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MOV Parent: Surviving family lockdown

When all of our kids were still home, we would enact “family lockdown” after church on Sunday. That meant everyone stayed together and there were no screens on or friends over. We treasured this time together. So now, my youngest daughter’s high school just cancelled all activity for the next two weeks. My two older kids are being sent home because their college campuses are closed until further notice. A few days ago I was riding my bike on the Marietta bike trail and overheard a young woman on her phone venting “I can’t be stuck at home for the next three weeks! I’ll go nuts!”. I imagine she’s a college student that has been sent home due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Like it or not, we are all going to be on an extended “family lockdown”.

We’ve entered a pandemic disease outbreak in the age of the 24/7 newsfeed and social media. COVID-19 will be added to the list of historic pandemics like bubonic plague, cholera outbreaks, influenza, and HIV/AIDs. This is the first time, though, that we have been so globally connected and scientifically advanced enough to coordinate an organized response to possibly quell the outbreak. That’s the good news about the 24/7 newsfeed and social media world we live in. The bad news is the over-reaction that results in huge amounts of anxiety and alarming shortages of toilet paper and Clorox wipes. We can go crazy with our “prepper” mentality, and its possible that we’ll go crazy with the shutdowns going on.

When’s the last time you’ve been stuck at home with your family and nothing to do because everything has been cancelled? A friend of mine who is an obstetrician has made the observation that times like these often result in a bumper crop of babies nine months later. That says people figure out something to do when normal life comes screeching to a halt. But have we experienced that halt to normalcy for this long before? Not in my lifetime. This is strange new territory we are in, folks. I think its going to be important to have a plan that includes something more than chilling with Netflix. The kids are going to get bored, and the parents are going to get stressed and worn out.

There are a few things that I recommend families do to survive the Coronavirus Lockdown. First, address the situation that has caused the lockdown. Everyone needs to be on the same page about health precautions. Go to cdc.gov for information about infection prevention. Secondly, develop a structure for your family’s daily routine. Give the message that “we’re in this together and everyone needs to pitch in.” Sticking to a schedule is vital. The family’s ability to get through this lockdown time depends on making a daily plan and trying to follow that plan. The kids need to get their school work done first. Secondly, everyone needs some jobs to do to keep the house running well. Thirdly, plan some fun time together as a family. Given the restrictions, I suggest getting outside to enjoy nature in the spring time. Limit screen time and avoid the 24/7 news cycle. Encourage physical activity and creative expression.

Remember that “this too shall pass.” If your neighbor runs out of toilet paper, give them one of your extra rolls. Stay calm and carry on.

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Patrick Ward, Ph.D., is a marriage and family therapist in Parkersburg. Visit his website at patrickwardphd.com

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