Family Quarantine #WinSpiration Part I
I have been regularly checking in with clients to understand how they are facing this period of quarantine with their families during an agreed separation. Here are the most inspiring new habits these parents and spouses have instituted over the last few months to bring stability, confidence, and maintain important emotional bonds with their children and extended family during this difficult and humbling time.
Children have the most incredible internal honesty detector system. Provide them short simple age appropriate responses to their many questions while being as honest as you can. If you cannot respond to a question about COVID 19, parents offer: ‘The scientists and specialists will update us to provide answers to those questions.’
As to the children’s questions about your separation, the children need to be emotionally supported and assured often that they are not the reason for the separation; that they are loved and are important to the family.
#2 Cooperate + Communicate Collaboratively
You have expressed the decision to separate yet find yourself still under the same roof. What can you offer your spouse that they need at this time? What do you need from your spouse and above all what matters most to your family until you are each able to move into new surroundings? How do you want to remember this time under quarantine with your children and perhaps extended family? Actions which minimize conflict and demonstrate respect are two strategies to bring positivity and calm to the household.
#3 Family Meetings
This is a safe gathering space for every person in the family for information sharing to quell and calm anxieties, to strengthen resolve, and to support each other as a valued member of the family.
Family meetings should take place once a week at a regular time and at any other time should a family member request it. Checking in on each person’s wellbeing is important and can be adopted during the meetings in gentle and supportive manner.
The ‘agenda’ posted on the fridge door includes everyone expressing gratitude, offering some lighthearted stories, acknowledging accomplishments, as well as scheduling issues and family news. Every family member should have a seat at the table and be encouraged to express their feelings, worries, and needs to the others in their home. A follow up private parent / child meeting may be necessary to deal with anxieties, discipline, school concerns, and other matters.
#4 Decisions Should Not be Delegated to the Children
It is the time for separating parents to express their plans in a way that does not place the decision-making burden on the children. Children are not your confidants with whom you share your fears and concerns arising from the breakdown of your spousal relationship. Parents need to keep to their lane making decisions for the best interests of their children and to ensure that the children experience their childhood as best as they can while respecting COVID-19 precautions.
#5 Written Schedules with Flexibility Incorporated
A written posted schedule decided by the parents keeps everyone on the same plan. Permitting certain flexibility such as during game night may keep conflict at bay. Demonstrating understanding and empathy towards each other’s struggles to balance the ups and downs of experiencing quarantine while separated cannot be written into a schedule.
Included in that struggle is a concern for where the other spouse goes, and the protections used such as mask and hand washing when they step out of the home for exercise or a grocery run and upon return. More of a concern is if they breach the government issued COVID precautions to visit friends or family residing elsewhere.
Negotiating house rules together may alleviate potential conflict. Developing and maintaining trust with each other by being fully informed will make the continued cohabitation easier until a separation agreement can be negotiated to conclusion.
Lorisa Stein MA JD FEA continues to accept new clients exercising government and health officials’ precautions during the pandemic. Communications are welcome to her direct line 416 596-8081, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and by arranged video conferencing.