Have you any tips for getting our family life back to normal? All the way through the lockdown we seem to have slipped more and more into separate lives. Our children are in their teens and they are staying in bed late and then going to bed later, and seem only interested in talking to their friends on social media or watching stuff on Netflix or YouTube. My husband is working from home and I’m out at work everyday. But our hours seem all over the place. By the evening, everyone (including me and my husband) ends up on different devices. It’s like we just keep missing each other.
The lockdown has been a strange time for families. For many families it was a time of great unity, with a strong sense of all being “in something together”. The sudden closure of schools and businesses meant many families were at home (albeit under strange circumstances) but with time together that they hadn’t shared in years. Gone were the busy extracurricular events. Gone were the social pulls in different directions. Many focused on simple tasks, like cooking, gardening, walking and so on.
However, your tale is a salutary one, since it is clear that the same opportunity for spending more time together and deepening family connections, also had the power to further disintegrate those family bonds. I’m interested to know how connected your family felt before the lockdown? I wonder if some of the potential for living separate lives was already there? When life is really busy, it too, can pull us apart, as we go in different directions to try to achieve all that we believe needs to be done. I wonder what your “normal” used to be?
It is good, though, that you are tuned in to the manner in which the lack of closeness seems apparent to you. The other members of your family may or may not feel the same thing. A good starting point, almost to take the family temperature, might be to have a family meeting. The first step in any change process needs to be a willingness to acknowledge that there is a problem. For a whole family dynamic to change, it will be important for every member of the family to realise that things aren’t good between you all and that you, as a group, need to do things differently.
Be careful not to use that forum to moan, rather see it as an opportunity to talk about what you are missing, or what upsets you about how everyone seems isolated within the home.
If the other members of your family do concur that a degree of separation, and an emotional and perhaps physical gap, is opening up it creates an opportunity to try to close those gaps. The family meeting is the best place to brainstorm ideas for how to achieve that. A few examples could include, re-instituting family meals on at least five out of seven days, family walks or day trips to provide shared experiences, some kind of family construction project (like a bit of a freshening up with paint, creating a small veggie patch and so on).
The actual project or activity is less important than its function to give you all a sense of community, working together or shared enterprise of some kind.