Here's a family project for the long lockdown: adapting your space and routine for the "new normal."
Updated: Aug 16, 2021
While household chores and schedule organizing are the least appealing of activities --- especially for young children (and yes, us adults too!) --- there's opportunity to be productive and to feel empowered. How? By paving the way for the different way of doing things that's here to stay. Since we're all already sheltering in place because of COVID-19, we can create quality family time by designing the living space and routine that would make our hybrid work arrangement, our kids' online distance schooling, and the home being both our safe heaven and our recreation place, come together seamlessly.
So how to begin?
If you're like most people, your home and your daily routine is chaos incarnate. And this is awesome, because it means life is happening! But with so many things to juggle, on top of having to cope with the uncertainty of our times, a bit of organizing can create some much needed stress-relief and predictability at home.
Below are some tips on how to prepare your space and your routine for the new normal.
Have a sit-down first with all members of the family.
All family members, regardless of age, has had their routine altered by the disruptions of the past months. But after a year and a half into the pandemic, most have found ways to adjust and can identify what works for them.
Have a family meeting and survey everyone what works for them the most. When does your youngster feel most mentally alert, for example, to accomplish his asynchronous classroom materials? Maybe that's the time the toddlers can play in the garden out of hearshot, so that Kuya can study while baby gets some much needed sunlight. Maybe the eldest can prepare the ingredients from a meal plan during the weekends when she is off-work, so that you don't have to rush after your morning work meeting to ensure healthy food is set at the table. And if there's only one space in the home conducive for privacy, maybe the family can negotiate how to take turns using it, as we all need some breathing space from time to time.
Holistic well-being can get sacrificed when we have to hunker down at home. Before COVID-19, kids would roam the playground and chase other kids, while adults get both spiritual growth and socialization in in-person church activities. With those limited for us (and would probably be still for quite awhile) how can we still provide for our family's multi-faceted needs?
Here is where a bit of creativity would need to come in. Maybe going to the gym can be replaced by a family Zumba in front of the TV and socializations with peers can be via e-parties or exchange of care boxes via couriers. Maybe this is the time again to dust off those board games of the 80s (snakes and ladders, anyone?) to get the family off too much screen time. And just because we can't go to the beach, doesn't mean the beach can't come to us. When we engage in visualization exercises, complete with engaging all our senses to mentally transport ourselves in our dream vacation spot, you hit both boredom-buster and mindfulness meditation in one go.
Some structural changes may be have to be considered ---- or maybe not.
Of course creativity and routine management will only get us so far when our space doesn't allow conducive work and study areas, or there's real conflict with what one family member needs over that of others. If possible, consider investing in actual structural changes such as converting maybe a stockroom into a small but well-ventilated private office (it may be time to dispose of extra clutter anyways), soundproofing the bedroom (if your bedroom is also your office space, why not?), or installing a study table in the terrace (yes! better than looking at the same 4 walls every day).
But then, if structural changes are not permitted by the size of our home or our budget, we can still explore work-life integration instead of work-life boundaries. Maybe you don't need to tell your toddler to quiet down when Mama is on a Zoom call: ask people at work if your little one can join the meeting with you. And maybe other flexible work arrangements can be explored so that you can really assist your children in their classwork during regular school hours, with your deliverables attended to when you are most free. A blessing of the lockdown is more time to be with family and it would be a shame if we cannot take advantage of this in our attempt to create a work space in our home space.
Times are tough, but flexibility is a coping resource that can assist us in adapting to change faster and with less stress. And with the COVID-19 virus seemingly becoming a part of our daily grind, it doesn't hurt to consider how to make the best of an unusual situation to survive ---- and maybe even thrive.
Written by Kay Vardeleon. Kay is a registered psychologist and is co-founder of Childfam-Possibilities Psychosocial Services. She is mother to Erin, who is doing her best to entertain her mama in these difficult times.