All across America, the family unit is coming to grips with life in isolation. All the routines are out the window, as adults scramble to set up home offices. That’s not easy in a house full of distraction from hyperactive children. Everyone needs structure, but rigid schedules can be counterproductive. Another thing that’s easy to lose control of is the steady bombardment of unnerving news. A little structure can go a long way there too.
Flexible structure versus rigid schedules
With the majority of America’s schools closed indefinitely, the nation’s living rooms are turning into what CNN calls, “a Disney remake of ‘Lord of the Flies'” as children bicker over the video games. The key to any crisis, they point out, is order. Trying to impose rigid discipline will only make things worse. The trick is to build “structure” without actual “schedules.”
You can try to make a schedule, which works great for the office but kids need something a little less rigid. “if you’re inclined to schedule out the days at home, parenting expert Elissa Strauss suggests, “why not try to schedule them in such a way that they don’t feel scheduled.” A better approach is something “structured.” A list of tasks to be completed without a set time to complete them works wonders.
The idea is to set up “a pattern and a routine that conveys that world is not completely upside-down.” There still needs to be freedom to improvise. Take advantage of the crisis to let the kids have a break. “We know kids today are more anxious than ever, and we know at least some of the reason why is that they don’t have enough downtime,” Strauss notes. “I’m all for some structure during this period, for both kids’ sanity and parents’, but I think we should balance it out with some good old fashioned messing around the house.”
One piece of advice for both kids and adults is “sleep in.” Adults have a schedule to keep but the time normally spent commuting can turn into extra time in bed. Also, letting the kids sleep in gives the parents a chance to get their tasks started without distractions.
Most importantly, take the time to gather as a family. If conditions permit, visit outside with the neighbors, as long as you remember to stay more than six-feet apart. Reconnect with the neglected friends in your local village.
A structure for news reports can ease anxiety
Besides structuring your time, it’s important to step away from the news once in a while. Information is a good thing but the updates can turn into a “constant bombardment.” Especially when friends and family are all sharing the same news with their friends and social contacts.
The first thing you can do, social scientist Taha Yasseri recommends, “is reset your relationship with the internet and control how, where and when you consume news.” Bad news is well known to travel “faster, further, and deeper on social networks, so we are much more exposed to negative news than positive news.” He suggests check the news a few times a day rather than responding to every alert.
Another thing you can do is pick one or two trusted sources and stick with those. “Every notification is designed to alert you anyway, even if you’re totally calm, and of course, the content is scary,” notes mindfulness expert Tamara Russell. “Choose when you’re going to look and pick which sources. And balance that out with engaging with things that are uplifting.”
Instead of following the news, network with other humans. “There are a myriad of local micro volunteer communities springing up and it’s possible in your area that there may be things you can participate in digitally.”
Another suggestion is avoid negative drama. We have more than enough of that already. “There is enough negative news and enough drama in the real world at the moment, so when we entertain ourselves, we should focus on more positive forms of entertainment.”