Tips for Quality Time During Quarantine

What is quality time? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is: “time spent giving all of one’s attention to someone who is close” You may be thinking “um…but aren’t I spending all my time with people who are close right now?” Yes, but I want to encourage you to think about what that time looks like and how quality time might be different. As I write this, I’m wondering if spending quality time with the people we are in contact with may be even more important right now. With many of us working from home, there is sometimes little distinction between work time and play time.

Anyone else answering work emails while playing with their kid? In my experience, these moments are sometimes necessary but are often frustrating for everyone involved. Or maybe you aren’t writing emails, but your mind is thinking about what you’ll say in your 2:00 meeting. Again, you may need to be with your child and plan for your meeting at the same time, I get that (I really do!) However, it’s important that there are times when your child, your partner, and, even yourself get your undivided attention. While my toddler lets me know in no uncertain terms when I’m not paying enough attention to him, an older child or partner may be more subtle. Here are a few things to look out for and ideas for connecting.

With your Kids

Signs you child could benefit from some quality time with you:

  • They appear easily frustrated when you need to complete a task
  • They seem to need your help with everything, including tasks you know they can do themselves
  • They repeatedly do things that require you to stop what you are doing and attend to them, even if it’s to tell them to stop
  • You are feeling annoyed, irritated, worried or guilty 

Tips for quality time with kids

  • Turn off your phone and play with your kids…it doesn’t matter if they’re 2 and want to build towers and knock them down or 15 and want to play video games or do a craft project. 
  • Let your child choose an activity they want to share with you or brainstorm a list of activities together and take turns picking something off the list.
  • Be curious—ask open-ended questions like “what do you like most about this song?” “How do you feel about that?” “What are you most looking forward to?
  • For young children, plan for at least 10 minutes a day. For older children, try a minimum of 30 minutes once a week of focused “special time.” Teens may appreciate less frequent but longer stretches of time.
  • Check out this post for some fun activities to do with kids during quarantine.

With your Partner

Signs your relationship could use some attention:

  • You’re bickering often over “small stuff
  • You or your partner feels disconnected
  • You’re having frequent miscommunications
  • It’s been a while since you had a date night or spent one-on-one time together without distractions

Tips for quality time with your partner

  • If possible, find a time when you won’t be interrupted by kids or work (and turn your phone off!)
  • Schedule a date night. You may not be able to go to your favorite restaurant, but you can order take-out and watch a movie, go for a walk, play a game, or have a picnic in your backyard. 
  • Set aside 10 minutes before bed each night to check in about your day or cuddle.
  • Accomplish something together. This could be a house project, a puzzle, a new fitness routine, or whatever suits your interests.
  • Download one of these apps or read this blog post to learn more about each other and get ideas for strengthening your relationship.

With Yourself

Signs you could use some attention:

  • You’re easily frustrated or feel irritable and on edge
  • You notice you’re holding tension in your body 
  • You feel drained (physically, emotionally, mentally)
  • You feel anxious, worried, sad, agitated

Tips for quality time with yourself:

  • Find a space that feels good to you. If you don’t have one, try to create a cozy, calming atmosphere by lighting a candle, wrapping up in a blanket, or designating a corner of your room as your calming area. You can add cushions, a comfy chair, favorite pictures or an essential oil diffuser.
  • If you live with other people, tell them you need some to yourself and to not disturb you unless it’s an emergency (of course, if you’re alone with young children you may need to time this for their nap time or after they’re in bed).
  • Take a walk and just notice how your body feels, the thoughts you’re having, feelings that come up. Try to notice these things without judgement. Check out this post for some mindfulness tips and tricks.
  • Journal, paint, or do something else creative.
  • Read a book, listen to music, or watch a show that makes you feel good.
  • Avoid doing chores, answering emails, or working during this time!

It doesn’t so much matter what you do, but that you set aside time to be truly present, whether it’s with yourself, your children, your partner, or anyone else. Just enjoying each other can help deepen your connection and bring a greater sense of peace and belonging during this unpredictable time.

