Finding the Fun in Family Quarantine

NOTE: In the midst of this worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, we remain committed to your safety and wellbeing. Read about the steps we are currently taking to do our part in containing the spread of COVID-19. This is a dynamic and rapidly evolving situation, so as we continue to adjust our response accordingly, we will post updates on our COVID-19 page and to our social media outlets.
This is a challenging time for our nation and world, and to many it feels chaotic and anxiety-inducing. While increased time at home for your family may feel overwhelming, it can also be an opportunity to slow down and focus on your relationships with your spouse and children. Read on for some tips from Rachelle Honohan, MSW, LCSW-S and Hannah Pitman, MA, LPC to help this challenging time become smoother and even enjoyable!
COVID-19 is spreading across our nation, and national and state governments are taking action to keep our communities safe. With school closures, orders to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer, closures of businesses, and many people working from home, you may find yourself suddenly “quarantined” at home with your family. Here are some ideas for making this time an opportunity for connection and fun in the midst of a difficult situation.

Adjust Your Mindset

It is normal to feel more anxious or irritable than usual during these days with many unknowns. You may find yourself feeling worried about financial concerns, loved ones who are more vulnerable to illness, or added pressures of hours spent together as a family. Your ability to find ways to cope and regain a sense of hope will help your children to do the same.

One of the best ways to disarm fear, anger, and annoyance that is bound to come up is to enjoy yourselves and keep things light! You’ve been given the gift of free extra time with your kids and spouse, so try to make the most of it. Play fun games, laugh, and enjoy each other. The more you can laugh and find ways to be flexible and creative, the better this time will feel for all of you.

Create a Schedule

Routines are helpful for everyone, and they can provide you with much-needed structure during this time. Help your children understand the importance of staying on a schedule like they do at school; it will help them to feel less stressed if they know what to expect in their day-to-day lives right now. Let your kids be a part of creating the family schedule; you might consider asking everyone to make their ideal schedule, and then be flexible as you build a final schedule that best suits everyone’s needs.

As you make a family schedule, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Keep morning, evening, and chore routines as similar as possible to what they were previously. Make a point to add these directly into the schedule. Having familiar activities will reduce anxiety and help everyone to adjust.
  • Set aside time for schoolwork. When school starts back online for your children, take some time to figure out the new system; there will probably be some hiccups, and that’s okay! The morning could be a great time for kids to focus on completing their schoolwork while one or both parents are working from home.
  • Plan consistent times for your meals. Lunch can be a great point for everyone to eat together and catch up during the middle of the day.
  • Afternoons could be spent learning a new skill, playing a game, or watching a video. For more ideas, see our activities list at the bottom of this page!
  • Schedule in alone time, where each child goes to their own space for some time each day (and when you get to take a break, too!). This can really help with sibling squabbles.
  • While doing school at home, try to take movement breaks every hour to stretch, run around outside for a few minutes or jump on a trampoline or swing. Also encourage children to eat healthy snacks every two hours, if possible to keep blood sugar levels regulated.

Once you have finalized the schedule that you would like to try, you can decorate it for some added fun! If you have younger children, make sure to include pictures beside each activity. Then, post your family schedule on the fridge or in another prominent place. Your kiddos can check the schedule at any point to figure out what they can be doing and what should come next. Predictability is a great way to create felt safety in a time when a lot of the world is in chaos.

Set Up Your Space

As you transition to spending more hours in your home doing different activities than you are used to, it can help to put some thought into your space.

Designate an area of your home for school stations; having spaces set aside for school will help to create routine and predictability. For younger children, pick an open area where you can monitor them as they work. Older, more responsible children may be able to do their school in their own room, if they prefer.

With so much time at home, it is important for your kids to have space of their own to do school, play, and keep their things. Your kids may already have their own room or desk. If not, pick different spots in a shared bedroom or even spots in community spaces for each child to have their own “special spot.” This special spot should be comfy, cozy, and all their own; blankets, a chair and card table, pillows, or toys can make each space special. Reinforce that your child can use their special spot whenever they are tired of playing with siblings. Also reinforce that your kids should not touch one another’s spots! These “special spots” can also be the designated place to go during “alone time” in your family schedule.

For Teenagers

Make sure to get your teens out of their rooms! Although alone time and privacy is important, your teenagers may need reminders to come spend time with the family, get outside, and take a break from their technology. While technology will help them to have socialization with their peers right now, encourage them to find a balance and take breaks from the news, social media, texting, video games, etc. This is a great time to teach teenagers some much-needed life skills that they may not know yet. You could teach them how to write a check, make a budget, or address an envelope. Or, you might show them how to do some chores they haven’t practiced, like mopping, doing laundry, picking a recipe and making it, or putting together a grocery list. Perhaps you could even put them in charge of leading a family activity of their choice.

Take Care of Yourself

As a parent, you will have added pressure to be present and emotionally regulated for your kids all day, but this is a stressful situation for you, too. It is important to care for yourself so that you’re not running on empty for your kids. It is okay to send your kids to their rooms for some alone time, so you can take a hot bath, go for a walk, curl up with a good book, watch a funny video, call a friend, or whatever activities help you to feel reenergized.

If you and your spouse are both working from home, you can collaborate together. Consider setting boundaries about when it is “talking time” for the two of you and when it is working time, so that you both have some uninterrupted time to work. You can also think about setting a schedule for which parent children should ask for help during the day. For example, if Mom has a video meeting on Tuesday from 8AM-10AM, let your kids know that they need to ask Dad for help during that time; then, from 10AM-12PM, kids can ask Mom for help while Dad has uninterrupted work time.

