times and that’s honestly to be expected. Be patient.

There are some things that are adult topics such as money constraints that children don’t need to know the details about. You can always say, “We can’t do that right now, but I will remember that you asked about that and when things settle down we will talk about it.”

Limit the amount of exposure your children have to the ongoing news, photos on social media and even conversations that you have around them. It is challenging as adults – triple that for children. All of the ongoing exposure keeps them from being able to recalibrate and settle down.

Take care of yourself. You’re probably really tired of hearing that phrase, but let people cook for you, help you clean up, provide food. Let others do anything that will allow you to conserve energy and be there for your children.

As you move forward, remember that every family is different. It’s normal to feel traumatized, have some flashbacks and feel on edge (hyper-vigilant) after something like this. These symptoms usually will subside or at least decrease over the next few weeks. There really is no easy fix. Things will not get better immediately. But paying attention to how you engage with your children, what you allow them to be exposed to and being intentional about talking with them and being physically close to them will bring comfort.

If they are still struggling to adjust over time, don’t be afraid to seek professional help for them. These things are scary, frustrating and hard to manage for us even as adults. Asking for what you need from others can help you get through the challenges you face. At the same time, it will help you be a healthier parent for your kids.

Some people saw How to Establish a Family Quiet Time and thought, “Yeah right. There’s just no way. You haven’t been to my house. You don’t know my kids.” 

I am just one of the latest work-at-home dads who is amazed at just how much activity, noise, and energy can be expended by my co-inhabitants. Who are the co-inhabitants? Two daughters (7 & 13), 5 sons (ages 5 months – 11 yrs), 1 wife (can’t put her age, it’s a violation of the code). That’s eight other people. Noise is the default. Not having some quiet time is not an option either. Otherwise, I’m really gonna lose my mind.

I’m not going to try and convince you on the importance of quiet time. I haven’t met a parent yet who doesn’t crave it when they are home all day with their children. I’m just going to empower you to establish a quiet time.

Step 1: Get Your Mind Right.

You’ve got to believe it can be done. They may resist and scream. They may dig deep into their bag of tricks to block the entry of a quiet time into your home. Don’t believe the lie. They don’t know what’s good for them.  Hear the voice of the man with 7 kids: “It can be done. You can do it.” It may not be perfect the first time, but whatever you do, don’t believe the lie. Which takes us to step #2.

Step 2: Prepare To Be Persistent.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You didn’t ride your bike perfectly the first time you took off the training wheels. They don’t believe that you’re serious unless you stick with it. Kids are wired to resist anything that their parents say is good for them at first, at least it seems that way. It’s not impossible just because it didn’t work out the first time. You’re going to have to stick with it.

Step 3: Family Meeting.

Gather the troop together and tell them, “Each day, we are going to have some quiet time in this home. It helps our minds to relax and our bodies to rest. You may not think you need it, but I, as your parent need it and your body will thank you for it. There is no room for negotiation on the fact that there will be a quiet time. You may negotiate what can be done during quiet time.

Step 4: Explain Why Their Quiet Time Is Your Productive Time.

In order to get more of the ‘me’ you like later, I’ve got to get done what I can now so that we can enjoy one another later.

Step 5: Establish Quiet Time Rules.

Acceptable activities during quiet time: Sleep, lay in bed, read, write, meditate. Prohibited activities include: Video games, calling/texting with outside people, playing with siblings. Quiet time is as much about your mind being quiet as it is simply taking a nap.

Note: Play that is not noisy and only involves one person is acceptable for my seven and up crew. For instance, my 7 year old may sit on her bed and play with her dolls for a full hour. My 9 year old may sit on his bed and build legos. My instructions to them, “I should not hear you. I should not see you. You should not need to ask me anything.” If they ask me something about the legos or the dolls, they are automatically prohibited from playing with them during quiet time. 

Step 6: Establish When And How Long.

