Brene Brown's simple advice for parenting when you feel like there's nothing left to give

It's called a "family gap plan" and it's pretty genius.

Brené Brown

Bestselling author, professor and researcher Brené Brown is well-known and loved for her inspirational approach to life's challenges (and for her Netflix special The Call to Courage)‚ but even she acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic presents a whole new set of challenges for families.

"Collectively, what I see is a growing weariness. I think we're tired, physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted," Brown said on Monday in an interview for the Today Show, adding that part of the challenge is acknowledging that we're in it for the long haul. "We're going to have to settle into a new normal, while grieving the old normal, which is a lot to ask of people."

With schools and workplaces closed and social distancing measures in effect across the country, many parents are pulling triple-duty at home right now as full-time caregivers, homeschool instructors and workers. At some moments, it can (understandably) feel as if parenting through coronavirus requires more than we have to give.

Enter Brown's "family gap plan," which can help families bridge the gap during tough moments.

As Brown explains it, "I'd say (to my husband), 'Steve, all I have is 20%.' And he's like, 'Hey, I've been holding down the fort here. All I got is 20.' So we'd say, 'Okay, we've got a gaping 60%. What are our rules when we don't have 100% as a family?'"

Brown stresses the importance of keeping lines of communication open as a family: "Let people know where you are." She and her husband have a policy of being honest with their children about moments when they feel low-energy or high-stress.

"I'll say, 'We have to make 100 as a family. I've got 20, and your dad's got 20. What do we do to get to 100?' And it's about the way we talk to each other, the way we show up with each other, extra kindness...and takeout."

In fact, Brown's kids helped come up with the set of rules their family follows whenever there's a "family gap" and things aren't adding up to 100%:

  • No harsh words
  • No nice words with harsh faces
  • Say you're sorry
  • Accept apologies with a "thank you" (as opposed to "okay," which can sound frosty)
  • More knock-knock jokes and puns

Every family is different, and your family's way of bridging the gap may call for a different set of rules (and the truth is, it's okay to not be okay sometimes). But as tactical, actionable advice for keeping the peace at home goes, the more humor and kindness, the better.

<p> Siobhan Adcock is the Experts Editor at Motherly and the author of two novels about motherhood, <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/" target="_blank">The Completionist</a> and <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/the-barter" target="_blank">The Barter</a>. Her writing has also appeared in Romper, Bustle, Ms., McSweeney's, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Chicago Review of Books and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. </p>

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