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A Little TOO Much Family Time During COVID-19? Here’s How to Inject Some Fun

August 13, 2020

Most families develop patterns or habits that become dear to them, from off-beat to touching, and there’s no time like the endless togetherness of a pandemic to strengthen yours or start new ones.

Do you make breakfast for dinner one night a month? Slouch around in pajamas on snow days? Break out the special plates for birthdays or holidays?

Every repetitive gesture that draws members of a family together is important, both for the children’s development into secure adults and every member’s sense of belonging, according to Dr. Laura Saunders, clinical coordinator of Young Adult Services at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.

“Creating some novelty brings a needed change to the monotony as a result of COVID-19 restrictions,” she said. “Family rituals give children and adults something to look forward to.”

Although COVID-19 travel restrictions might limit some ideas, here are simple rituals you can work on with your family (our family of manikins from the Hartford HealthCare Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation, above, is probably beyond help):

  • Break out the games. You can have a regular game night, making sure to engage all ages, or play a hand or two of Uno every night after dinner. Puzzles are another great common pursuit. Lay one out and sit at it for a little bit each day together, slowly bringing it to shape.
  • Eat a theme. Maybe it’s Taco Tuesday or Chili Wednesdays. Pick the theme together and stick to it. The regularity is comforting and dependable for kids. Breakfast for dinner can be a fun – and easy – theme. You can also reverse roles and enlist older kids to plan, prepare, serve and clean up dinner.
  • Take a walk. Many people are walking or biking after dinner as a way to get out of the house and still practice social distancing. It can be a healthy habit, too.
  • Go Hollywood. Plan regular movie nights – either in the house or using a projector in the backyard. Take turns picking the movie, and make popcorn or hot fudge sundaes to heighten to fun factor.
  • Start the conversation. Dinner is a great time to engage all members of the family in meaningful conversation. Ask each person to share something – a fun fact, something they’re grateful for, or something they’re excited to do the next day.
  • Celebrate. Look up national celebrations and pick some to celebrate together. Rootbeer Float Day, anyone? Or, pick someone’s half birthday and bake a half cake with half candles to celebrate.
  • Preserve memories. Order fancy paper, stickers and other decorations and go through family photos to make a scrapbook. Going forward, every time you celebrate a holiday or go on vacation, plan to add to the scrapbook with new pages of memories.
  • Dance on. Put fun music on loud and host a regular family dance party. Kids will love seeing your special moves.
  • Formalize things. Try planning a fancy dinner, with the special china and glasses. Everyone should wear their fanciest clothes.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. It’s the perfect time of year to be in the yard, so pack up a picnic or pitch a tent for an overnight adventure.

For more information on helping children deal with COVID-19 or other emotional issues, click here.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care provider.

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