I often write on the topic of keeping relationships strong when your job keeps you apart. One point I discuss is that often the coming back together when the traveler returns home can be the most stressful time in those relationships as people adjust to living together again. Because of COVID-19, in the coming days many people may find themselves together at home for days or weeks. Below you will find strategies for navigating this new level of togetherness.

  1. Routines

 What makes the “re-entry” period challenging for road warrior couples is that people have their own routines while apart. You’re going to find the same challenges as you work from home and in many parts of the country, kids are home from school. Kids respond well to structure and if at all possible, try to recreate their school day. For example, lunch at 11:30 and snack at 2pm, a recess break to run around your yard or indoor activities like yoga or dancing. The app Down Dog is free through April 1st and you can personalize routines for anyone from beginners to lifelong yogis.

  1. Give up control

We are heading into unprecedented times and no one can predict how long our normal ways of living will be disrupted. Have a Plan B and even a Plan C.  Most schools have never done distance learning for an extended period of time and so expect hiccups and frustrations for teachers and students. If something goes awry, find a documentary that is age appropriate. For older teens, the animated videos Oversimplified are found on YouTube and take a look at various wars over the centuries. Scholastic is offering free access to programing from Pre-K through grades 9+. Link here and other options here. Live in the moment taking it hour by hour and don’t be too hard on yourself if things get a little chaotic.

  1. Who’s right?

For some parents, this may be the most time families have spent together during the week outside of vacations or holidays and with the social distancing advisory, outings are not advised. How can you work, supervise learning, and maintain sanity? It will be a challenge. You may find that you have differing opinions on bedtime, homework, division of labor and the like. A family meeting ASAP is one place to start. Create a tentative schedule, chores for kids to keep them busy, meal planning and the like and be prepared to revise as you go.

  1. Squirrel

If you’ve never worked from home besides when you’ve had a sick child, you’ll quickly realize how many projects there are to do around the house. Using breaks to tackle them is fine as long as you set a timer and return to work. Changing a load of laundry is a great way to force yourself to get up, walk around, and cross an item off your to do list.

  1. Office space

Ideally you and your partner can find different parts of the house to set up your remote offices, but if not, you may spend 8 hours a day or more across from each other. One tip? Noise-cancelling headphones. If you have frequent conference calls, your partner may grow annoyed listening to them. At the least, it will make it be hard to concentrate.  Could you use this time to step away and check on your kids, grab a snack, or text or call a friend?

  1. Books

You may not be able to get to the library, but many allow access to eBooks and many other types of online resources via their website. Start a social media conversation about favorites or create on online book club.

  1. Reduce Worry

Kids and adults are understandably worried about what is next. Anxiety can tax your immune system so finding ways to reduce it is important. A great list is here for ways to talk to your kids. When I work with clients, I’ll ask them what the “what if’s” are that they are worried about. I have them list them and then we talk about the odds of them really happening and ways to mitigate if possible. An important second step? Start listing all of the positive “what if’s” that could happen and how to foster those. A few that come to mind now are more quality time with family; finally playing those games you bought and haven’t opened; time to tackle projects you never get to on the weekends; naps; organizing items for donation; and connecting virtually with people you haven’t spoken to in awhile.

  1. Connection

Working from home will mean a change in human connection. Can you “eat lunch” over Skype with a co-worker or catch up via text during a 10-minute break when you’d normal walk down to your friend’s office?

  1. Employment

The job market will take a hit. How much or for how long is something no one knows. Can you use the coming days and weeks to update your resume and LinkedIn profile or draft a cover letter? This is a great thing to do regardless of how secure you feel your position is as you will have front of mind your accomplishments as you head into your next performance review and it keeps you nimble in the event an exciting opportunity arises down the road.

  1. It’s OK to ask for help

Many therapists are available for a session via a phone call or video conferencing if you need to talk, but don’t want to or can’t venture out.