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Brene Brown
By: Magdalen Marrone, LCSW


Back to School: Fall 2020 Edition

With summer quickly coming to an end, the back to school preparation looks a little different this year. In fact, this year has looked a lot different than any other year so far. Because of all the changes that are occurring I wanted to give my Back to School list of resources for families.

Talking, again, about COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken a toll on families in the shape of illness, job loss, life loss, staying at home with the whole family, the changing of school structure, and so much more. It is exhausting trying to keep a “normal” with so much chaos and change. It is SO important for families to focus on connection. Connection can be small moments of checking in or intentional moments, like a family dinner or meeting. By maintaining connection in the family, you are allowing natural moments of empathy and understanding to occur. These connection moments can let a family adapt through change by knowing where every family member is emotionally. Below are some resources to help families set up time to connect, how to connect, and what to connect about.

Families and Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement has created a lot of conversations in families and communities. Talking through questions like:

  • What is racism?
  • Is reverse racism real?
  • What is white privilege?
  • What is systemic racism?
  • Am I part of the problem?
  • How can I be part of the change?
  • In what ways can I support Black Lives Matter?

These questions can feel overwhelming. Connection, again, is a key ingredient in creating conversation with your family in how to research, educate, and answer these many questions. Below are some resources to help families talk through how to educate themselves, their family, and support Black Lives Matter.

General Resources for Your Family

The below include general resources/suggestions for you and your family to practice self-care, in general. Remember–there is not a right or wrong way to practice self-care and to feel your feelings as long as you’re giving yourself the opportunity to do so!

The above resources are a collection of books, podcasts, words of encouragement, documents, and websites from myself and by my colleagues in the therapy field! Thank you to all of my friends and colleagues in the therapy world to help me create this back to school list. I also want to note that the resources are not exhaustive by any means; there are MANY tips, tricks, tools–this barely scratches the surface. However, it felt like a great place to start and a necessary tool to share with families. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns!

By: Julie Smith, LMFT


Self-Care During COVID-19

For curiosity sake, I searched “what to do if I get covid-19”.  In 0.77 seconds (because Google tells you), “about 8,280,000,000 results” populated.  Various questions that were included in these results included:

  • What to do if you are sick? 
  • What should I do if I think I have been exposed to coronavirus? 
  • Can you recover? 
  • Does drinking a lot of water help flush out COVID-19?
  • Can antibiotics treat the coronavirus disease? 
  • What should you do if you live with someone who has coronavirus? 

Without a doubt, these questions are important and should be asked and are included in the top results for a reason.  Someone I know shared on her Instagram feed that she was tested positive for COVID-19 and the conversation was, I’m summarizing, something along the lines of “Hi, you’ve tested positive.  Now you need to quarantine for (however many) days.  If you experience severe symptoms, go to the hospital.”  Of course, that was (and is) important information for her to know.  However, nothing was discussed regarding the emotional impact of COVID-19 (whether it’s the collective/societal impact of the virus or the personal impact of testing positive).  Below are a few things to consider when thinking about the current pandemic. 

First…Let’s Talk About Shame

Several months ago, someone I know was exposed to COVID and was tested as a result.  When she received her test results (they were negative), she shared how excited she was because there is so much judgment around it.  She said, had she gotten positive test results, people would have likely judged and/or blamed her for clearly not following the rules of social distancing.  Similarly, a friend of mine found out she was positive for COVID and shared that when she told people she had come in contact with that she was positive for coronavirus, she felt like she was sharing with the world that she had a sexually transmitted infection (which there is a LOT of shame around those…that’s a blog for another day.  In the meantime, check out this poster from UnHushed, that provides accurate & direct information about STIs). 

Oh, And Fear

There is SO much uncertainty with COVID-19 and how this virus impacts people.  Whether someone is asymptomatic, has minimal symptoms (my friend I mentioned earlier only lost her sense of smell & taste), or has severe symptoms (e.g.: has a high fever and difficulty breathing), there is truly NO telling how you will be affected until you are actually experiencing symptoms…if you, in fact, experience them.  Because the CDC is constantly learning new information, we do not have a clear idea of a lot of things…which, is NO fault of the CDC (I want to be very clear about that!)  This takes an already scary situation and makes it that much scarier…because we don’t have clear information about it and what it entails.  If that’s not scary, then I don’t know what is. 

