Home: a place where most of us have been spending all of our time during the past months, no thanks to the global pandemic. Yet, not all is doom and gloom, as this situation has proven to be a golden opportunity for us to strengthen our family bonds.
Working from home, attending online classes and virtual meetings, getting food deliveries – these practices have become an integral part of the new normal in our lives as we turn our houses into home bases for almost all of our daily routines. Hence, it may seem natural to expect that our family bond would become stronger as more time is spent together at home.
However, with all the tasks and roles that we need to juggle, it may not be as easy as we think to find quality time with our family. Quantity time does not equal to quality time. Parents face a new situation of having to balance paid work with house chores, while simultaneously supervising children’s remote learning, for prolonged periods of time.
Conflicts and clashes may arise when family members are “locked-in” under the same roof. For instance, the lack of personal space for work or studies could lead to interference in day-to-day activities. This is a potential problem for households confined to smaller living spaces or having fewer rooms, and may lead to stress as family members are unable to focus on individual tasks or meetings.
Besides, the blurring of boundaries between work, family, as well as personal time and space has not necessarily made things better. Yes, you may have more flexibility in managing your schedule and less time is spent on commuting between home, school and office. But this situation has led to a work-life imbalance. Work matters may interfere with personal life, and conversely, one’s home environment may also impact job performance.
These unprecedented times also present a challenge for young children who are just starting out kindergarten or school. The lack of interactivity between students and teachers makes it harder for them to pay attention. Hence, parental supervision during lessons is often required. Parents themselves need to adapt to the added responsibilities they must manage during this extraordinary period.
5 proven strategies
How can you and your family turn these challenges into opportunities for family bonding? Here are some practical tips:
- Sharing is caring: Mums and dads need to complement each other to fulfil the multiple roles at home. Communicate and plan ahead to arrange work and house chore schedules, so that as one manages the household, the other spouse can attend and focus on their virtual meeting. The whole family can also bond by doing chores like meal preparation or cleaning the house together. Create a house chore schedule that involves your kids. An efficient task management system is vital to reduce misunderstandings once all members of a household are clear about their duties and responsibilities of sharing the workload.
- Allocate family time: Set a specific time to spend with all family members. The chosen time can be during dinner every night, a twice-a-week family game night, a weekly movie screening or other preferred joint activities. During this time, all tasks related to work and school should be set aside. Ideally, personal gadgets should be turned off or muted during family time.
- Start a family project: This can be a home improvement project that all family members can contribute to, e.g. setting up a small garden, painting the room or fence, reorganising the furniture or installing wallpaper in the room. Creative art projects like family photography, scrap-booking, or painting are also great ways to spend quality time together.
- Small gestures, big impact: Sometimes the smallest gestures are the best. Simply saying thank you after helping out with chores or genuinely complimenting the cook of the home for a delicious meal can make the day for your family members. You can also leave simple notes on your children’s desk or bed to thank them for behaving nicely. Even a hug or kiss counts. By the way, this works great with your spouse too!
- 1-on-1 time: Try to find time to communicate 1-on-1 with each of your children, as well as your spouse. Be in the present moment to listen and give them your undivided attention. Some things can only be expressed when you are alone with them. These deeper conversations develop stronger bonds and allow you to deal with any unaddressed issues.
You don’t have to practise all these tips all the time to bond with your family. A small yet consistent effort is key. The most important thing is to consciously make meaningful interactions and communications with them to create a positive atmosphere at home. This will go a long way towards promoting a stronger family bond. Like the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”