5 Tips for Togetherness and Family Fun During Coronavirus Lockdown

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell

How many weeks have we been in lockdown? I have lost track. If your family is like mine, you may find that:

  • Any “novelty” of staying at home or being off school is starting to wear off.
  • Children feel they are running out of things to do, so “cabin fever” is setting in.
  • You feel you have developed “bad lockdown habits” such as too much screen time.

Here are some ideas to refresh your coronavirus lockdown routine. Remember, you are doing your best and you are almost certainly doing a “good enough” job, so go easy on yourself.

5 tips for togetherness and family fun during coronavirus lockdown TIP ONE: Drop the guilt.

This is a difficult one for me. If I do something fun, I often feel like I “should be” doing something more productive, especially as  I am now working completely from home so it is hard to draw a line between work and everything else. One thing I realise though, is that guilt is pointless. There are endless things that we could be or should be doing, but we cannot do them all.

The most helpful thing I have found in “dropping the guilt” is to make a rough plan for the day, so that I can create some balance in advance. This means guilt creeps in less readily.

For example, you may decide that each day you are going to do:

  • one productive thing (eg write a report for work or clear out the downstairs cupboard);
  • one constructive yet fun thing (eg bake a cake with my child);
  • and one “just for fun” thing (eg watch a movie).

This is a chance for you to re-define what a day should look like, both for your own wellbeing and that of your children.

When I feel guilt building up I try remember this simple idea from compassion-focused therapy. The aim is to ensure that the critical voice in our heads is balanced by a warmer and more compassionate voice. Sometimes it’s helpful to draw  what the critical voice is saying, and then what the compassionate voice could say in response.

critical vs compassionate voice

5 tips for togetherness and family fun during coronavirus lockdown TIP TWO: Ensure alone time for all.

Nobody enjoys enforced “fun”, especially a teenager who hasn’t had any time to herself to rest and relax, chat with friends or catch up on social media. You, as a parent, also need time alone to rest and recharge. This needs to happen during the day as well as in the evening. Easier said than done, I hear you say, especially if you have young children. Again, making a rough plan in advance can help.

Let’s say you have a four-year-old and an eight-year-old. Here’s an example of a rough plan for one morning:

  1. Everybody eats breakfast together.
  2. Each child gets half an hour of play time alone (electronic or otherwise). Parent(s) get time to sit outside with a cup of tea.
  3. Everybody goes out for a walk together.
  4. The children watch a movie whilst parents catch up on housework or keep up with home-working.

The plan will look completely different depending on the ages of the children. The contents of the plan are not as important as the principle that we shouldn’t be forced together for the whole day and we need time to ourselves. Designate different rooms or spaces during “alone time” if you can.

Have an agreed time each day for something fun as a whole family. As everyone has had time to themselves, they will be more ready to engage in this together time, and it will have more meaning.

5 tips for togetherness and family fun during coronavirus lockdown TIP THREE: Enter your child’s world.

Here is a unique opportunity to enter the world of your teen! I have managed to take part in a TikTok video, singing a duet with my daughter. No, I am not going to share it! But here is another example of parents engaging with their teens via TikTok.

Of course, not all teenagers would want their parent anywhere near their TikTok account. You must enter their world only with their permission.

You can enter the world of your children no matter how old they are, and the younger they are, the more likely they will invite you in.

Try this: Offer some play time and let your child decide what you do together. Try to resist saying no to their suggestions. My ten year-old asked me to play Minecraft with him a few days ago and I am ashamed to say I immediately said no without giving it a second thought (until now). You may find yourself building a blanket den, doing some scratch coding, or taking part in an online workout!

5 tips for togetherness and family fun during coronavirus lockdown TIP FOUR: Do one thing per week for others

There is nothing that creates a more meaningful sense of togetherness, than doing something together for others. If you can have fun at the same time, then you have hit the jackpot. Make it a regular time each week so that it becomes a habit. Here are some ideas:

  • Create artwork to display in your window, such as a rainbow picture.
  • Get involved in an initiative to make scrubs or other equipment  for essential staff. There are many local projects in the UK such as this one.
  • Plan a sponsored event in your home or garden to raise money for a charity that is currently struggling. For example, the Brain Tumour Research charity has two challenges which families could get involved in.
  • Many nursing/care home residents are feeling exceptionally isolated at the moment. Why not write or send some art work to your nearest home with your children? There are also groups helping co-ordinate this, such as The Cheerful Little Letter Project and Postcards of Kindness.
  • Contact others and arrange for food donations to be collected and delivered to a food bank or charity which organises food collections, such as the Trussell Trust. 

5 tips for togetherness and family fun during coronavirus lockdown TIP FIVE: Do one thing per week that will be memorable.

We can’t always be doing memorable, constructive or educational things with our children. Sometimes we are just doing our best to exist: Housework, cooking, fixing things that are broken perhaps. Just as important is having down time catching up remotely with friends, social media, reading or watching TV. The nervous system is under a lot of strain at the moment (you can read more about this here), and we need plenty of rest to help it cope.

We must not feel that we should constantly be doing memorable activities. This is unattainable and unrealistic. One planned activity per week is enough. Of course, spontaneous events and activities can also end up creating some of the happiest memories.

What kinds of activities could be memorable? Think about your happy memories of childhood. Ask your child(ren). Here are some ideas:

  • Create a time capsule to remember this unusual period of time in years to come. You could do a “physical time capsule” (eg a tin or a box of items to remind you) or create a written or video time capsule.
  • Build a den together.
  • Camp out in the garden.
  • Play a board game.
  • Organise a quiz night with other families via video chat.
  • Do some word art which will be interesting to look back on. It could be a collage of words conveying your children’s feelings about the current situation, or just words associated with it. Here is an example drawn by a friend of mine. Her website, My Colourful Life, contains some further ideas including downloadable colouring resources.

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