We are all under a tremendous amount of pressure.

Whether you are dealing with the disappointment of prom being cancelled, trying to teach your children B.E.D.M.A.S. from your kitchen counter, or trying to work from home while your spouse binges season 3 of Brooklyn 99, (and everything in between) tensions at home may be high.

Under the weight and confinement of the pandemic regulations, you may find your emotions amplified. One small inconvenience that you normally would have tolerated might now become your tipping point.

With 7 weeks of social distancing orders under our belts, it’s understandable to feel increasingly agitated. Having to stay home with our families makes them the first and most accessible targets for our frustrations, and in turn, makes us potential recipients of them.

If you are feeling an imbalance in your familial relationships, please remember: this is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

Never before has the demand to multi-task been so great. You may have found yourself trying to teach 3 children 3 different subjects while working from home, keeping the constantly full house clean, and feeding yourself and them a nutritious meal, all with minimal external support. Some people are continuing to work full time, some can’t continue to work from lack of childcare, some are working from home alongside their partners, and some are frontline workers that have to consider the well-being of their families at home and cope with the events of their day. We empathize with and applaud everyone’s unique position and perserverance.

As much as we love our families, many are not used to or not meant to be spending this amount of time together. Below we have gathered some tips on how we can reduce tension and maintain harmony with one another during this time.

Lowering Expectations

This applies to your duties as a partner and a parent, but also what you expect from your children and/or partner.

If you try to replicate your ordinary routine of activities, and try to add on new and often foreign tasks brought on by the pandemic, it will be unmanageable and unsustainable. This can bring about feelings of failure from not living up to the standards you set for yourself. Do what you can, put your health first (get a good sleep, eat well, take breaks) and understand that your family may want to follow that same guide, and should not be criticized for adapting to their new “norm”. If your partner puts off the home renovation you’ve already been waiting for, consider whether this is a priority and let it go for now.

Photo: Buy Olympia

Structuring the Day

We may not be able to follow our regular routines, but we can definitely implement some structure in our lives. If you and your partner are spending time at home simultaneously, be sure to set aside alone time to maintain independence. It is important to participate in your own interests and hobbies for your own enjoyment and space, and at the very least, it gives you both something to talk about when you reconnect.

Do not feel that your child should be engaging in 6 hours of schoolwork – they are not in their school environment. A couple hours of traditional learning is plenty, then consider getting creative in teaching them life skills. Whether it’s helping cook a meal or getting them to help change the oil in your car, you are allowing them to learn new skills in fun and different ways. Do not underestimate the power of play – not only does it nurture imagination, but it strengthens their cognitive and emotional functioning, and helps them to make sense of their world.

The most important thing is, find what works for YOU.

Photo: Your Story

Find the Silver Lining

Sometimes you need to put things in perspective: this is the most time you may ever spend together. It’s up to you to decide if this is a positive or a negative.

Remind yourself of all the times you wished you could see your family more often-those late nights at work, your kid’s busy extracurricular activities taking up the entire weekend. Now you have the opportunity to really enjoy each other’s company.

Introduce limits on screen-time: Friday Family Game Nights, Wednesday Movie Nights

Create new memories: learning how to garden, baking as a team, building forts, stay-at-home date nights

Be nostalgic: pull out your old photo albums, re-visit happy moments, talk about how far we’ve come, and from there, discuss where we want to be and what we want to do as a family when the pandemic is over.

This halt in ‘normal’ everyday life has given us an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to us and what we want our new normal to look like. 

Photo: A Cup of Jo

Consistent Communication

Make a point to regularly check in with your family. Just because you coped well last week, doesn’t mean you will this week.

The global situation and our own situations change daily and just because you live in the same house, does not mean you are all dealing with the effects of the pandemic the same. Your family members may need different kinds of support along the way. Ask them how you can make their day better, and if you do not have the resources to follow through with their request, be realistic, and let them know what you can offer. Your family is a unit, and they are there for you too.

Be clear. If something is bothering you, air it out before it builds up. For example, if you have been taking on a load of household chores, ask your family for help.

Be specific. If you have asked but nothing has come of it, instead of  saying, “I need help in the kitchen” try saying, “I’ll cook tonight’s dinner if you clean the dishes.” If you have assigned your child chores, and they are procrastinating, give them an option. Instead of “Please empty the dishwasher and clean your room.” offer choice in exchange for immediacy- “You can either empty the dishwasher or clean your room if you do it by the end of the day.”

Communication is both an act of giving and receiving. It is both talking and listening. When you have time, really put effort into getting to know your family. Talk about things you’ve never talked about before and respectfully listen to their point of view.

Honesty is the best policy. Naturally, your children will have questions about the pandemic, and it is best to be truthful. Even if you do not hold all the answers, let them know you are also uncertain, and keep them and yourself informed.

It’s important to communicate with who you feel comfortable with. If you can’t speak to your family or need to vent about them, call a friend or find support online. Some suggestions: https://www.parents.com/news/supports-for-parents-during-covid-19-pandemic

Photo: Fresh Desk Blog

Humour and Playfulness

We are at risk for contracting a potentially fatal virus and we have to take precautionary measures seriously, however, following the news too often and unnecessarily going overboard in our own homes is exhausting and can create negative feelings. Introducing humour and playfulness can induce calming effects on our nervous system and create many other benefits. Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine. We can let go of what is out of control, and enjoy what comes in the meantime. 

Try surfing the ‘comedy’ genre of your favourite streaming website and watch a movie together. After the movie finishes, recreate your favourite scenes or sayings with your family. Often, the movie becomes funnier when you incorporate or assign personal meaning to it. It also gives you and your family an inside joke to make each other smile.

Photo: ZME Science

PLEASE NOTE: These are just tips to resolve and avoid trivial conflicts. However, many people find themselves trapped at home with their abusers during this pandemic. If you are experiencing domestic violence, there are resources available to help you in your situation. In case of emergency, dial 911 for immediate assistance. For safety tips on living with an abusive partner, please visit Luke’s Place. For an updated list of Women’s Resources, please visit our COVID-19 Resources blog post.