Have you wondered how to increase family unity during the shelter-in-place order? Even if you’ve spent years wishing you had more family time, you still may be experiencing ‘too much of a good thing’ at the moment.
Regardless of how much you love your significant other, spouse or children, you’re likely going through some measure of anxiety, stress or family conflict. Being together way more than normal is just the beginning of your potential challenges though.
Forget about homeschooling, you’re just trying to make sure your kids get along first. And you may be overwhelmed by meal times, work-from-home demands or just wish you had a stable job. You also may be a first responder who’s worried about your family staying safe (and whose family is worried about you staying safe).
On top of that, no one has any idea of when things will get back to ‘normal’. How do you work at family unity and having a thriving family while dealing with all of these challenges and more? Here are some ideas on how to stay on the same team during these difficult times.
Be Understanding of Each Other’s ‘Shortcomings’
Not getting as much accomplished as you’d hoped is just the norm in families at the moment. Whether that means your children attempting to learn from home, you trying to work from home or just making an effort to get up at a reasonable time and take a shower.
Each person in your family is processing the stressors of being thrown out of your routines differently. Love and patience with each other (including yourself) are needed.
Now is the perfect time to remember your family isn’t a ‘productivity factory’ always striving to get more done. You are there for each other to build memories, make each other better and to work as a team to accomplish your goals.
Beware of ‘Social Media Perfection’
There was the danger of feeling terrible about yourself after viewing the ‘social media perfection’ of others before the pandemic started. Well, that’s now been multiplied many times over.
How so? Some are desperately attempting to grab attention by looking like they’re conquering their fears and setbacks without a hitch.
They may make posts showing their children happily sitting down to ‘ten straight hours of homeschooling’, baking homemade bread, oh, and all the while working the night shift. That’s hopefully an exaggeration, but you get the point. These types of posts can make you wonder if there’s something wrong with you. In reality, the fact that you feel stress or anxiety right now is the normal and healthy response to what’s going on.
In her “Psychology Today” article entitled “Why Are So Many People Quarantine Bragging?” Jelena Kecmanovic Ph.D. shares the following:
“What you see is a mirage of perfection. And you, in turn, feel bad that you are failing in comparison, even though you know this is a curated and embellished reality, not someone’s actual life.”
Ironically, these ‘perfect posts’ are shared out of insecurities and, in turn, can bring out the insecurities of others. We all have weaknesses, inadequacies and limits that go along with our unique gifts. That’s what makes us human and allows us to relate to all others on a deep and meaningful level.
What is Kecmanovic’s recommendation? She says, “Clinging to perfection is harmful. Try being authentic instead.” Now, is a great time to discuss that it’s OK to not feel OK during the pandemic (and to resist the guilt-inducing peer pressure to do so).
Find the Difference Between Control and Influence
One of the major factors contributing to depression is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Many (even those without a previous history of diagnosable depression) are experiencing some form of situational blues or worse at the moment.
In the past, some were able to create the illusion that they could control much of what happened in their lives. Teens in sports thought if they trained hard enough for their season, they’d prevail—until the season got canceled, for instance.
Younger and older children alike are grieving the loss of a routine and disappointment of being abruptly taken from their social environments. Parents are struggling with working from home (with children) if they have work at all. And, everyone is likely feeling the strain of increased social isolation.
As you already know, this adds up to plenty of potential for added pressure and conflict. In light of that, now is a great time to discuss the difference between control and influence as a family.
In her Psychology Today article entitled Depression, Helplessness and “The Great Pause,” Margaret Wehrenberg Psy.D. shares the following: “There is so little in the Great Pause, much less in life, that we can control. That said, there is much that we can influence.”
In reality, we are in control of very little in life. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to achieve something better. The good news is we can still positively influence our lives even though total control is largely a myth. Healthful choices now will increase the likelihood of a positive future outcome.
Take Time to Re-Evaluate Your Family Life
Some are beginning to call this historic time of stay-at-home orders “The Great Pause”. Now, if you’re on the front lines of the pandemic, things probably feel like anything but that.
Still, for tens of millions of Americans whose work obligations have been disrupted, there’s been a lot more time to think about life. There’s also been much more time with family.
Do your best not to miss this unique opportunity to evaluate how your life and the life of your family are going. If this pause has revealed things that need to change, don’t look at that as a negative.
It’s a blessing in disguise to have the time to consider where your family life is heading and to make corrections. Every one of us can find ways to improve our significant-other and parent/child relationships. There may never be a better moment in our lifetime to make a positive-life-change pivot than now.
Increasing Family Unity: Ask for Help If Things Get Too Tough
One key for families during the stay-at-home orders and the ongoing challenges of a pandemic will be to know when to get help. These times are bringing out both the best and the worst in families right now.
If you’re struggling personally, are experiencing relationship difficulties or are overwhelmed by the current family and parenting dynamics, Valencia Relationship Institute can assist you.
You can reach out to us for a video therapy appointment with the eventual option of in-person counseling once things return to the new normal. Feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment.
We offer counseling in Valencia, CA and Toluca Lake/Burbank, CA. We also may be able to assist you outside of that range with telecounseling. Whether you need individual therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling or family therapy, you don’t have to walk through your current challenges alone. A virtual counselor from Valencia Relationship Institute can help.