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How are You--Really?

Family life during quarantine doesn't just feel different and hard, it IS. Quarantine isn't vacation in Hawaii with room service, multiple pools to lounge beside, outdoor adventures to be had, and work email turned off. Quarantine is working your full time job in your home office with pounding feet of littles in the hallway or teens saying again how bored they are (for the one thousandth time) and questioning why there isn't any food to eat. Quarantine is waking up at 5am just to have some silence, and then wondering if that is even worth it because you could be sleeping an extra hour. Quarantine is no emotional space from your kids or your spouse because no one has a social life or extracurriculars or, perhaps, you have no emotional connection because you are single and living alone, working from home for the foreseeable future.

Then we have the deaths of Arbery and Floyd that have put a fire in the belly of Americans to take a stand, to protest, to pray. Emotions run high; you are having difficult conversations with your kids—how do you explain racism to a 5 year old? How do you explain rioting and curfew? You hear gunshots at night, you have curfew to abide by. The events of this spring have taken their toll on the body, mind, and soul.

I encourage you to evaluate "how are you REALLY doing?" And what can be set in place to enable you, your family, your kids or roommates to do more than just survive the duration of the quarantine? Having routine, implementing self-care, setting expectations, and clarifying communication are places to help those in your household, dare I say, thrive? in this season.

ROUTINE: Routines change, and that is one area that is fairly easy to shift. Perhaps that means getting up early so you do have some "alone time". Or maybe that means setting strict "office hours" for yourself (and/or with your spouse) so you know you have dedicated hours in the day to hunker down and get things done. Don't forget to set aside time to eat, take a walk around the block, check in with your family. Even certain days could be scheduled as "pizza and movie night" or "FaceTime with friends" to give everyone something to look forward to.  Thinking about kids—we do a nightly walk around the neighborhood before bedtime. They count on that time to get energy out, to hang out with mom and dad, and race each other on their scooters.

SELF-CARE: Either you are good at self-care or you are not. If you are the last person on your list to consider, try and implement one thing a day that you know you need. It could be that early morning walk or that cup of coffee in silence or the journaling at the end of the day. It's not selfish to need something to feed your body and/or your soul. Don't be afraid to voice to your spouse what you need and to figure out together how you both can get what is needed.

EXPECTATIONS: Setting expectations for yourself, with your boss, with your kids, and/or with your spouse is always challenging, but the constant "togetherness" can make it even more so! If needed, discuss what is on the schedule for the week or the following day. Being flexible is important because, as everyone says, these are strange times we are living in! Speak up because no one can read your mind—if you can't meet the deadline because your 4 kids are running around like banshees or if you are feeling depressed because of the current events and need some extra space—let the person know.
With kids, we set the expectation of the day's events every time they get food (because they eat more than me). At each meal or snack time, we clarify what will happen until the next feeding hour: let's play outside for a while and then we will come in and you can watch one show while I make your lunch. It helps set the mood and curb (maybe) the uncertainty and questions about when and what will happen (when is lunch? When can I watch a show?).

COMMUNICATION: The classic "communication" category—you might be rolling your eyes. No matter how hard you try, things end up misconstrued and feelings are hurt. Clear communication takes practice and discipline (because everyone has to fight the urge to interrupt and give "their side of the story"). BUT! It can be learned. Asking for more specific information is always helpful—"that meeting will last 1 hour? Or longer?" Or "What happens if you don't get it finished tonight?" Communication goes two ways—you can't be upset if you didn't follow up to clarify any ramifications or if you, yourself, did not communicate how you wanted the evening events to go and what role you wanted your spouse to take.
If you're a parent, discuss how you , as a family, are going to talk about race relations and how this impacts your black friends or black family members. Get on the same page of "how do we speak the truth"? Have open conversations with your teens about their thoughts and what kinds of conversations are they having with their friends. I think more than ever, if you are a parent, you need to make extra effort to communicate well with your spouse. In this season, everyone in the household is listening and the undertones of strife and tension are felt. Modeling healthy communication and conflict resolution is so important.

This too shall pass, my friends—the weariness of confinement, the loneliness of confinement, the fear of confinement. But hopefully, our spirits will be stronger, encouraged. Hopefully our hearts will be steadfast in our commitment to honest conversation with family and friends. Hopefully our bodies can experience the peace of Jesus even in the midst of uncertainty, of unrest, of anger, of grief. Let your kingdom come, always and forever.

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