Family sitting on couch for psychotherapy counseling with Dr David Helfand

Peaceful Living for Families & Couples During COVID-19

During this time of COVID-19, imagine walking into your living room to find everything is put away, the kids are doing their homework, your adult children have dinner prepared, and everyone greets you with a smile. Unfortunately, that is not the life of most families during the recent pandemic. As a relaxation and relationship psychologist, I have been hearing from couples and their children that stress is at an all-time high right now. Parents are working from home, kids can’t go to camp, and college students are living back with the family sometimes even with their girlfriend or boyfriend.

If you are getting gray hair faster than you want and are looking to find peace in your home, here are 5 things you can start doing right now:

Quick Summary:

To improve the peace and fulfillment around your home during the pandemic (and after) here are 5 quick tips:

  1. Spend some time alone
  2. Dedicate time to work on hobbies
  3. Schedule family time to reconnect with each other
  4. Engage with your spouse and family before using technology in the morning
  5. Work on improving your communication and kindness

1. Spend Time Alone

Everyone needs a break sometimes. While humans are naturally social creatures, we also need time to ourselves to recharge. If you take any group of two or more people and put them together 24/7 for weeks on end, there is going to be tension. This is true for couples, families, friends, and roommates. If you want to be the best person for those in your life, make sure to say goodbye from time to time so you can practice meditation or whatever helps you recharge.

2. Work on Hobbies

I hear many people say, “I love _______, but I just don’t have time.” The hard truth is that we make time for what we value. If I paid you one million dollars, would you make time to practice guitar or attend your marriage therapy? Probably yes. The world is in chaos, and it can feel overwhelming or even selfish to take time to yourself. However, people who engage in hobbies are generally happier and more compassionate to others. Think of this the next time you open your arts-and-crafts-box: knitting and painting could actually improve the world.

3. Schedule Family Time

While time alone is very important, quality time with family is also necessary. With so many jobs allowing for telecommuting right now, I recommend bringing back family dinners into the calendar and also scheduling play time with parents and kids. Additionally, remember that many kids who misbehave are trying to get attention from their parents. Playing with your kids can decrease stress in the home, and increase their emotional intelligence which gives them a higher earning potential in their future careers and improves their resiliency. Therefore, use the precious time you have now to bond with and support those that share the same roof. Family therapy can also help you to reconnect and learn proper communication skills.

4. Touch Your Spouse Before Your Phone

Recall this morning. Did you touch your phone before your spouse? Did you look at your newsfeed before your kids? Starting the day by interacting with technology can hurt our ability to manage emotions throughout the rest of the day. Think of it like substituting your morning tea or coffee with stress hormones and anxious thoughts. Before you reach for technology, open your eyes and look around the room. If your family is sleeping, take some time for yourself. If they are awake, engage with them. The general recommendation is to avoid technology for the first hour after waking up. This includes neurofeedback training. It can wait.

5. Improve Communication and Kindness

The most important skill that I teach couples, families, and corporations when it comes to communication is to state what you want, not what you don’t want. There are many reasons to use this skill. Relationally, it feels better when someone is positive. Saying “I would like you to take out the trash” feels better than “don’t forget to take out the trash.” Another reason is that our brains cannot picture not doing an action. This is why sports psychologists suggest telling an athlete to “hold on to the ball” instead of “don’t drop the ball.” The moment someone says not to do something, your brain pictures doing that exact thing. Therefore, when you state what you don’t want, you invoke the image of that act in the other person’s mind and your own. You are more likely to get positive change by invoking a positive image and communicating in a positive way.

There are many ways to create a peaceful home during a pandemic or other crisis. As I tell all my clients, stress is an opportunity to grow, and arguments are a chance to build intimacy and a connection instead of breaking it. I am available if you need help discovering how to implement and practice any of the skills above. Please remember to be cautious comparing your family to others especially on social media because every family has a different flow. Your kids might enjoy looking at worms for hours, while another family might want to build a computer from scratch. Through couples counseling or family therapy, I can help you identify your family’s ideal flow and optimize the skills above for your family or relationship. Every person and family deserves to find peace, and I hope you can discover the path that gets you there.