Lean In

Have grace for yourself and your children. This is an unprecedented situation that you are all doing your best to handle well. Your children don’t want to drive you crazy and you don’t want to frustrate them. Be kind to yourself. Find your favorite ways to regulate and recharge yourself and use them frequently! Also, make sure that you’re taking time to ask your children how they are doing and dealing with this worldwide event. Share how YOU are dealing with your feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. Listen and validate their feelings and come up with ways to deal with those feelings together.

This time may feel very chaotic and bring up a lot of fears. The Bible tells us 365 times to “fear not”! That’s a daily reminder for us to not be afraid and to lean on Jesus. We must also lean on each other during this time for support (within social distancing parameters, of course. :)) And, know that we at ALCS are here for you! Sometimes times of added stress stretch you too far, and you need some extra help. Whether it’s you, your child(ren), or the whole family, we are available to give you added encouragement in these days.

Finally, here’s a list of some activities you can try as a family!

Family Activities for Braving the Quarantine!

  1. Make cards or write letters for family, friends, service industry
  2. Have a picnic in the yard
  3. Have a camp out in the backyard
  4. Play board games or card games
  5. Put some puzzles together
  6. Watch a movie – can draw numbers so each person gets to pick a movie
  7. Build a fort in the house
  8. Have a lego building contest
  9. Have a tea party
  10. Paint your nails
  11. Do chalk art outside
  12. Read a book together and ask questions as you go along
  13. Put on a play – have the kids write the parts
  14. Water painting outside—use a paintbrush and a bucket of water to make shapes that disappear (for little kids)
  15. Go for a walk
  16. Go for a prayer walk (pray for each neighbor’s house as you pass)
  17. Cook a meal together
  18. Have a cooking competition between siblings: team up, make different dishes and try them out (for older kids)
  19. Bake something new
  20. Do a nature walk with different trees, leaves, rocks etc. to look for and collect
  21. Plant a plant or flowers (either from your fruit or from the store)
  22. Attempt that Pinterest craft you keep saying you’ll do
  23. Look up an easy Pinterest craft
  24. Put on swimsuits and play in the sprinkler or hose outside
  25. Make a slip and slide outside with an old tarp, soap, and the hose
  26. Buy a small kiddie pool, sanitize it and play outside in that
  27. Hide coins or candy or a token of some kind outside or in a certain room and have kids hunt for them
  28. Have races in your yard or neighborhood—running, crab walking, bear crawl, baby crawl, hopping, three-legged, rolling, somersaulting, etc.
  29. Read a book as a family in the same room together
  30. Make up a story together. Each person says a sentence or two, or a few sentences, and then the next person goes until the parent ends it.
  31. Play in the mud outside
  32. Blow bubbles
  33. Turn on fun music while doing chores
  34. Go for a drive to a remote hiking spot
  35. Go for a drive to look for wildflowers or cows, make it a game
  36. Go for a drive and play the alphabet game
  37. Have meals together with a list of fun questions (questions below!)
  38. Do a treasure hunt, inside and outside (items below!)
Fun Lunch/Dinner Questions:
  • If you could have a wild animal from anywhere in the world as a pet, which animal would you choose?
  • What is your favorite smell in the whole world?
  • What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?
  • If your parents misbehaved, what punishment would you give them?
  • What is your fondest memory of a family vacation?
  • Would you rather win an Academy Award, an Olympic Medal or Nobel Peace Prize and why?
  • If you were given $1 million to give to a charity which one would you choose?
  • What is your favorite family tradition?  (if don’t have one, you can start one today)
  • If you could only eat one kind of dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite family recipe?
  • What real or mythical place would you like to visit?  (can look them up on google maps and try to see them)
  • Who is the best storyteller in the family?
  • Which TV family is most like your own?
  • Which amusement park is your favorite and what is your favorite ride?
  • What special power do you wish you had?
  • What do you like most about the person on your right?
  • Which teacher or coach has had the most impact on you and why?  (If you still know how to get a hold of them, the child could write them a note).
  • Who at this table is most likely to borrow something and forget to give it back?
  • What is your favorite radio or TV commercial?
  • Would you rather spend the day with Cupid, Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy?
  • What is the best job in the world and why?  What job would you never want?
  • Which historical figure would you want to meet?
  • What is one way your mom or dad embarrasses you?
  • If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your winnings?
  • What class would you like to take in school that is not offered?
  • Would you rather time travel fifty years forward or fifty years into the past?
  • What is the most important lesson your parents have taught you?
  • If you could adopt a trait from each person at the table, which traits would you pick?

Adopted from Melissa & Doug Family Dinner Box of Questions Game

Inside Scavenger Hunt Items:
  • Highlighter
  • Spatula/Flipper
  • Picture of an animal
  • Rubberband
  • Stuffed Animal
  • Ball
  • Winter Hat
  • Scarf
  • Yearbook
  • Paperclip
  • Spoon
  • Tennis Shoe
  • Action Figure or Doll
  • A water bottle
  • Sock

In the midst of COVID-19 quarantine, we hope you’ll find ways to slow down, focus on each other, and have fun! What are YOU doing to find the fun and make the most of these days? Let us know in the comments!
Rachelle has been with ALCS since 2017 and counsels clients from our North Austin location. She works with children and adolescents and their families to help them understand behaviors, improve communication, and establish boundaries within relationships. For more information about Rachelle's practice, or to set up an appointment with Rachelle, call us today!
Hannah is a past ALCS therapist who is sadly no longer a part of the ALCS team. She is currently a full-time stay at home mom, but still enjoys leading TBRI trainings on occasion. If you are interested in scheduling a training, you can reach out to ALCS administrative staff and they can connect you to Hannah.