Routines and Consistency is the name of the game. If your children had quiet time at school, schedule family quiet time at a similar time. Schedule quiet time around the same time each day. In our house, our routine is lunch at 12:00, play outside til 1:30, quiet time 1:30-2:30. For our kids under 7, that normally means a nap or at least laying in the bed. The others – read, nap, write, build something. The key- they are in a space all to themselves and need no attention. (Note: You may start at 30 minutes as opposed to an hour. And no, we don’t wake the kids up after an hour if they are asleep. Are you kidding me?)

Optional: Set a timer in their room. You don’t know how many times my children have fallen asleep looking at the time countdown. I count that as a parental win. Otherwise they like to ask, “Is it time yet?”

Step 7: Set And Enforce Consequences For Quiet Time Violations.

The keys to good consequences are that you have to find out what means most to your child. Then you must be willing to enforce it the first time. This is where having your mind right and believing that it can be done is key. Suggestions: Add time—5 minutes for each violation. Eliminate dessert from dinner. Decrease screen time. Earlier bedtime. 

Remember, this may be new for your child. They may not have expected this from you. They are going to test you. Your biggest weapon is enforcing the consequences while staying cool, calm and collected. If you don’t enforce the consequences quickly, then you may get frustrated when they violate the rule again and lead you to believe that it’s a hopeless cause.

Step 8: Implement.

Be firm. Follow your plan. Keep the vision of peace and quiet in front of  you. Celebrate the victory, however small it may be at first. Let them know that we’ll all get better at it.

Practical Tips

  • Send kids to the bathroom first!
  • No eating during quiet time. May give them snacks right before quiet time, but not sugary snacks. Design your schedule for what works best. Kids always want to eat. So decide if they eat before or after and stick with it, but not during. 
  • Check in on them and encourage them if they are doing good. If they’re asleep, let ‘em sleep.
  • Enforce consequences. That’s how they know you mean business.
  • Be productive in whatever you decide to do during this time – work, yoga, emails, nap, etc. (Yes, naps are productive.)

Implementing anything new in your family can be challenging, but having a family quiet time is good for your kids and good for you! It might take some time to get it down, but it is definitely worth it!

Frustrated. Bored. Sad. Anxious. Stressed. Angry. Scared. 

“My parent(s) lost their job.” 

“Is this about to be the end of the world?” 

“My best friend’s mom is being tested for coronavirus.” 

“Is this online school from home really getting me everything I need?” 

“My sister is getting on my everlasting nerve.” 

“Is someone I love going to die of this?” 

I’m not describing the questions, emotions, and thoughts of adults through COVID-19, though many share them. I’m talking about our children.

Many are hearing a new vocabulary that causes them to experience emotions during COVID-19 that are new to them.

Words like quarantine, shelter-in-place, unemployment, pandemic, stimulus, COVID-19 conspiracy, create questions and a need for understanding. It may signal that their world, their family’s world is changing or in their mind, moving away from something they’ve grown comfortable with and reliant on.

Our children are experiencing a moment in time that may well leave behind some defining changes in how they live their lives. My grandparents remembered the great depression like it was yesterday even though they were children when it took place. My parents remember the Civil Rights struggle vividly. They were teenagers. I remember 9/11. They will remember being quarantined, school shut down for months, sports and music seasons canceled, parents trying to homeschool, and being confined to the house. 

They will remember it because of the emotions that they experienced.

Many will know someone that contracted COVID-19. Others may not. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected emotionally. As parents here’s what we can’t do. We can’t…

  • Ignore the possibilities that COVID-19 is affecting our kids emotionally.
  • Tell our kids that their feelings are right or wrong.
  • Tell them how they should feel.
  • Make them talk.

Here’s what we can do.

