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After multiple weeks of being told we need to stay home, a lot of folks’ nerves are frayed (parents in particular). Life might have been complicated before – keeping up with schedules, work and home. Now, things seem 10 times more complicated. Everybody is under the same roof all the time with nowhere to go for a break. Many parents are silently asking how long they can actually survive this COVID-19 crisis with their family (and their sanity) intact. 

It is true that most of us are not accustomed to spending so much time together. Things that you didn’t even know got on your nerves, well, now you know. And, some of them are seemingly little things. Maybe it’s the way someone chews their food, the amount of dirty laundry, or the constant questions without answers. Or maybe it’s the way your perfectly capable kids seem so totally dependent on you to do everything.

Honestly, it’s enough to make a parent ask, “Where do I go to resign?”

Before you turn in your notice, here are some things that might be helpful for all of us to consider. 

Emotions are running high for everyone. There is tension in the air and we feel it even if we don’t acknowledge it. It has its way of oozing out of people through petty bickering, short fuses, tears and an abundance of energy. The close proximity to others in your home may feel like someone has you in a stranglehold. 

Even if you are in pretty close quarters, there are some things you can do to help your family avoid unhealthy behavior.

Recognize that your children are taking their cues from you. If you are really struggling with all that is going on, find ways to process your thoughts and best next steps. Even if things are upside down, when you know the next steps you will take, your children will follow your lead. Your children need to know that you are working to ensure they are well cared for. This provides comfort and security, especially in times of uncertainty. It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers. Having rules, rituals, consistency and structure in place helps everyone to know what to expect and provides freedom within healthy boundaries.

Speaking of boundaries, establishing boundaries is helpful. It lets people know where the fence lines are for your family. If you haven’t had a family meeting to discuss what this looks like, now is a really good time to do that. Items up for discussion include:

  • How will household chores get done?
  • With whom outside of immediate family will we engage during this time of social distancing?
  • What time is quiet time in the house? (could be until a certain time in the morning, a period of time in the middle of the day or a time at the end of the day)
  • Where and for how long are people using screens? (for work and for leisure)
  • Is there unlimited access to the kitchen and food?

Getting in the groove of functioning as a team will help your family now. Plus, it will serve them well in the future.

Even though your family is all together, don’t assume they will automatically talk about the thoughts and feelings that are rolling around in their head. This is a scary time for everybody. Establishing a quick daily check-in makes it possible for you to share information and answer questions. It’s also a good chance to talk about the flow of this particular day and address concerns or misinformation anyone may have.

With everyone under one roof, establishing times when you expect people to be in their own space away from everybody else can help. If your children share a bedroom, perhaps there is another location one of them could be. The goal is for people to have a break from being on top of each other. It can be as simple as going outdoors when the weather is nice. Maybe it means taking a long, hot shower or a walk in the rain. It may even help to get up earlier or stay up a little later to have time alone.

What Each Person in Your Family Needs to Know

According to the authors of the Survival Skills for Healthy Families program, each person in the family needs to know:

  • How to speak up and say what they need. The ability to say what you want helps others to know what you are thinking and feeling. It also opens the door for understanding.
  • How to listen. As a listener, we can choose to seek connection, be respectful and look for understanding. Or, we can react, fight and argue. 
  • How to cooperate. Teach your children how to find balance between their needs and the needs of other family members.

Realize that there is a time to talk and time to listen. Everyone wants to feel heard when they speak, so ensure that your home is a safe place for family members to express themselves and discuss things without dismissing them. Acknowledge your feelings, and really listen to work through the emotions you are experiencing. Show empathy and remember that if all this is hard to process as an adult, it can be even more challenging for younger family members to understand or express what they’re dealing with on the inside. Those things will probably show up in how they behave, so it will take some wisdom to dig deeper as you handle misbehavior while helping them understand their emotions.

It is highly likely you will encounter challenges while you are in close quarters. By looking for solutions together, you are modeling how to find answers to other sticky situations down the road. In order for your family to come out stronger on the other side of this pandemic, these are a few safeguards you can put in place now to help keep the peace in your home.

Relationships are not always easy. Whether you’re trying to understand your mate or learning what makes your child tick, the drama and energy it takes can be frustrating. We’ve all been there!

