Wednesday | 01 April | 2020
By Anja van den Berg
You may have two toddlers under five in your suburban home or live with a lively teenager in a small inner-city apartment. Maybe you’re a single parent or you share a house with your blended family. Whatever the circumstances, here are a few ways to make self-isolation with children more comfortable.
- Establish a routine
The brain wants patterns and dislikes unpredictability. Generally, people feel more anxious if the level of environmental unpredictability is higher. To combat this problem, work on establishing a routine. It can be tricky to establish a routine when your whole day happens within four walls, but a system is critical for long-term success. Children especially thrive on routine, but it’s helpful for adults too, says relationship psychotherapist Kate Moyle. She adds that establishing a routine can be particularly challenging if both parents are working from home. Moyle recommends carving out time to be spent together and time to be spent apart.
- Set family goals and expectations
Since we will be indoors for quite a long time, sit down with your family – especially your children – and consider the best approach for making it work. Couples therapist Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari says that parents should be specific when discussing expectations. For example, tell children that you expect them to keep up with schoolwork and help with laundry and the dishes. Now is also an excellent opportunity to come up with a family project. Why not organise all your old family photographs into photo albums – the perfect way to reminisce, bond and pass the time. Choose a project that will interest every family member and enable everybody’s strength to shine.
- Designate areas of the house
Psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says even if you live in a one-bedroom apartment, you should try to designate different areas as ‘work’, ‘chill-out’, ‘privacy’ and ‘interaction’. Family members must agree on rules about these spaces. Allocate separate activity corners – a reading corner, an art corner, a board games corner, and so on. It’s also a good idea to assign a timeout zone which isn’t necessarily just for children. “When we are stuck close together, the opportunity to be by yourself for a while is important,” says Murray Blacket, a couple’s counsellor. “Take a short break in this space and do something you want to do for yourself – whether this is writing a diary or watching a quick TV show.”
Don’t avoid answering kids’ questions about coronavirus. If children have legitimate questions which parents skirt or refuse to answer, it could cause tension. “Kids are smart and will have lots of questions,” says relationship therapist Aoife Drury. “Shutting down questions will only create confusion, upset and anxiety.” Talking to them about what is happening – in a factual way – can alleviate their anxiety and, by extension, alleviate the parents’ anxiety as well.
The Hub: https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/23/how-to-self-quarantine-self-isolate/
Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.au/news-and-media/news/coronavirus-tips-for-self-isolating
* All information was correct at the time of publication.