The feeling is that we are all struggling individually with the changes that have taken place worldwide. At one time people may have been shocked or dismayed, but actually found their footings somewhat, learning to enjoy the decreed “Shutdown”. That was, in part, the time of year it took place. At that time children were nearly finished school and summer plans had been made. Everyone felt this was crazy, but it was just a “blip”!
Reality has now set in. This new normal isn’t normal at all. Our children are being home-schooled; people considered essential are allowed to “go” to work while the rest of us work virtually or not at all!
Courtney Burden, Therapist, says “In terms of couples being stuck at home together, it’s gotten a lot less “cute” after almost a full year of doing it.” Courtney continues on to explain that we’ve become reactive to smaller issues.
During sessions with clients, Courtney sometimes uses visualization techniques to help them understand. Visualize a glass of water. The glass fills up a little more with each stressor; financial difficulties, cabin fever or boredom. If it’s close to the brim adding a single drop (maybe dishes not washed) causes the glass to overflow. When this happens we either become angry, or hold it inside until we explode!
Courtney explains that we need to be upfront about what we really require from our partner. As people, typically we’re very good at saying what we don’t want or like, but less so about what we actually need.
She recommends using a simple script for being able to communicate clearly. For instance, “When you _______, I _______. I need ______.
Courtney also stresses the importance of making sure we use language that is non- blaming. A complaint discusses a specific behavior, but criticism may be felt as an attack on the ability or integrity of the other person. Staying away from criticisms allows less defensive response.
Then, when it comes to managing resources or chores – even helping the kids with school – plan ahead to avoid chaos. Courtney feels that visual schedules are a great tool for families who have to manage multiple people and programs. “It’s hard enough keeping track of all the “moving parts” in a household without interpersonal conflict.”
Therapist, Laura Kyrkos speaks to the “Covid fatigue” created by the lockdown for our children. Many children are experiencing reactive behaviors, boredom, unhealthy attachments and a craving for social interaction. At the same time some children feel that they accomplish more as they aren’t feeling the social pressures of the classroom.
In terms of the frustration or boredom that children feel, therapists find that they are quite resilient. Some of them have expressed that they spend more time outdoors, some create scavenger hunts….really they are trying to make the best of the situation. Certainly the kids are missing their friends and finding it difficult to maintain their social circles.
Laura explains that most families would never share this amount of time with each other. Under “normal” circumstances there would be work, school, sporting or social events that would keep families busy within their own circles. This is the first time in a long time we are having this much more one on one time!
As for ideas Laura encourages everyone to understand. Let children know they can think it through like this….First I do _______ then I do ____________. Otherwise the unknown or the rest of the day can become overwhelming with so many tasks to be completed!
Both therapists agree that visual schedules are a great idea. It allows everyone to visualize how the day or the week will look and let them have time to plan ahead. Make them fun with clip art or pictures. Laura also encourages parents to allow their child to have a quiet space with limited distractions at home. Children should be encouraged to have a sense of independance at home or “me time.” Leraning to have their own self care is crucial as they become older. This could be a Zoom meeting with friends, playing board games online with other family members, meditation or yooga sessions or playing outside with their sibilings.
At least our days are getting longer now and we’re heading into the “last half” of winter. Not knowing what to expect next can be very difficult. However, we do know that spring will arrive, flowers will bloom…and somehow, this too shall pass.