How Not to Kill Your Parents (or Kids) in Quarantine
Let’s get right to it. According to a recent analysis from the Pew Research Center, more young adults in the U.S. are living with their parents than at any time since the Great Depression^. If you are a young adult living with your parents, or a parent living with a young adult, I’m writing today with you in mind with ways to remember why you love your family, how to love and support them better, and avoid burnout. Much of this also applies to families and people that live together from all walks of life. I called up my friend Dr. Marcie (you guys may know her from our most recent episode of Adulting with Jane- “Don’t Panic!”) for a few tips.
1. Realize that your family dynamic is not, and should not be the same as it was in your childhood.
“When you are parenting little kids, the idea is to teach them everything,” says Dr. Marcie. This guardianship mentality can be a difficult adjustment for parents to handle when their young adult has moved back home. The adjustment is equally jarring for young adults, who have become used to their own independence and privacy for some time now. When an adult's desire to parent impacts the young adult's desire to be independent, you have conflict. Therefore, It’s important as parents to “trust that you did ‘it’ well when they were little, and support your kids [only] when asked.”
2. Set health/COVID boundaries together as a family ahead of time.
Your family should come up with some basic ground rules to follow together, so you all feel safe coming home to each other. It’s important in your discussion not only lay out what each of your minimums and maximums are, but-what are the in-betweens? What concessions can you make, and what can you not comfortably live with? “Those decisions are the hardest thing.” says Dr. Marcie. You can all agree that it’s not okay for you to go party right now, but what about having one friend over to watch a movie? That’s where conflict can easily start, so it’s best to talk these things out as much as you can ahead of time. Don’t wait for your friend to come over to watch that movie before learning your mother has a problem with it, and don’t ever shame your kids (or parents) for their choices. Discuss their personal boundary preferences with them.
3. Navigate space and time with your housemates.
When it comes living and likely working at home, especially in cramped quarters:
“Know sh*t's going to happen,” says Dr. Marcie. “There are corporate business meetings where someone is going to walk by in the background in a bathrobe. That’s just humanity right now.” Those moments will happen, and they are out of your control. However, what is in your control is advocating for and communicating the times where you will actually need uninterrupted space and time- both to do work, and to decompress. Make sure to check in frequently (twice a week is good!) to request in advance specific times when you cannot be disturbed. A communal list on the fridge with your class or meeting schedule is a great place to start! Maybe you’d like the bathroom for an hour on Thursday to take that sanctuary bubble bath? Or the dining room to yourself to have a virtual meal with a friend? Planned moments like those are one of the biggest ways to practice self-care at this time, so take advantage of them. Most importantly, when making this schedule, make sure everyone in the house has an equal chance to advocate for his or her individual needs, don’t leave anyone out.
4. It’s okay to be scared, but it's important to know how to live with that fear.
It’s normal to get in your head as you are in the grocery store, taking public transportation, or deciding to visit a friend, about potentially bringing the virus home to your family, especially if they are on the older side or immunocompromised. But it’s also important to internalize the reality that feeling will not go away anytime soon. Dr. Marcie reminded me that there is a lot we still don’t know about this pandemic, and how it will continue to impact our lives. And it’s also not selfish to make a choice to see a friend at this time. Many of us are feeling so isolated, that human connection has become a critical part of our mental health. So allow yourself some in person time, guilt free. Know that “the desire to go out in the world is not about being reckless, it’s about taking care of your mental health”, Dr. Marice said best. Just take deep breaths (cue the “Don’t Panic! episode again), do your best to stick to the rules your family agreed on, and know your desire to go out in the world is not about being reckless, it’s about you wanting to take care of your mental health.
5. Remember that this is actually really special.
For most of us, this is most likely the last time you will have an excuse to live under the same roof as your family. Remember in the day to day that this is a really unique moment in time. “Your sister will never annoy you on a day to day basis so much ever again.” says Dr. Marcie. That perspective is really powerful. At the end of the day, despite all the nagging, your family’s ‘habitual line stepping,’ and broken boundaries, “remember that these are people you love, they are family and good people,” says Dr. Marcie. Having the opportunity to live with them without external judgment and get to really know them as adults, may be one of the silver linings of this pandemic.
Special thanks to Dr. Marcie Beigel for help on this week’s blog post! To learn more about her, please visit her website, and follow her on social media, @drmarciebeigel on Facebook and Instagram.
And most importantly-watch her help Jane manage a panic attach on our most recent episode of Adulting with Jane!
^Parker, Kim and Igienik, Ruth. On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far. Pew Research Center, May 2020. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far/