As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, self-isolation or quarantine is one of the key strategies in ‘flattening the curve’ of infection rates. These 14-day or longer isolation periods involve individuals or families staying within their homes and not having physical contact with those outside. The prospect or reality of schools and daycare closures, as well as workplaces temporarily shutting down or moving to remote working from home, means many more families around the world face long days which could prove challenging.
The questions for families are what can they expect and how can they survive not only the virus, but each other during isolation? For parents trying to work remote from home, their ability to do so will depend on various factors such as the age of their children, the layout of their home and the nature of their work. The temperament of parents and kids will also play a large role.
Begin by being on the same page
At the very start, sit down with the family and create a family contract of sorts. Have a discussion as to what you think will be the biggest challenges of spending so much time together.
Ask what are the strengths that you each have as an individual family member that can help out. Discuss concerns and expectations about the quarantine and what role each person can play to make it better.
Be informed and truthful
It will be important for parents to listen to and empathize with their children’s fears, to speak truthfully about the situation in an age-appropriate manner and to try to put it all into context. Have family conversations about facts and feelings. Critical to relieving fears will be allowing children a sense of control, such as over their personal hygiene.
Adults need to keep a sense of perspective and researching information and advice from credible sources will help stave off anxiety. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and World Health Organization are good official sources to check frequently. It’s important for people to be open about what they are experiencing to reduce any possible stigma or embarrassment attached to self-isolation and quarantine.
Maintain daily structure
Maintaining a routine will be important but it doesn’t need to be strict and are always helpful for people to see an endpoint. Routines will be critical to individuals and families not going ‘crazy’ and be as simple as waking in the morning at your usual time, taking a shower, getting dressed and putting on makeup, before starting your work from home day in the morning.
For the kids, it’s also important to stay close to their normal routine. Hopefully the school can email activities and lessons, or have other online learning options, so the children don’t fall behind schoolwork. Parents should try to break-up the learning & lessons with something fun like downtime or half an hour with the tablet or TV.
Families will need to try to enjoy having more spare time than usual, especially what can be very rare downtime for kids. Parents should be prepared with games, craft, schoolwork and books, but allowing more screen time than normal will not be catastrophic.
Be aware that reliance on streaming services or the internet may not be practical. Telecommunications companies are preparing for a surge in people working from home. The United State’s networks are resilient but will come under pressure.
Networks are being optimized to manage a significant increase in network traffic as a result of people being at home, although there may be times when service is slower than usual. So, don’t go crazy on Netflix or Hulu and plan to have a robust mobile data plan as a backup if you’re likely to need to complete urgent work.
Keep active and moving
Keeping physically active is critical to boosting mood and maintaining sanity. Frustration and boredom can come when kids are not getting the opportunities to be physically active and burning off some anxiety. Creative exercise ideas, like setting up an obstacle course in the backyard, could occupy both parents and kids.
Break up the day with some micro-exercises, such as jumping jacks, running up the stairs or playing basketball and soccer. Adults need to plan to keeping their workout routines at the home gym or using some online exercise videos.
Get things done
Feeling as though something has been accomplished during an isolation period will be important for both children and parents. It could include working from home, school assignments or setting sights on long-avoided chores, repairs and / or tasks. Encouraging kids to keep a journal in which they can document their experience could provide much needed activity and provide for some reminiscing when older.
For mom, maybe it’s altering a jacket you have been meaning to work on for months, or even organizing the clothes closets. For dad, it could be doing some much needed home repairs, cleaning the garage or yard work. Families need to take time to consider things they can do together like planning for a movie night, taking on a large project such as building something together, or even rearranging the furniture.
Now’s a great time for planning that future family vacay when this pandemic is behind us. Take time with family to research the next getaway, maybe it’s a cruise or a trip to Orlando and Disney. VacayDaze has many articles to help you ‘Learn more about places to get away and daze…for days…then book your travel…’ Be sure to check the latest travel advisories at the U.S. State Department website. You probably should check into travel insurance as well, especially if you plan to travel while the Pandemic is still active. You probably will want to consider a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) optional travel insurance upgrade. True to its name, this additional option allows you to cancel your trip for any reason.
Give each other space and time
Try to think of things you can do by yourself and as a family. It can be hard for families who are used to all going off to their own activities each day and being forced into an intense time of togetherness. That’s why when you’re on a family vacay parents often see kids squabbling as they’re not used to being in the same space for so long.
You can create spaces in the house, if possible, like little zones. Make a game zone and use a bean bag with a headset for a chill-out corner. While respecting each person’s time alone is important, it could also be a great time for creating or reconnecting with family rituals. This might be as simple as a traditional sit-down family meal, perhaps with a new recipe the kids were involved in preparing.
Stay in touch with others
Another critical component of staying in good mental state is feeling connected to others so let technology be your friend. Staying connected and making time for friends and family on social media or over the phone will be critical for adults. Also important is reciprocal social support so reach out to others to make sure they are OK during this stressful time.
Kids are also used to highly social environments and will need to connect with their friends. Older kids can create themes on Instagram or Snapchat where they can share their experiences and tips with their friends while younger kids will enjoy scheduled video calls with friends and family.
Learn from the experience
Find an inspirational quote for the family to abide by. Hopefully kids will be good during their isolation and accept the new routines as well as have a new perspective on life. Parents will probably gain a lot more respect for teachers and their patience as they realize how hard it is to teach kids.
The other hope is that it helps adults become better parents as well. Adults will probably enjoy the silver lining in the forced removal from a busy life finding it’s quite nice to slow down. You may even learn to change routines and behaviors a little bit after quarantine.