What About Grief? 

While shelter-in-place/quarantine/social distancing (fill in the blank of what language you’ve been using) has been happening for almost 4 months now (woah), it’s been difficult…to say the very least.  Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, humans, by nature, are social creatures.  Thanks to technology (social media, texting, video calls, Zoom…oh, Zoom), snail mail, social distance outings (if/when they feel right), people have found ways to stay connected to those that are important to them….which is great…AND there is a huge amount of loss that is affiliated with that.  You don’t need me to tell you everything that has happened as a result, but to sum a few major things up…

  • Graduations were, essentially, cancelled
  • Weddings have been cancelled and/or postponed
  • People who are pregnant are going to their appointments solo…and when they give birth, minimal people are allowed to be with them
  • As people died (whether it be COVID-related or not), loved ones had to grieve alone…or at a socially distant place
  • Vacations were cancelled

AND SO MANY OTHER THINGS.  Some of you may look at that list and think “Woah…vacation being cancelled is in the same list as people dying alone?”  And to that, I say “Yes”.  Grief and loss is not something that can or should be quantified.  At this time, the world (truly…everyone in the world) is living a collective trauma related to covid-19.  Whether you’re 17 years old in Texas…or 42 years old in Indonesia…or 5 years old in Australia…or 81 years old in Finland…we are all experiencing grief related to the coronavirus…on top of any and all stressors that life is presenting us at any given moment. 

So…What Now? 

Ready for a buzz-word?  Self-care.  Yup…it’s as “easy” as that…which, surprise, is not easy at all.  There isn’t a right-or-wrong way to practice self-care as long as you’re doing what is right for you.  The suggestions I’m about to provide are 100% just suggestions and is definitely not comprehensive at all. 

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings 

A lot of us, at various times (I’m generalizing here), have experienced anger.  What we often fail to see, though, what’s below anger…whether it’s worry or disappointment or guilt or trauma (or any or none of those things), anger is often just the surface of feelings people are experiencing. 

Similarly, there is a quote, that I love that states “I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.”  When you sit with this…it really reveals how complicated emotions, particularly anger, can be.

In no way am I trying to invalidate anger, however, sitting with your emotions and allowing yourself to feel your feelings is an incredibly valuable way to take care of yourself. 

This Anger Iceberg gives an explanation (and visual) of what I’m talking about. 

Practice Mindfulness

…Buzz-word #2.  Not sure where to start?  That is OKAY.  Check out this blog I wrote on 5 Mindfulness Tips & Tricks.   

Give Yourself Permission to Take a Break! 

We are inundated with highly emotional information on a daily basis…whether it’s about coronavirus, politics, murders of innocent black members of our community, or anything else–it’s OKAY to take a break.  Admittedly, this has been harder for me to do (I’m human…what can I say?)  But if you don’t allow yourself to take a break from the emotional weight of this information, you are not going to be the best version of yourself when you need it most.  Whether taking a break involves turning off the news or social media and reading a memoir about your favorite Queer Eye member (ahem, JVN), do what’s best for you and know that it is okay (and extremely valuable) to take breaks. 

Lean On People

Cue “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. 

The words of this song (yes, I listened to it as I wrote this) state:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on

People, again, I’m generalizing, often feel hesitant to ask for help.  Whether it’s fear of looking weak or not wanting to be a burden or not wanting to be disappointed…we tell ourselves SO many lies as to why we shouldn’t or couldn’t ask for help.  Rather than listening to those lies, remind yourself, as I said earlier, humans are social creatures by nature.  Whether it’s your friend, a family member, your therapist, your former teacher, your neighbor…whomever it may be…ask for help.  It might be scary in the moment, but I can assure you it will be worth it. 

By: Julie Burke, LPC
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