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7 (easy) expert tips for getting through self-quarantine with your relationship intact

Now more than ever, we need to be a united front with our partners...even if it feels impossible.

relationship tips for coronavirus

This is a time of uncertainty and stress. As parents, we're facing financial worries and a relentless stream of distressing coronavirus-related news, all while adjusting our regular routines and schedules and spending more time in the home with our partners and children.

No wonder I have heard from so many mothers—both in my couples therapy practice and in my circle of friends—lamenting that they are "already at each other" in their relationship. They are frustrated with their partners. They are short. They aren't listening to each other and they already feel disconnected.

Yet, now more than ever, we need to be a united front with our partners.

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Here are seven tips to help you maintain your relationship through this difficult time.

1. Redefine roles

What worked before may not continue to work today in terms of how you manage daily household tasks, work tasks, and childcare, and you both need to be willing to redefine and renegotiate your roles.

Each week, have a meeting to talk about what needs to be done and when it needs to happen for both of you. Write down everything that is coming up over the next week and what needs to be done. For each item, rate the importance from 0 (not important) to 10 (very important). If it is not high on the priority list, perhaps it is something that can be done at another time. The key here is to be flexible in this meeting.

Each day, decide who will be with the children at specific times, assign different tasks to each partner (who makes lunch, who prepares activities) and decide what time work starts and finishes.

The act of sitting side by side at the table and writing the tasks out will force you to look at the problem together—literally—and as a team, redefine who is doing what.

2. Practice daily rituals

In just ten minutes a day, you can continue to feel connected. Here are some things you can do every single day:

Daily ritual of greeting. When you first wake up, instead of reaching for your phone, reach for your partner. Spend a few minutes away from screens at the start of each day.

Daily check in. Take ten minutes at some point during the day to just check in and talk. Here are some questions you can ask: What is your biggest stressor today? How can I support you? What do you need in terms of our time together and time apart?

Daily hug or six-second kiss. Intimacy is key for our well-being. Even if sex is the last thing on your mind right now, physical intimacy (hugging, kissing, holding hands, giving a good back-rub) releases the feel-good cuddle hormone, oxytocin.

3. Be responsive and engaged

Being critical, attacking or defensive—or worse, shutting down—will not move you forward together as a couple. It will keep you stuck: hostile, angry, and frustrated. Over time, resentment will build.

Now is the time to shift to being responsive and engaged with your partner. This means that you hear your partner's concerns, empathize with them and offer comfort.

Being responsive and engaged also means confiding in each other about your fears and worries. It means sharing your vulnerabilities, and not dismissing them, but instead, listening to each other's feelings.

It looks like letting go of your anger and prioritizing the connection in your relationship.

4. Look for ways to validate each other's feelings

We all need to be heard and understood. Ironically, this can be hard for couples under stress, as we often focus on what the other person is not doing, or what doesn't feel good for us. This blaming position stops us from being able to understand and connect with our partners.

During this time of uncertainty and stress, try shifting away from blame—and use validation to help create a stronger connection.

Validation does not mean that the other person is right and you are wrong. It simply means you are seeing and accepting the other's emotion or their experience, without trying to problem-solve or make the emotion go away. You are not trying to "fix it;" you are simply allowing yourself to witness and be curious about what your partner is saying to you.

After a partner expresses a concern or an emotion, you can try using some of these examples to validate them:

Tell me how you're feeling.

What do you need?

It's okay to feel this.

This feels really hard.

I see that you are upset. Tell me more about this.

Can you help me understand your feeling more?

You're really struggling. How can I help?

5. Use compassion—and repair quickly

You are both going through this difficult time together, meaning that neither one of you are alone in the struggle. This is a key component to having compassion for ourselves and for others—acknowledging that we are not alone in our struggle.

Compassion in a relationship is like viewing our partner as our dearest friend. What would you say to your best friend right now, from a mind-set of kindness?

In this time of uncertainty, you will make mistakes, and you will get on each other's nerves. The key here is that if you do get stuck in an argument, go back and repair it quickly. Repairing your relationship can look like acknowledging your misstep, taking responsibility for your role, apologizing, or even making light of what you did that led to the disagreement (hint: focus on your own behavior and not theirs).

6. Talk about how much space you both need

In a normal family routine, space in your relationship—both physical space and emotional space—is created and maintained by all the things we need to do, such as our commitments to work and child care, our social lives and our other (many) obligations, big and small. All of these "automatic space makers" have now been removed. No wonder we all feel a little tense.

Everyone needs some kind of alone time—and that has nothing to do with the love we hold for our partners.

Have a conversation about what space looks like for you—personal space, family space and work space. Help your partner understand what you need in order to complete work, and when that needs to happen, and be ready to hear and empathize with your partner's needs for space as well (which may look very different from yours).

You may also make an agreement about when one is in "work space" and when they are in "family space." This will help create boundaries for each other as well as clear expectations.

7. Find meaning together

At the end of a long, tiring day, you may be tempted to zone out on your phone and tune out the world. But use a few minutes of this precious down time to connect with each other over something that brings you meaning and joy. Shift away from the media and the news and find enjoyment in something else—dissecting a podcast you both follow, sharing funny moments in both of your days or relishing a moment of connection over a warm memory (remember your last vacation? your last date night? your last moment of pride at one of your kid's milestones?).

You may also choose to enhance your relationship through books or online courses. I offer an online membership for women and mothers to help improve and master your relationship from the comfort of your own home.

This time is pivotal in our relationships and we must now choose connection over contention. We must be willing to let go of anger or the need to be right. Together, we can be connected.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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