I suspect there are a few things that will happen to families during this quarantine. Some will simply isolate. The children will hang out in their rooms. Mom and dad will kill time by watching TV, reading or surfing the web. The second possibility is that families will fight more. Cabin fever will run too high. They will get too irritated and start nit-picking at each other. We may see a spike in divorces when this comes to an end. The third possibility is that families will develop stronger bonds. We will probably even see a little baby boom starting in about nine months and perhaps lasting longer than we suspect.
Let’s first talk about the isolators – those staying in their rooms. This may be rather common given that schools have gone online and many people are working from home. This puts individuals in their bedrooms or private spaces with a computer and it is easy just to stay there. One way to get the family together is meal time. One option is to make it nice. Without a daily commute, many people working from home will have more time. Use the China and nice silverware. Put the refreshments in a pitcher, use the butter dish and sugar bowl. Set the table nice. Create a topic of discussion for the dinner. It may start out a little stiff at first but give it a chance and let things develop. Table games are another way to promote interaction and avoid boredom that leads to cabin fever. Table games are much better than video games or movies. They require face-to-face interaction which teaches how to read body language and improves social skills. Table games are known to deepen interpersonal relationships and develop trust.
Now let’s consider those prone to getting irritable. Illness and lack of sleep are both known causes of irritability. If someone gets sick, the rest of the family needs to be super understanding and patient with them. Everyone should try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If someone is sick, they should be getting more. Tending to a sick person can be bonding. So this can turn the irritability challenge on its head. Instead of getting upset with someone who is sick, try to go above and beyond to be nice and put up with their bad attitude. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is known to make people more irritable. Instead of drinking caffeine, try to find some quiet time to read a book, listen to music, mediate or exercise. If you feel yourself getting upset, count to ten and step out of the room to cool down. Talk to other members of the family and agree to a sign. If someone feels that things are getting too tense, giving the sign (like holding up two fingers) is a plea to take a cool-down break. Instead of lashing out and reacting to something that is perceived to be inappropriate, one can simply give the sign and let things cool down.
The third option is the most attractive. An article published by the British Psychological Society in 2015 discussed research that had shown “strong social bonds can act as a beneficial psychological resource, especially in times of need.” The coronavirus quarantine is a time when these family bonds can be beneficial in reducing the anxiety that many people are feeling. Family activities are not simply limited to eating and playing games together. Cooking the meal is an interactive and enjoyable experience that families miss out on when they go to a restaurant. Finding recipes online, getting ingredients out of the cabinets, mixing, measuring and experimenting is all part of cooking and baking that provides bonding for family members. Interactive reading is also a bonding activity. The family can sit together around the table or in the living room and read outload from a book. Each member reads a page and passes it to the next family member. Those that are religious may read passages from the Bible and even pause to discuss them. Interactive prayer is also done as a group. This involves members either kneeling together or sitting in a circle and holding hands while each one takes a turn saying a short prayer outload. For many families, this quarantine maybe a blessing in disguise that strengthens bonds that will last for years. Fifty years from now some siblings may find themselves together at Christmas or Thanksgiving, remembering back to this time and the love they felt at home.