Dr. Gary Chapman, author The Five Love Languages and The Family You’ve Always Wanted, shares about his own struggles during his early years of marriage. What he learned through the years impacted his own marriage and family.

“When we got married, I thought things would be great,” says Chapman. “What I missed was that my wife is very social. I was still in school and studied most evenings. I assumed she would sit on the couch and read while I studied. That was not the case. She wanted to be around other people. I also assumed that when I was ready to go to bed we would go to bed together.”

It didn’t take long for the Chapmans to experience extreme unhappiness in their marriage. Their response to the unhappiness was to point out each other’s faults.

“We were so angry that we spent a lot of time trying to annihilate each other with our words and actions,” Chapman says. “At some point it occurred to me that I had entered our relationship with a very conceited, self-centered attitude. I thought that whatever made me happy would make Karolyn happy. In reality, I spent little time thinking about my wife’s needs and a lot of time focused on my unmet needs and desires.”

Over time, Chapman realized he would need to do some things differently if he wanted to improve his marriage.

“At the lowest point in our marriage we were so estranged that we could not even talk about our relationship,” Chapman says. “That’s when I decided to take action. I decided to stop waiting on her to change. I changed my behavior.”

It started with making the decision to serve.

“Instead of talking at my wife and getting angrier with her at all that she was not doing for me, I began to quietly respond to my wife’s requests for help with laundry, chores and other things,” Chapman says. “In a few months, her attitude toward me had softened. I actually started feeling love toward her for the first time in a very long time. Instead of enemies living under the same roof, it felt like we were falling in love with each other all over again.”

The early years of the Chapmans’ marriage were rocky and seemed hopeless. But instead of ending in divorce, their marriage is healthy and thriving more than 50 years later. It’s all because one person chose to adjust.

Are you willing and ready to fight for your family by being the one to make a change?

Oh, wait – there’s more to the story! Read it here.

 

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists!

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

Miss part 1? Don’t worry – you can read it here!

It did not take Dr. Chapman long to realize that having an attitude of service toward his wife transformed and actually saved his marriage. As a result, serving others became a core value in their relationship. And when children came along, the Chapmans were intentional about instilling this value into their lives.

“We played a couple of games at the dinner table that focused on service,” says Chapman. “One game asked each family member to share one way they had served another family member that day. The recipient of the act of service responded by saying, ‘I really appreciate that.’”

When the children were older, in order to teach them the importance of serving outside the family, the Chapmans loaded the kids in the car and looked for opportunities to serve.

“In the fall, we would search for yards that needed to be raked,” Chapman says. “I knocked on the door and explained that I was trying to teach my children about serving others and asked permission to rake their yard. I don’t think anybody ever turned down my offer. Some wanted to pay us, but I said no, explaining we weren’t working for pay. I want my kids to grow up understanding that life is about serving others.”

Healthy families are characterized by an attitude of service. Imagine the impact it could have on the community if that attitude prevailed.

In a healthy family, there is intimacy between husband and wife.

“When people hear the word intimacy, they usually think sex,” Chapman says. “Intimacy between a couple should include intellectual, emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy.”

Chapman recommends that couples make time to share daily two or three things that happened in their life and how they felt about it. Couples often go for days without sharing, but it’s impossible to have intimacy if you never connect.

In a healthy family, parents teach and train their children so that the children will learn to obey and in turn honor their parents.

“Three-year-olds are not to be running families,” Chapman says. “If your children don’t learn to obey you, they may never learn to honor you or learn to obey civil laws. If they see you abiding by the laws, they are more likely to live by them.”

In healthy families, husbands lovingly lead their family.

“I have learned three important questions to ask my wife in my quest to lead well,” Chapman says. “What can I do to help you? How can I make your life easier? And, how can I be a better husband to you? You have to view your wife as your partner and place her above fishing, golf and football. Love her unconditionally and be intentional about discovering and meeting her needs.”

The closer your lifestyle comes to what you say you believe, the easier it is to respect you. The greater the distance between your lifestyle and what you say you believe, the more difficult it is to respect you as a leader.

Serving others, in the home and out, does a family good.

 

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists!

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

 ***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.***