We can…

  • Provide a safe space for them to share. Must be non-judgmental and listen with as few expectations as possible. The fact that they can share with you what they are feeling can rob the emotion of some of its debilitating effects.
  • Help them name their emotions. Whatever they share is real to them. Take time to understand what they are thinking and feeling. (Check out the Feelings Wheel for a list of emotions. THIS is another good guide to emotions.) Encourage kids to write down the emotions they have felt or are feeling during COVID-19. Write them down as they talk about them if necessary.
  • Simply be present with them to provide a sense of belonging. Whether they are talking or not, spend time with your kids doing things together. This often helps to set up organic conversation later.
  • Acknowledge our own emotions and share how we are dealing with them. Be honest and open enough to acknowledge some of the effects the COVID-19 quarantine is having on you.
  • Make sure physical needs are being met—full night’s sleep, healthy eating, exercise, getting outside. These all help our brain better process our emotions. We don’t process our emotions as well when we’re hungry, angry, tired or lonely.
  • Encourage them to talk with other trusted adults (grandparent, aunt, uncle, youth pastor, coach). I have accepted that there are some things my 13-year-old daughter feels more comfortable talking to her grandmother about than me. This isn’t a time for me to be jealous or controlling. I should be thankful that I have support to help us all.
  • Look for behavioral changes. Is your usually quiet child talking all the time now? Is your social kid spending a lot more time by themselves? Are there some behavior cues that let you know they may be dealing with some unresolved emotions during COVID-19? 
  • Develop rituals and routines. A routine can provide consistency and stability for our children. Within the routine, there are often spaces that lend themself to sharing and talking. Mealtimes, bedtime routines that include some time to reflect on the day, quiet time, family temperature checks, family meetings are just some of the environments where talking can take place. 
  • Be patient. As adults, we sometimes don’t share until we’re ready to share. Your child may be the same way. Simply letting them know that they can come to you at any time is reassuring.
  • Seek out professional help. If your child is obviously being emotionally affected in a significant way and they are possibly a danger to themselves or others, counselors are accepting appointments via video.

Helping a child process their emotions means being prepared at any time for them to start talking.

You can’t plan or schedule emotional processing. I’ve had my daughter tack on a comment at the end of a trivial conversation that set off an alarm that something was bothering her. A little question like, “Will we have enough money to buy ice cream?” from my son signaled that he had been thinking a lot about how the current situation is affecting us financially. 

Listening. Listening is the name of the game. We’ve all heard the old adage, “We have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we talk.” As parents, we have to work to practice this principle. The more our kids talk, the better. The less we lecture at them, the better. This is a time where we as parents can be a tremendous aid to the emotional development of our children which will serve them greatly for years to come.

My first thought was to think back on all my experience parenting and working with teens. My first thoughts are frequently wrong. I realized that my 14-year-old son, Jude, was sitting right next to me. Ding, Ding, Ding! He has the best credentials to answer this question. Why not ask him! He’s the expert! 

What followed was me talking with my teen about talking with my teen. (He even grabbed my laptop at times and started typing, “You gotta tell parent’sTHIS!”)

Me: Is it helpful for parents to find out what you are into and learn all about it so they can build some common ground? Like, “Is your teen into skateboarding? Learn all about skateboarding so you can talk to them! Now you can ask if they ‘push mongo’ and if they can ‘aciddrop into a melongrab.’”

Jude: (Laughing Hysterically) You don’t even know what those words mean, do you?

Me: Um, no… I Googled them.

Jude: That stuff might help. It might come off as forced and lame.

Me: Bottom line, I can’t make you talk to me, can I?

Jude: (Kinda Smugly Triumphant) Nope!

Me: (Sigh) Let me type that…

Bottom Line: You can’t make them talk. Sorry. You can’t point the remote at them and press “Unmute.” The good news, however, is that you can adopt a parental posture and create an environment where a real conversation has a much higher chance of happening. 

Jude: I like the “unmute” thing!

Me: Hey, thanks, I just think…

Jude: (Interrupting) Just tell them to spend time with their kids. That’s it.

Me: You just told them.

Jude: What? Wait! Are you just typing out what I say? 

Me: Yup. Keep talking… I might make it sound more adult-y and mix in some of my thoughts.

