Make the Best of Social Distancing

April 9, 2020

How is everybody doing? Are you going stir crazy yet? How are you coping with working from home, homeschooling the kids, and trying to maintain a normal routine?

It’s a lot, right?

These are most certainly stressful times for families. Following the social distancing protocol is tough but on the flip side, how can it benefit your family? Make the best of this time together. Just think, years from now, your kids are going to remember this period as “the best time ever”! The time where their parents were home from work, played games, cooked homemade meals together, took bike rides and played outside. Keep that in mind when you feel you are failing at maintaining the balance of everything or if you’ve had a bad day.

Trying to maintain a ‘normal’ routine is hard but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Did the kids find a worm in the backyard? Awesome! Science lesson is done. Did your preschooler line up his monster trucks and count them? Great! Math lesson is done. Are your older kids a bit overwhelmed with the amount of schoolwork they have? It’s okay – they will catch up. Everyone will be in the same boat when we return to “normal” – whatever that looks like when this is over.

Our fantastic team of clinicians at The Wise Family located in Alexandria and Arlington, VA have come up with more encouraging ideas you can implement as a family. Read on to see what they have to say.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW: 

While we all adjust to the practice of social distancing, we continue to look for ways to connect and communicate with our families and loved ones. It is important to do whether those people are stuck inside with us, living in another state, or simply down the street.

Here are a few ideas to help us all stay connected!

• Encourage your family to start gratitude journals to share with one another.
• Set up virtual “game nights” to play a board game with friends, cousins, or grandparents.
• Have a virtual dance party!
• Set up a pen pal exchange (via snail mail or email) with relatives or friends.
• Start a virtual book or craft club with your kids and their friends
• Host a video happy hour as a time to catch up with friends
• Try new things at home! Make a new recipe or try painting.

It’s so important during these uncertain times that we work to continue our connections with others whether it is a quick text to check in or a virtual video get together.

Dr. Dominique Adkins, ED.D., LPC, NCC, ACS

During this unprecedented time we have the opportunity to reconnect with family and connect virtually with friends. During this time it helps to rewire activities to do each day to build happier habits.

Here are few tips:

1. Incorporate a family moment of gratitude. Start or end each day with a moment to share what you are grateful for.

2. Remember to maintain structure and family meals. On nice days consider a picnic in the yard.

3. Send a video text or audio message to a friend or relative.

4. Create fun family memories. Experiment with the arts and crafts in the home.

5. Mail or email a card or letter to distant loved ones.

6. Host a lunch or dinner by zoom to socialize with those outside the home.

Remember this is a time of physical distance not social distance. Social connection is now more important than ever. Whether it is building healthier relationships in the home or reconnecting with others by phone or video, lets embrace this time we have together at home!

Rebecca Staines, LPC:

As we all practice social distancing, and grapple with school closures in Virginia, there is no question that families are entering an uncertain and stressful time. How do we maintain healthy communication? What does that even look like?

I know in my family we have definitely made good use of FaceTime to connect with grandparents who miss seeing their 18-month-old grandson. We have even had a number of family March birthdays that have had to go uncelebrated due to the recent restrictions. Instead, we have relied on mail to connect and send birthday cards. This also is a great way to reach out to loved ones, even when it is not someone’s birthday.

To help pass the time and to create a stronger family bond during this time, try having a craft day where you spend time making cards with your kids to send to different relatives or, even better, schedule a FaceTime dinner date with your relatives where you can chat about how the family is doing while enjoying a meal together. This may also be a good time to download WhatsApp to your smart phone and create group chats for the cousins, siblings, parents/stepparents, and grandparents to send pictures of the family to one another and provide updates.

Remember that no one is an island and we all will need to rely on each other to get through this!

Karin Purugganan, Resident in Counseling:

We are now quarantined and things have gotten REALLY close! I’m at home daily with my family of seven attempting to keep things “normal.” And, this is hard!

Here are a few tips for healthy communication in hopes of helping others.

First off, let’s teach our family members emotional regulation by responding honestly to each situation. In heated moments, recognize that your temperament could be better, for example “I just got really frustrated, I’m going to take some deep breaths before we continue.” Demonstrate to your kids (and spouse) the idea of “taking a break” before engaging in situations that upset you. Also, take this concentrated time together to “shout out” when you see your kids or spouse doing something great!

When my oldest ( 21 years old) was young, I took frequent opportunities to tell her “something important.” I worked in a hospital at the time, and felt more in control telling her how to stay safe. Use age appropriate language to talk about safety on the internet, bullying amongst kids, gun safety, medications/pills, kindness when it is difficult, etc. By sharing these difficult topics when they didn’t directly involve her, it made it easier to have REAL difficult conversations when her choices were questionable. She didn’t shy away from me when I told her I wanted to have a difficult conversation, and conversely, she sought me out for them as well.

In conclusion, remember that practice makes improvement, so if the conversation doesn’t go well, try again later. I’m also a big fan of “car conversations” that don’t include a lot of eye contact, but no one can escape the situation.

Vanessa Mackall Lal, Resident in Counseling:

Maintaining healthy and positive communication in the midst of a difficult situation can be both rewarding and extremely challenging. All families have moments of disagreement, so it’s very important to understand that a difference of opinion does not have to lead to an explosive argument.

Learning to resolve conflict through honest, and intentional word choices can help families develop a stronger sense of understanding, trust, and care between themselves. Remembering to listen and speak respectfully, and empathetically to our loved ones, even when it becomes a challenge, ensures that everyone continues to feel loved, and supported within the family unit even after the conflict has been resolved.

If you find yourself needing support, just remember we are here for you. Reach out about our Online Counseling Services. Until next time, Be Wise. Hang in there!

In case you need a pick-me-up, follow Laura Clery on Facebook. She is hilarious!