Taking care of yourself may feel selfish while taking care of families experiencing coronavirus fears. However, simply upgrading the word “selfish” to “self-full” may shed light on how to balance and care for yourself when your family is experiencing fear and in need. In this article, Jessica Baum, LMHC explores lessons families can learn during the COVID19 coronavirus pandemic.  

During this time of crisis many families are so stressed that often conflict can arise. It is really important, especially if you’re in sheer panic, that you avoid fear and focus on a reasonable action plan for the things that are actually in your control. Right now is the time to look at your partner and — despite what you have been through — remember you are on the same team and have the shared common goal of keeping your family safe.

TAKEAWAY LESSON: Focus on what you can control. Be on the same team.

Chances are you’re both confined to your home with your children. This can bring up issues regarding personal space and everyone’s need for breathing room and alone time to recharge their own batteries. Take turns in caring for your children; there is no need for both of you to be on parenting duties all the time. Be mindful about giving each other breaks; setting up a clear schedule with each other is more important than ever. If one partner has the morning hours off and the other parent has time in the afternoon, it allows time for each of you to decompress. Maybe you do dinner together. I also think if you live in an area where you can walk outside safely, you should try and allow each other to get outside and go for a walk. Being confined in a home with everyone all day can wear on everyone’s nerves. Allowing each other to leave the house for a 15-minute walk can prevent conflicts and take the stress level down. Taking the kids outside now is okay as long as you can keep social distancing.

TAKEAWAY LESSON: Take turns caring for the family.

As hard as it is right now, children can pick up on the fear and the panic. It is important to be real with your kids and explain that there is something serious going on, and that’s why they are home. But do not spread anxiety and fear to them. The best way to do this is to be mindful about how much news you’re taking in. For example, if the news is causing one or both of you to be anxious then limit it. I suggest go to your trusted sources for a half-hour in the morning and then again in the evening. Then change the channel; staying glued to the news is only bringing in more stress than is needed.

TAKEAWAY LESSON: Stress less by limiting amount of news consumption.

If you’re going through a divorce, or you’re struggling in your relationship, now is the best time to join forces. Remind your partner to put down their anger and focus on the fact that you both have the same goal, which is to keep your family safe. It is actually a time that allows couples to remember what is most important; more often than not, couples show up in a different way. Crisis can bring people together, but I emphasize talking to your partner in a way that reminds each other of your common goals. You will also have to compromise in a major way right now.

TAKEAWAY LESSON: Compromise and find common goals.

Listing what is in your control and what is completely out of your control can also really help. For example, right now worrying too much about the economy and the distant future isn’t helping the family. You have to stay more grounded in the day-to-day. Keep it simple. If everyone is safe and healthy, practice gratitude and stay present. If your mind drifts into fear of the future, bring it back into the moment by reminding yourself you have what you need and — most importantly — your family is safe.

TAKEAWAY LESSON: Make a list of what your family needs today.

Now more than ever is not a time to fight. If one parent is showing signs of stress, remember that they are probably communicating under fear. Validate their fear and join together with them. That can look something like this: “It makes so much sense that you’re really scared right now; let’s work on what we can do in the here and now by focusing on what we can actually control.” Have patience with each other and know that the tension is just fear. Support each other because that is the way through these difficult times.

TAKEAWAY LESSON: Recognize tensions may come from fear.