According to a real-life teenager, there is no magic formula, but here are five things for parents to think about…


1. Some teens are just quiet or go through quiet phases. 

You remember being a teenager, right? Well, it’s way harder now, according to Jude. It’s more cutthroat, more emotionally charged, more adultish—social media amplifies all that exponentially. Jude says teens genuinely feel like you just won’t get it. It’s not an insult. They often process issues internally or with their peers. Resident Teen Expert encourages you to be patient. 

Big Idea: Make a standing offer to be available to talk about anything, whenever they want to.

2. Spend time with them not obviously trying to force a “big” talk.

You might be dying to hear about what is going on deep inside their world and incredibly anxious to speak into it. But just offer to watch them play video games, play some Uno, (Jude: Dude. We’ve never played Uno.) or go grab a bite to eat with no agenda other than to enjoy their company. Make small talk. Don’t sweat silences. 

Big Idea: Don’t force it. Spend time with them and see what happens organically. Small talk often leads to BIG TALK.

3. Don’t freak out when you hear something that rattles you.

Jude says this is “super important.” If they do open up to you, you will hear some stuff. Maybe some shocking stuff. If you freak out, it might be a loooong time before they open up to you again. Keep a good poker face. Jude: And don’t bombard them with a million questions. Don’t lecture. Me: Got it! Empathize. Probe gently. Listen, then listen some more. (Check out this article on active listening skills—especially the Six Levels of Listening.) 

Big Idea: So many teens say that their parents don’t listen and just talk at them, not with them.

Me: So, how do I do with all this?

Jude: Um…

Me: Okayokayokay! I’ll work on it!

4. You might not be the person they feel comfortable talking with right now. 

Jude: Some stuff I just feel better talking to Davin about. (His older brother.) As a parent, I’ve had to settle for… are they talking to someone? Someone I trust? For some topics and even some phases of teenage life, I realized my teen was more comfortable talking to Mom. I had to work to get to a place where I was just happy they had someone to talk to that I knew would basically give them the same input that I would. It might be an older sibling, their aunt, a teacher, or a coach. I know I can trust my sister, their favorite aunt, to give me a heads-up if she hears something I need to know about. 

Big Idea: Encourage them to cultivate relationships with people they are comfortable talking to.

5. Talk to them. But be real. Be transparent. Be vulnerable.

This speaks for itself. Sometimes we expect our teens to give us things we aren’t willing to give them. Me: Am I real with you Jude? Jude: Yeah. Maybe too real… Me: So that’s a compliment?

Big Idea: Make sure you are giving conversationally what you hope to get from your teen.

Me: You get the final word.

Jude: Spend time with them, listen, don’t lecture. Just tell parents to spend time with their kids.

Me: You just did, again. What do you think of this blog?

Jude: This blog goes hard.

And then, on the way to school the next morning, out of nowhere…

Jude: We told them not to lecture, right?

What’s The Big Idea?

  • Offer to be available to talk about anything, whenever they want to. Be patient.
  • Don’t force it. Spend time with them and let conversations grow organically. Small talk often leads to deeper conversations.
  • Practice good listening skills. Don’t talk at them; talk with them.
  • Encourage them to cultivate relationships with people they are comfortable talking to and that you can trust.
  • Model the openness, vulnerability, and transparency that you are hoping to get in return.

Every family in America is probably blessed with some members who are taking the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 very seriously and some who are taking them with a grain of salt. Often, those on opposing sides of the fence are looking down their nose at those who disagree with them. Each wonders when the others are going to wake up and realize their perspective is the correct one.

There is a ton of information out there. From the mainstream news, to opinion papers, talk shows, Dr. Fauci, the CDC and of course we can’t forget social media, it’s almost like information overload. And, who you choose to listen to often determines your behavior.

Whether you’re intensely practicing social distancing or think it’s a massive overreaction, one thing’s for sure – how you engage the ones you love around this issue will impact your relationship long after COVID-19 is no longer a concern.

At some point, many have figured out that it’s going to be complicated doing life together if you can’t agree on this issue. There is some degree of truth in that, but when have all members of a family ever seen everything exactly the same way?

