4 Ways To Build An Intentional Family Life Within the Reality of COVID-19
By Registered Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert, Allison Villa
As you begin to resume activities outside of your social isolation bubble, you (and your kids) may be feeling a range of emotions. By being intentional about how you re-integrate into public life, you’ll feel empowered as a family and give your children a sense of security. Here are some tips and guidance to ease the anxiety, find flow, and have clear intention as you move through this transition.
1. Find what fills you up and make it a priority.
It goes without saying that parents, now more than ever, are the centre of your children’s worlds. When you are grounded and are taking care of yourself, your kids feel secure and confident. Especially in a time of uncertainty, the stability you provide in your home (emotionally and physically), makes them feel safe as they begin to venture back out into public spaces. But what does “stability” look like? As the saying goes: you need to put your oxygen mask on first. It can be as simple as getting quality sleep every night, nourishing yourself with healthy meals, or even taking a walk around the block on your own. The more you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to be present as a parent, and be more patient and loving when those big feelings come up.
When you don’t make space for your own consistent self-care, that’s where resentment breeds and the risk of burn-out increases. Your children will have more needs and feelings during this time. It’s expected and normal. You need to have the tools to be there for them at this time. With your partner, help each other to carve out time for self-care. Ideally you will each get some daily ‘alone time’ to ensure that your tanks are full. Self-care will give you both more energy and help you to regulate your own emotions with more ease (which makes for a more stable emotional environment for your family).
Ask: What do you each need to restore right now? What does it look like in the family schedule? ie. more sleep, talks with friends, walk around the block every other day, etc.
2. Keep what you love.
Instead of going “back” to life before COVID-19, be intentional about how you build your life moving forward. Reflect on this time you’ve had with your family. Though there have been plenty of challenges, there are likely a few silver linings that have presented themselves, too. As you put activities back into your schedule, consider each one carefully. Is this something that lights you up? Maybe you’ve enjoyed having less social commitments in your calendar, which has made more space for spontaneity as a family. Or, you’ve enjoyed working from home because it increases your time with family. Don’t go into auto-pilot – be intentional – this is your opportunity to create your ideal life!
Ask: What things do you want to keep moving forward? What do you love about your current COVID lifestyle?
3. Honour the challenges.
With the whole family being together 24/7, it’s common for the challenges in your life and relationships to be magnified. Perhaps you’ve always known that you didn’t love a certain aspect of your job, but now it’s abundantly clear that you need a change. Or, you haven’t been moving your body as much as you’d like, and you’re ready to make your health a priority. Maybe you realize how much time you spend talking about the domestic details with your partner, and you want to carve out quality time for meaningful conversation as a couple. This pandemic is shining a light on areas that have (likely) needed attention before. Now is a time to re-assess your values, your list of must-haves, and take action towards taking small – or big – steps towards making changes. Honouring the challenges is an opportunity for personal growth, one that can lead to a more fulfilling life for you and your family.
Ask: What part of social isolation do you not love? What has been highlighted? How can you make changes to live a more fulfilling life?
4. Say goodbye to what wasn’t working before COVID.
It’s common to have things in your life that you do because you’re “supposed to”. You now have an opportunity to choose what items you keep in your life as you re-emerge from isolation. Remember, only bring things back into your life that are a “heck, yes!”. Curate your life. Do it intentionally with your eyes wide open. If something feels like a “should”, be curious about why it was in your life before, and if it’s essential to your life moving forward. If your kids are old enough, they will love being a part of this conversation. Their honesty, wisdom, and insight bring a helpful perspective.
Ask: What do you not miss about life before COVID? What people/activities felt like obligations or “have to’s”? If you never had to do X again, how would that feel?
When you, as parents, have a consistent self-care practice, you’re able to self-regulate yourself and provide a secure base to support your children as they re-enter public life. By reflecting on your COVID lifestyle, you can understand what aspects have been positive and you want to keep, as well as what parts were challenges that you’re ready to let go of. This understanding allows you to be intentional about the life you’re building moving forward. Having this clarity and self-awareness brings empowerment to you, as parents, eases anxiety, and provides a sense of calm for your whole family.
Allison Villa is a Registered Psychotherapist and relationship expert with a private practice in Toronto, Canada. She is the founder of House and Hook, an online platform specializing in keeping couples’ thriving throughout parenthood. As a wife and mother, Allison understands how raising a family affects the romantic relationship and the challenges that modern parents face. Through her virtual therapy practice, online courses, retreats, and monthly membership program, she teaches busy couples to live with intention and to use simple time-efficient strategies to connect with each other. Allison has been featured on Breakfast Television, CBC Radio, Global News Radio, as well as on numerous podcasts & blogs.