Family Claustrophobia

Maybe by this point, you’re a little overwhelmed by all the extra time with our loved ones during this restrictive period. You can feel grateful but also disappointed about things being canceled. At times, you may feel guilty for your emotions…shouldn’t you be soaking up the moments we have when others are not as fortunate??

These emotions are honestly all normal. This global pandemic has put everyone through trials we’ve never experienced before. Working from home has a new meaning if you have multiple children. I have a few tips that might help you get through your cabin fever and new found family claustrophobia.

  1. I’m a big fan of Family Meetings. Now, I have a 2 year old, so this isn’t really an option for me. At the same time, she’s too young to really understand what’s going on outside her home. However, if you have older school age children or teenagers and adolescents, a family meeting is a great resource. I recommend families hold one before the school year starts, and once every season, so parents and children can coordinate schedules, duties, household chores, and the rules in the home.

    Now more than ever, family meetings can be a great way to discuss feelings and talk about ways that we can stay occupied together. Depending on the age of your children, many may turn to technology to occupy their days. As a parent, you can choose to regulate that and throw some other daily activities into the schedule-family board game or puzzle night, walks in the neighborhood, do a YouTube yoga class together, cook dinners together, re-vamp the bed time routine!

    Try to give each child or family member an opportunity to speak and voice concerns or opinions. Let your children propose what tactic would be best for tackling school work or homework. Ask them which chores they prefer and which routines make the most sense for them. Of course, you as the parent get the final say but rather than telling them, allow them to reach a conclusion with you so their input is validated.

  2. Passive recreation is a term that has been mentioned frequently in the last few weeks. It includes items like walking, jogging, or hiking outside. Provided you or no one in the family is ill, you can go outside for fresh air but maintain physical distancing from others outside your household contacts. Fresh air brightens moods. Even if its two 15 minute breaks, it’s ok to go outside and enjoy your backyard. Learn a new skill or sport. Go back to the old games you used to play when you were in grade school-hop scotch, four square, hang-man with chalk. Use this time to explore things with your children we didn’t have time to before due to the busy hectic lifestyles we all live. This a great way to get the “space” you need to get a break in the day from your children and enjoy your own time.
  3. Lastly, don’t forget to schedule normal activities in. Keep your day structured as best as possible. Kids still wake up on time, eat at a certain time, sleep at a certain time, and should continue to get some form of daily exercise or movement. That goes for the adults too! These weeks are starting to feeling like a weekend day EVERY DAY, which is really throwing off routines, adding to feelings of desperation, and increasing family claustrophobia. Give yourself space to get your work out in, keep meal times somewhat structured, and make sure bed time isn’t thrown out the window. Everyone in the house should use the last half 15 minutes to half hour before going to bed for quiet time-reading, writing, talking about your day but no screens.

As a physician, mother and wife to a physician, my life has also changed. Child care isn’t the same. I’m doing more home visits. My husband is doing tele-derm remotely. Our daughter is definitely feeling some cabin fever, as are we! My husband and I have instituted these three the best we can in our home, and it’s really helped to keep us grounded and keep our sanity during these difficult times.

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