We can spend our time arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, which is unlikely to have a productive outcome. Or, we can figure out how to move forward while having differing points of view.

At the core of what many are dealing with is fear. Fear of getting the virus because people around you are not social distancing or following CDC guidelines. Fear of infecting someone else. Being afraid of doing the wrong thing. Fear of the government taking your rights away. Fear of losing a business. Fearing economic collapse. And the list goes on.

So, what do you do?

Talk about it. You may have family members who you believe are not handling things the way they need to. If that’s the case, you can choose to have a conversation with them. How you approach them really matters. If you are judgmental and condescending, it’s likely that the conversation won’t go well.  It’s probably a given that you feel strongly about your beliefs and you want those you love to get with the program. But the reality is, they may never be on the same page with you.

Case in point – your aging parents don’t want you telling them what to do. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, your college student does not want you telling them what to do.

If all of you are living under the same roof, have a family meeting. Talk about how the entire family will work as a team to keep every member of the household safe. You don’t all have to agree. In fact, you may have to agree to disagree, yet all find a way to do what is best for the greater good.

Acknowledge what you have control over. If your parents are living hours away from you, what they do is beyond your control. You can make recommendations, but at the end of the day, they are going to do what they want to do. Can you love them anyway?

One thing that is within your control is your attitude. You could walk around angry all day because people are responding in a way you believe is irresponsible. On the other hand, you could do what you need to do to keep yourself safe and not seek to be responsible for other people’s behavior.

For example, you are trying to keep your family healthy and safe and your neighbor decides to have a party for 50 people in their front yard. You could choose to confront them, but that would probably create more angst on your part. It’s pretty likely that everybody is feeling a fair amount of tension, so why create more? Going on a walk away from the party, heading to the backyard to play or staying inside might actually help decrease your anxiety.

Be careful about being quick to judge. Things may not always be as they appear.  Someone leaving the grocery store with a lot of toilet paper and other items could at first glance be seen as hoarding much-needed supplies. In reality, the person may be shopping for several older people in their neighborhood. 

Show respect. At the end of the day, respect really matters. Even though you may have differing perspectives on the Coronavirus, being able to share, listen and seek to understand each other’s views goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy relationship over the long term.

It is our differences that make this world a rich place. Instead of trying to convince others that your way is the only way, treat them with the same respect you’d like to receive. Although you may not see eye-to-eye, disagreement doesn’t have to damage or destroy your closest relationships.

I’m looking out the window at a beautiful sunrise this morning and thinking. The scene is beautiful. However, over the horizon I know there are thousands of people hurting this morning as they survey the storm damage from the tornadoes that ripped through our community Easter Sunday night.

So many miraculous stories of survival. So many pictures of roofs yanked off of houses as if they were built with Legos. Portions of brick walls strewn across the ground like they weighed nothing. Trees down everywhere. Power outages that may go on for days.

This on top of social distancing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, those impacted by the storm would be able to easily get a hotel room, go sit in a restaurant and eat a meal or grab a cup of coffee while recharging their phone. They literally have nowhere to go right now. Everything is shut down.

My heart feels heavy and my brain hurts as the pictures of devastation flood my mind and linger there. I can’t stop thinking about so many struggling in the midst of all of this. All the while, we are being told, “Stay away, stay home.” I can’t even get to my own team members to bring them food and supplies. It feels like I’m on the verge of tears all the time. I mean, how much more can people take?

There is a part of me that feels helpless, which is not a feeling I like or a place I tend to live. I’m usually straight out of the gates figuring out ways to provide assistance.

In these moments after the storm, what can we do?

  • Prayer or meditation is powerful for sure.
  • Check in with your friends and family.
  • Offer to make phone calls to other family members or friends who will be concerned.
  • Purchase needed supplies and drop them off at a designated location.
  • Provide food for front line workers.
  • Take good care of yourself. That way, when we are able to be out and about, we will have the energy to be helpful.
  • Know that by staying away from the area, we are helping people get help from first responders faster.

