COVID-19 is a devastating pandemic. The entire world is experiencing a shutdown, we are quarantined, and we are scared for our safety like never before. However, for those sheltering in place with family, COVID-19 provides an opportunity for connection.

While we’re isolated from the world at large, we’re indoors and physically closer to the ones we love, remembering the value (and challenges) of bonding with family.

COVID-19 is a pandemic, but also an opportunity. 

Doing our part by social distancing involves major disruption to our routines and comfort zones. In the face of overwhelm and uncertainty, most of us are scrambling to make things work, and to find optimism in the situation.

Yes, COVID-19 is devastating, but what can we learn from this experience with our families?

Redefining family roles

Family bonding is important in general, but it’s crucial during a crisis.

COVID-19 has put a lot of pressure on family units. Parents have had to homeschool their children while managing work from home. And some parents have been laid off entirely from full time positions, leaving them feeling powerless and overwhelmed.

So much is going wrong, that family becomes a necessary support, being physically there for you. You’re spending time with your kids 24/7 for the first time maybe ever. How can we use this chance to appreciate and come closer to those we love?

How can we make the most of this time, sheltering in place?

During quarantine, we have limitations on what activities we can engage in because many things are unsafe. What can we do to fill the time, together? How can we use this opportunity to bond with our families?

Bonding activities that you used to engage in, such as movie-going and community gatherings, aren’t available. You can’t go on playdates or use playground equipment, either.  

It’s time to get creative. For those sheltering in place with family, COVID-19 provides an opportunity for connection, if we allow it. And there are many things you can do as a family that don’t require going to crowded places.

Watch your news consumption

There will be times where you need to disassociate from the pandemic and watch Netflix or play games. But it’s important to remember that even in the pandemic, there’s such a thing as too much technology. Even if it is recreational, too much time on a phone or iPad can be detrimental to you or your child’s brain.

Your personal technology use may become even more problematic than your child’s. Of course, you want to know what’s going on in the world and stay educated on the pandemic, but there’s definitely such a thing as too much news. You want to make sure that there’s a balance between remaining aware and spending time in the moment with loved ones, especially your children.

Limit the amount of time that you’re engaging in technology by taking in the essential news and then moving on. This is the time to focus on valuing the relationships within your family.

One way to do that: You can always open up the floor to your kids and let them talk about this pandemic and how it’s making them feel. This is an opportunity to reinforce your role as their safe home base, the comforting caregiver whose safety allows them to deal with life’s uncertainties.

Make the most of minimal outdoor time

You don’t necessarily have to make your old favorite activities work during quarantine. Just sitting in the grass can be cathartic and grounding–it’s a way to get in touch with the natural world, to find peace during these overwhelming times.

Even stepping out on the porch and doing something small like playing an identifying game can make mindfulness possible for young kids. Ask your child to identify three things that they can see, touch or hear outside. This feels like a game, and can be an opportunity to connect with each other (while showing your kid how to ground themselves).

Maybe, you’d like to take this a step further and actually teach your kids to practice meditation or another mindful activity, practicing together. Shelter-in-place is nothing if not an opportunity for mindfulness and learning the value of just sitting still.

It’s important to remember that just because we can’t be near others outside, doesn’t mean that we can’t step outside at all. We can still get a bit of fresh air, bond with our families, and model useful skills for our kids, while staying 6 feet from those outside the quarantine pod. 

Develop habits to continue after COVID-19…

Many of us typically engage in a lifestyle that is fast-paced where we work hard and are constantly busy. Due to this routine, we sometimes neglect ourselves, our passions, or other things that we’d like to do like taking time to have family meals together or teach our kids certain skills.

Many of us are being forced into downtime right now. It’s not what we’re used to. So think about what you’d like to instill in your kids, to use this unpleasant opportunity for good.

Do you want them to know how to balance the checkbook? Do you want them to know how to cook? Do you want to embrace their creative abilities? This is the time to do all of those things.

And once you take the time to do those things during the pandemic, don’t stop integrating them into your life afterward. Keep teaching your kids what you want to teach them, keep spending quality time with loved ones, keep checking in on your loved one’s emotional well-being, and don’t take anything for granted.

Yes, there are a ton of things that we hope to get back to as soon as it’s safe to do so. Those things, like work or social events, are absolutely important, and it’s understandable that we are eager to get back to those things. But there are things that we can learn during this time as well. 

Deal with emotions together

This is a complicated time, though we are now reminded of the relationships we value, such as those with our families. Since you have unprecedented time bonding with your kids right now, open communication is a major priority. Be grateful that your family members are close to you if you have that privilege, and connect with those who are distant in any way that you can.

However you’re feeling, it’s okay to share that with your partner, kids, other family members, or friends. There might be people that you aren’t able to see because they have compromised immune systems or simply do not live with you. You can always Facetime with them, text them, or call them, and get some validation about your feelings. This is also a chance to support them in their struggle. For that reason and others, this is a vital time to reach out to those that you care about, openly sharing your experience.

The most important thing to remember during this pandemic is to maintain a support system, even if it is virtual. Having support is vital during this time because stability becomes paramount when the world is chaotic and uncertain.

You can get through this time, and you and your family members will look back on the pandemic as a time when you were pushed closer together and became closer through challenges.