With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on globally, and safe-distancing measures still in place in Singapore, most of us are staying home most of the time.
This has resulted in heightened tension and disagreements, especially for multi-generational households.
The increased use of technology can also contribute to increasing isolation as each member of the family “disappears” into his or her tech bubble. Is it possible to leverage technology to strengthen our family relationships?
Navigating relationships in small spaces
With everyone always being at home now, we might find that living in such close proximity for an extended period of time beginning to rub us the wrong way.
As many working parents are still working from home at least some of the time, we may find ourselves hard-pressed to manage our kids with their home-based learning or holiday programmes.
Our elderly parents, who are used to having their own space in the day, may also experience tension with the whole family being at home all the time now. One friend shared her woes about her mother having the television on the entire day and how it is a struggle to keep her children from sneaking off to watch it.
To help maintain some peace and sanity under one roof, it would help if the family can come to a mutual understanding of how to maintain certain boundaries or give one another personal space. For example, when mummy is cooking in the kitchen, perhaps other family members can stay away or offer a hand to help.
Helping kids monitor media usage
Since our children can no longer go outdoors as often or as freely as before, they are likely to be quite hooked to their devices.
To protect them from excessive media usage and its adverse effects, we could engage them in non-digital activities like art and craft, sports or family board games. Perhaps we could even pick out a new recipe to try together – and involve the grandparents while we are at it!
The key thing to know about technology is that it makes a good servant, but a terrible master. So do all that you can to help your children master technology.
How can we care for our elderly parents and parents-in-law amidst the constraints of safe-distancing measures? How can we structure our living habits such that they don’t feel left out of all the action?
- Establish a routine with them
A daily routine allows an elderly to know what to expect. It also reduces the stress of the unknown, and may even improve their sleep quality1, which benefits their emotional and mental health.
- Help them connect with friends
If our parents used to spend time regularly with their friends outside the home, they may struggle with frustration and boredom from having to stay home all the time. Find out how they would like to connect with their friends even while their out-of-home activities are limited. Perhaps it could be a simple coffee session or even a video call with an old friend every week. We can be proactive in asking them and then offering our help to make it happen.
- Make an effort too
For elderly parents who live with us, we need to be mindful not to make them feel like they are in our way, as we and the kids scramble around the whole day with work and studies.
One fear that seniors often have is that they have become a burden to their family. While it is understandably tougher to carve out time to connect with them, doing so would go a long way toward helping our parents feel like a valued member of the family.
One way to bond with them is to be fully present during family mealtimes or spending pockets of time to talk to them throughout the day. Perhaps we can get our kids to teach grandma or grandpa some tricks or two on the mobile phone, or take funny selfies together.
Our children often take their cues from us and pick up the family culture more from our behaviour than our instructions.