Where Is Our ‘Happy’ In Covid-19 Times?

How families can make the most out of a time of crisis

In the strange and stressful times of Covid-19, we have all been asked to socially distance in unprecedented ways. For some of us, that even includes shelter-in-place orders, which can create many layers of challenge for families and society. Much of our bandwidth is taken up right now with the overwhelm of uncertainty.

Where is the opportunity during a global pandemic? When we narrow our focus from a global level to our families, we can find unique opportunities that weren’t as available in “pre-Covid” times. Here are some tips for you and your family to turn social distancing into an opportunity for so much more.

Easy Tips for the Family:

Your Presence is Requested: Be present with each other, not just in the same room together. Your children (and partner) crave your presence in their lives. So often we are next to each other without really being together. Recall a time when you were in deep conversation with a close friend, that moment when it was just the two of you and nothing else seemed to exist. This is a time when your whole family can benefit from that level of presence.

“I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You…”: What are the conversations you have been meaning to have? Ask the questions and have those talks you have set aside “for a better time.” Sit with this question for a moment: What is it you really want to, or need to say?

So Much Room For Activities: Kids love to get lost in projects. Now is the time to dig out those neglected birthday projects or create new ones. When it comes to family activities, the sky is the limit. Websites like Pinterest offer an endless variety of shared ideas. Families have been getting so creative with activities like painting rocks, tie-dyeing t-shirts, making an uplifting sign for the community, kids creating their own personalized Shutterfly books, activities with wine corks or bottle caps… you get the idea.

A Moment Alone: We can’t be connected ALL the time. Let’s face it – many of us are not getting the alone time we need, especially in families. As part of the new normal, add a quiet time of day when everyone has permission to step away from the scene and get the solitude they need. Also, the adults in the house need time to talk separately from the kids. Perhaps emphasize how important it is for adults to have their time, even if it’s brief, and that the household will be happier and healthier for it.

Wacky Family Fashion Show: Let’s get wacky! Scour your drawers for hair chalk, clips & rubber bands. Look up some hair and makeup tutorials and see what you can do. Challenge everyone to find their own crazy clothes and do a fashion show. Play around! We ALL need it.

A Musical Mission: Dig into your music platform and create playlists as a family. Make a ‘Dance Party Mix’ to get everybody moving, a ‘Cabin Fever Mix’ of everyone’s favorite songs, or a ‘Serenity Mix’ to calm everyone during homeschooling or when everyone needs to just ‘chillax’.

Gamers, Gaming, and Games: I promise you, your kids LOVE games. (Okay, MOST kids love games.) Start a Connect 4 tournament and see who is the champ. Keep score in UNO, and keep a running total over the long weeks. Is your kid not so into games? Maybe they only like video games? If so, be curious about the video games they’re playing. Ask a ton of questions. Get in there and offer to play with them. You will feel instantly closer to your child.

Oven Mitts and Mixing Bowls: What a great time to try out new ventures in cooking and baking. And you will probably have to get pretty creative with what you already have available in the kitchen, as a quick run to the store is not what it used to be. Get your little ones up to the counter to explore new recipes with you – or make up their own. They will love it!

Hearing Voices: We are getting so much more creative with our FaceTime and Facebook Messenger. This is a great way for kids to talk to their buddies, connect with Grandparents and distant family. We are in a great time with SO many ways to stay connected. Thank you, we need you, internet.

Pitch In On Lists: Have the kids help you make a ‘Covid Family Fun List’ (ok, horrible name) that anyone can add to in the coming weeks. When your kids say “I’m boooooored”, “There’s nothing to dooooooo” tell them to “Check the list!.”

Simple Tips for Adults:

Who Me? Yeah You!: What are all of the various ways you’ve been wanting and needing to turn inward and focus on yourself? It is a great time to add a self-care practice into your day. Consider journaling, meditating, taking long baths, walking around the block, moving to a workout on YouTube, or reading a book (or that pile of books) you’ve been meaning to get to.

Scrolling For Some Substance: (No, not just the CDC.) Our focus has never been more narrowed in on toilet paper and sanitizer BUT, the internet is also a vast resource. Though income may be in flux and many of us are pinching our pennies, there are smaller purchases that can make a big impact. Now is a great time to order a giant classic novel, art supplies, fun projects, soothing bath products, puzzles, and games. Fun idea: purchase temporary hair dye in fun colors and experiment on your hair. Or you could use temporary dye on your child’s hair, experimenting with a small strip of hair or just the ends.

From Clutter to Calm: Okay, I know de-cluttering sounds like no fun to most of us. But getting lost in an organizing project can take your mind off of the community overwhelm. What are those crazy household projects you’ve been putting off? Perhaps it’s time to dig in and organize the Tupperware drawer (or not).

Yes, this situation is incredibly challenging and there are SO many unknowns. But there are gifts in the hours of connection that are suddenly available. Let us hope we can look back and say “Yes it was such a challenging time, but we got through it together.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I recognize that not all families have access to the above resources. There are economic disparities that limit individuals and families on many levels. This list is, by no means, meant as a one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges we are experiencing.

About the Author:

Kim Buksa, MFT is a licensed therapist located in the Bay Area, California. She specializes in working with children and adolescents with anxiety and excessive worry. She also works as a mental health counselor at an Elementary Charter School.

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