I think I have some level of guilt that I’m sitting in my house with power, with a roof over my head and I can’t really do anything to show those that are hurting that I care. Although I can’t be physically present for them at this moment, that does not mean that I am not with them in spirit and looking for ways to help from afar.

We are Chattanooga strong and we will come out on the other side of this together.

Let’s Cut Right To It, Because:

  1. You are probably working from home.
  2. It is good for your kids. They live here, too.
  3. Now more than ever, you need to take care of yourself.

You’re probably less interested in the “why” of getting help around the house, and more interested in the “how” of it. I get it, but you need to understand the “why” first and believe it

Taking care of yourself—physically and mentally—is incredibly important, especially right now. Stress, anxiety, fear, and plain old fatigue will all take their toll on you. That toll will impact you and the people that you care about. I see it in myself and in my own home. I feel fragile, a lot.

COVID-19 has me working in quarantine with five kids. My wife works in the medical field and is keeping “normal” long hours. My at-risk mother-in-law lives with us. Sooooooo…

You know the deal. I’m at home, trying to put in a full day’s work and finish my projects, making sure school work gets done, keeping an eye on my at-risk mother-in-law, and generally holding down the fort—including keeping it clean and organized. Oh, and when my wife gets home, I try to have dinner ready and we try to do Family Movie Night or Game Night and keep all the sequestered happy. It is a daunting task, and I’ve never felt so exhausted. You feeling it too? It often feels like a lose-lose situation.

If I focus time on my kids and mother-in-law, I feel like a bad employee.

If I focus time on my work, I feel like a bad dad and son-in-law.

I can’t possibly do it all. I just feel stressed out and guilty.

When in the world am I supposed to take care of myself?

Start with the basics.

The house needs to be kept up and your kids need stuff to do.

Those dots connect themselves, but how do you do this without having another thing to do?

  • I got the ball rolling by laying out expectations in a family meeting.
  • I also sent out this text message in our family group text after days of exhaustion:

Hey Family! I know everyone is taking care of their own living areas but we need to work together on shared spaces like the kitchen, dining area, and living room. We are trying to stay afloat during this – Mom is working full time, I’m working full time from home, and Grandmom isn’t our maid. (Thanks for all you do, Grandmom!)

Some Stuff That Needs Doing:

  • Kitchen needs to be swept and mopped.
  • Dining room & front door area swept and mopped.
  • Living room vacuumed.
  • Lawn mowed when it dries.
  • General sanitizing wipe down.
  • Help with cooking dinners.
  • General cleaning up after yourself, especially in the kitchen.

There’s enough for everyone to do a little. Thanks in advance. Hope this isn’t received as snarky. Totally sending with a heart full of love for all of you. Just need help. You guys are my favorite part of being quarantined! ❤

That was the text. I didn’t have high hopes. I figured a couple of kids (maybe) in drips and drabs would hopefully mark a few things off the list in the upcoming week. Maybe there would be a little less work for Grandmom and me.

Then something incredible happened.

My son, who is without a doubt the “lone wolf” of the whole crew and was in quarantine before it was cool, immediately came down and started sweeping the kitchen. What? Soon, everyone started popping out of their rooms and joined in. They cranked out a very thorough cleaning of everything. We even game-ified the cleaning by adding some rounds of Nintendo Wii in-between cleaning jobs. In a couple of hours, the house was spic & span – and get this – we all had time freed up to do our stuff. Even me!

I can’t call it a Christmas Miracle; maybe it was a COVID-19 Miracle? It was like something out of some wholesome unrealistic sitcom or Disney Channel show. It worked. But let me be clear, I was fortunate this time. It usually doesn’t play out like that. But I learned some valuable info that day…

There is no way I can keep up with housework, school work, and work work AND have time and energy left for self-care plus some gas left in the tank to have a little quality time with my wife when she gets home from work. You can’t give what you don’t have. 

And my kids can and will and need to help.

