As therapists, we highly value connection, togetherness, processing and talking things out with loved ones. However, too much together time can become difficult when there is no break. Living with others during this quarantine has proved to be much harder than many expected. Not only did virtual school, work, and activities last much longer than anticipated, having a virtual life while staying in the same house as others can become exhausting. The lack of space results in increased irritability, and it’s easy to forget that more often than not, those arguments or annoyances we build up in our head could simply go away after a couple hours apart. Remember when you would wake up grumpy, get upset with your partner over something trivial, and then forget about it at work? Now, your work is right next to the person who you were frustrated with that morning. Obviously, things start to build up and letting go of tensions without space can be very difficult. This can happen between anyone living together: roommates who barely know each other, spouses, parents and children, best friends staying together at college, etc. Whatever the case is, sharing a space for this long is hard.
So, for that exact reason, we encourage you to find some space for yourself. This could include getting physical space by going on a walk by yourself or something as simple as watching a separate show than your partner. And don’t forget to allow others to do the same, because as easy as it is to be selfish when it seems everything is out of control, remember that we are all experiencing many of the same discomforts. I heard it said that while we are all in the same storm, we are all in different boats. That being given, carve out time in your week to do something with your living partners to purposefully spend time around each other. Being in the same room is different than making an effort to be in the same room – the latter allows for people to actually feel connected. One problem that a lot of relationships are facing is the idea of small talk – what is there to talk about when there’s not much to report on throughout the day? This can be solved in some fun ways: find questions and games to play online that encourage getting to know each other. Yes, it might be cheesy, but online resources like New York Time’s “36 Questions That Lead To Love” are interesting to look through and spark conversation.
Families have an interesting challenge to overcome: how can parents be on constant kid duty while they have their own responsibilities happening at the same time? Parents right now are at higher risk for distress given the amount of attention required of them by their work, children, partner and self-care. The consistent overwork can inhibit parents’ potential to be good caretakers, because a clouded headspace gets in the way of good decision-making and behaviors. And, of course, this exacerbates children’s negative reactions and psychological symptoms, resulting in an unproductive cycle within families. Don’t worry, though, there are still a few routes parents can take to improve on home life.
- Share home responsibilities with the whole family. This could include letting children help in the kitchen for dinner when making their favorite food or having them hold the dog’s leash while on a walk together.
- Encourage playtime. Playing for children is an incredibly important part of healthy development, because they often express how they are feeling through their imagination. Allowing kids to lead playtime with parents will give them a relieving and simple means of control that most of us (yes, even kids!) have lost during this pandemic.
- Structure the day. We all used to have some sort of routine throughout our week, but now we must remember our days through experiences and moments rather than time. Create some new traditions to add to your everyday routines, such as a family game night, reading before bed, online social time with friends, or simply a more distinct morning/night routine.