How Parents Can Stay Connected as a Couple During COVID-19
By Registered Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert, Allison Villa
With kids being home from school during the coronavirus pandemic, you – as parents – may be noticing a change in your relationship with your spouse. Between cooking meals, cleaning up, crafting, monitoring screen time, laundry (why is there more lately?), not to mention figuring out how to homeschool and work remotely, it’s no surprise that you have less time and energy for each other. The complexity of this situation can put a strain on even the strongest relationships.
The good news is that with a few small shifts in your schedule and your perspective, this can be an opportune time to connect as a couple. As the leaders of your family, your kids will benefit from the love and teamwork they feel from you.
Here are five simple relationship tools to find purpose, love, and gratitude as you navigate this global lifestyle change:
1. Schedule a Daily Check-in
Find a consistent time of day to ask your love, “How are you…really?”. This is a time to hold space for your true feelings. Since your days are filled with meeting the needs of others, this allows you each to check-in with yourself, as well as with your partner. You’ll each be riding your own wave of emotion, so be prepared that your experiences may differ from day to day, and that’s okay. The more regularly you connect, the better. We all need to be seen, heard, and understood by loved ones. The curiosity you have for each other during this simple daily ritual will make you feel emotionally safe and connected at a deeper level.
2. Plan for Meltdowns
Stress levels are increased when you experience a loss of control and abrupt change. This results in higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol in your brain. When your brain is flooded with these hormones, it’s more difficult to regulate your emotions (for kids, too). Knowing the science behind stress allows you to have grace for yourself and for each other in difficult moments. You will have meltdowns when you are spending extended periods of time together. This, combined with stress hormones, is normal and common. As a couple, anticipating meltdowns will help you to respond more productively. Take a few minutes during your daily check-in to ask each other how you can best support each other. This simple conversation will have you both feeling equipped with the right tools when heated moments arise.
3. Set Boundaries on Social Media and News
Notice how your mind, body, and heart respond to news and social media right now. Be intentional about engaging with news and social platforms when you are feeling emotionally prepared to digest potentially triggering details. For most people, breaks from information consumption will improve your mental health. Decide together what feels right for you and for your family, then keep each other accountable to those boundaries – stay aligned and committed to this! It also helps to set limits on talking about the coronavirus (it can be consuming, and taking a break is important). Instead, choose to engage in conversation topics that bring you joy.
4. Make a Game of Real-Life Moments
Find ways to make a game of daily domestic tasks. Kids like to help. It gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility. Give your child(ren) age-appropriate chores, delivered in a playful way. For example, tidy up by putting on a fun song, or assign a kitchen duty to each child and play “restaurant” together. Be sure to reward your kids with lots of positive affirmation, so that they feel independent & appreciated. If your kids are under two years old, this may be more challenging, so instead, you can have mini contests with each other. For example, which kiddo will drop food on the floor first, or how long will they nap today? Make a bet and get silly about the things that usually make you frustrated. When you find the joy in your daily life, it eases the pressure on your relationship and allows the whole family to feel more like a team.
5. Support Each Other in Practicing Self-Care
Your kids need you both to be at your best, especially during times of stress. This is why it’s essential to be proactive about taking solo-restorative time every day. Help each other by making it a non-negotiable in the family schedule. It should be normal for your kids to see you practicing self-care (positive modelling). Since we don’t know how long social-distancing will be in place, it’s imperative to take care of yourself now in order to prevent burn-out. Create this positive habit sooner rather than later. Be each other’s biggest cheerleaders in making your self-care practice a reality – it’s truly the ultimate act of love.
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.