Let’s Break It Down

So how do I keep this ball rolling? If you break down my text, you might find some reasons why it was effective that might help you get your kids helping more around the house, have some structure in their day, and burn off some energy. Hopefully, this will lower your stress levels by freeing you up for working on work and remember, working on yourself.

Here’s what I did in my text to get my kids to help around the house:

  1. Started positively.
  2. Acknowledged what they were already doing.
  3. Was realistic and honest about our new situation.
  4. Listed very specific things that needed to get done.
  5. Gave them a choice of what they wanted to do.
  6. Thanked them in advance.
  7. Tried to preclude any misinterpretations.
  8. Affirmed my love for them and that family is the most important thing.
  9. And here is the kicker – I TOLD THEM I NEEDED HELP.  (I didn’t suggest it. I didn’t imply it. And I didn’t say, “It would be nice.”)

I probably should have added a timeframe for the work to be done by. Missed that one. 

We made it a challenge and made it fun. We worked together and multiplied our efforts.

Apply these principles in a way that works for your kids at their ages. 

Don’t be bashful with the We Are In A Global Pandemic And I Need Your Help Around the House card. Just don’t try to do it all yourself. And don’t sweat it if it all doesn’t get done. It isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we. Take care of yourself.

How am I going to keep my son engaged in online learning for the foreseeable future?” I just left a ZOOM meeting with my high school Junior son’s school. They were keeping parents informed about the plans they have for the rest of the semester. Their initial hope was to be back in school by the middle of April. Per this meeting, our new date is April 27. My real question is, how am I going to survive this? 

Here are a few tips to survive having teens in quarantine 24/7 in your home.

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

At this time, it is primarily important that we know what our teens are thinking and feeling. Are they anxious, scared, withdrawn, missing their friends, or antsy? Do they want to go visit friends or have friends come over? 

Are you experiencing anything similar with teens in quarantine? Parents, we must discuss the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic with our teens. We must be honest with them about the facts and transparent with them about our feelings. Also, remember that their brains are not fully formed (25-30 is the age) so expect some questions or flat-out denial that it’s not that bad. “It won’t happen to me and my friends. Well, our family is going to follow the guidelines. 

The ways that we enforce rules during this time should be no different than how you enforce cell phone usage, driving privileges or dating rules.

2. Do something physical.

My son’s school has a mandatory physical requirement for all students. As a result, the coaches have sent the students workouts that will keep them in shape. I was thinking that it might be nice to work out with my son. After about 5 minutes, I was ready to cough up a lung. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout, but maybe a walk/run/jog around the neighborhood. Try a bike ride, or throw the football, baseball, and frisbee to each other in the yard. Physical activity can reduce stress and expend excessive energy.

3. Keep the routine.

I am grateful that my son’s school schedule has allowed him, for the most part, to keep to his regular school day. He starts around the same time every day.  While he may have longer breaks, he usually has classes in the morning and in the afternoon. He has a set time for lunch and his physical activity. Keeping his routine gives him a sense of security in the midst of the Coronavirus. It allows him to control what he can control:  His attitude and his effort in classes.

4. Stay connected.

With all of my boys home, having dinner together has been a way for us to touch base with each other. I am trying to make their favorite dinners, desserts, etc. We talk about things like what classes my rising Senior will take next year, how online interviews are going with my soon-to-be college graduate, what their summer plans will be (jobs, college visits, visits to the grandparents.) It’s not all serious talk. I ask my youngest, “Who is your favorite musician and why?” These talking points allow me to get into their world. They recognize that I am interested in what’s going on with them. Family meals are a great time to stay connected.

5. Be grateful.

Throughout this time, I am choosing gratitude.  I am getting to spend quality time with my sons that I will cherish forever. I frequently share my gratitude with them. Yes, I am “surviving” the teen years—even COVID-19 quarantine—but sooner than I think, they will be gone from home. They will be men with their own homes, jobs, and families. I won’t take even this hard time for granted. Enjoy your teens in quarantine while you can! Don’t just survive—thrive!