The societal response to the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States has led to most people practicing social distancing, and large segments of some states’ populations essentially in social isolation. Spending more time than usual indoors and away from social situations, and the lack of facetime with friends is something many people are struggling with. Time alone without that social outlet is for some people new, uncomfortable and even scary.
The current situation may be a strange and difficult time for some people, but there are some unexpected benefits including the opportunity to spend more time with family. This may be of particular value to parents of young children, with whom there never seems to be enough quality time.
“Being at home is an opportunity to get to know your family and have more interaction with the people we love,” says Anita Myers, an emotional intelligence coach and trainer at Innerscope365, LLC in Chicago.
When in a challenging situation, it is advisable to find the positives and make the best of it. Myers, who specializes in emotional intelligence, suggests families focus on things they can do together, such as cooking, playing games, chores and discovering new things. Giving yourself time to accept the situation for what it is can help ease some of the anxiety, she adds.
“By being at home, families are forced to spend time with each other,” Myers says. “I love cooking, so my daughter and I discover new recipes together. After dinner, my husband and daughter clean up. They do the dishes together. They tell stories to each other about being younger. I play a game with my daughter I have never played. We just have fun together.
“Yes, we are stuck inside, but it's giving me a chance to see what the kids are capable of and force them to be together a little more. It's forcing us to come together and be more creative,” says Marisa Fetter, a stay-at-home mother of three from Chicago.
Myers describes turning one sour situation into a family adventure.
“Let things flow,” she says. “Observe your family. Create opportunities for them to play. Do something you have never done.”
Myers suggests creating a flexible family schedule that works for everyone.
“Our mind is looking for patterns to hold on to, but the moment you stick to the new, the mind adjusts,” she says.
Fetter has found a schedule that works for her and her family. The daily schedule includes homework time, biking, walking, playing games, reading and family time. With fewer cars on the streets, she feels better allowing her children to ride their bikes in the street with her and her husband.
Children doing schoolwork from home because of school closures opens a great opportunity for parents to be more involved with and cognizant of their children’s learning.
“The positive for me about staying at home and homeschooling my children is to see what my kids are capable of academically,” says Fetter. “It is interesting to watch the dynamics of three kids come up with games. They get along better. My husband normally travels and it is positive having him. It gives me more time to read to them at night. Together we can divide and conquer.”
In addition, Fetter’s children have been speaking to their grandparents about their grandparents’ lives, then write essays about what they learned. The kids have also been creating rainbows for their neighbors. This helps keep the community connected while people are separated.
“A lot of people around the country are creating rainbows to put on the window,” she explains. “Then we take a walk and see a friend or a neighbor's house and spot a rainbow. We then paint our own, take a picture and send it to them.”
Fetter has been spending more time reading to her children – doing so even during meal times.
She advises parents not to beat themselves up if the kids have a bit too much screen time, as it can help ease anxiety they may be experiencing.
“Give yourself a break,” she says. “Stay in your pajamas. Feel sad. We can't have too high of expectations. Let's make the best of what we can control.”
Her opinion is shared by licensed clinical and therapy counselor Michael Villarreal of Semillas Counseling in Chicago.
“This could be an opportunity for most couples and families to take a moment to pause and reconnect and strengthen the relationship with their children,” Villarreal says. “Read that book with your son and daughter, and understand what has been happening in their lives prior to the coronavirus.”
Having an emotional support and understanding towards family members is important to overcome the fears and anxieties they may be facing, he adds. Keeping in touch with family and friends, and calling a professional counselor if being isolated gets to be overwhelming are among his suggestions.
“Learn how to do video chats, zooming and connecting with family, friends, neighbors, distant relatives and parents,” Villarreal says. “COVID-19 has brought upon significant adjustments in our daily lives, which also comes with grief and loss. Individuals and their family members will progress through the stages of grief, such as denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, depression and acceptance, in their own way. Working through this process together can lend itself to a bonding experience, filled with compassion, empathy and kindness.
“It will be part of the process that everyone goes through, even the kids. All children will have to adapt to it and parents can support that. How we respond will have tremendous meaning when we look back on this crisis period, families can model strength and resiliency for each other."
Villarreal also recommends members to continue to share stories with one another, remembering the moments and shared experiences that have formed their love and connection. He says the circumstances created by the response to the coronavirus pandemic allow for the perfect time to talk, share memories, and incorporate meditation into daily practices. It is important to move away from television and negative news as much as possible to alleviate anxiety.
“Be present with your child and partner,” he says. “Make fresh bread at home because it is really therapeutic and do an activity together. Build your own pizza. Play your favorite music. Create shared experiences.”
Meditation can also help alleviate anxiety or other negative reactions. Shalini Parekh, a yoga instructor and founder of Meditation Disruption, goes so far as to say meditation is a necessity during these unprecedented times.
“Meditation is not an option… In fact, it is critical to building our immunity and our overall well-being,” Parekh says. “Breathing practices combined with meditation are proven to be powerful in combating stress and anxiety.”
She adds that now is the time to cultivate new skills, learn a new language, write, paint, cook or take online courses. Watching television and playing online games is good from a social distancing perspective, but these activities do not alleviate anxiety or lead to a positive mindset, Parekh adds.
The bottom line: Now is the time to enjoy time with your family and make the best with what you have during a challenging time.
For videos on breathing techniques and meditation go to