When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, what will be the state of Anne Arundel County households? Will families have a stronger emotional connection? Will married couples be more in tune with their spouses’ needs? Will parent-child relationships be healthier and closer?

How can families discover the mental and emotional strength now to endure restrictive social factors and promote a safe and supportive home environment?

Here are 10 mental health practices that could help households address these issues.

Encourage and Reward Helpful Behavior. Without work and school, some household members may feel a void, sad, hopeless or even useless. Each family member has unique value and gifts which could become apparent and better utilized during this period. Family members should encourage one another to share opinions and participate in tasks. Show appreciation to each other through kind acts and thoughtful words. When this happens, each person’s unique assets shine.

Practice Honesty, Acceptance and Forgiveness. During a crisis, feelings of insecurity can lead to general distrust and a decrease in healthy human interactions. Being truthful, embracing the differences in others, and appropriately handling past hurts can help create confidence, security and support among family members. Accepting differences in personalities provides an opportunity for individuals to learn more about one another. Forgiveness alleviates negative feelings, thoughts and actions associated with bitterness and resentment. It also aids in developing an enjoyable atmosphere and safe home environment for mental growth, emotional growth and healthy engagement.

Use Compassionate Speech. Compassionate speech is being mindful of the impact one’s words has on others. Positive words and caring actions set the stage for positive outcomes within relationships. Yelling and screaming demands result in hurt feelings and ruptured relationships. In contrast, sharing one’s desires calmly can help maintain a healthy bond wherein desires and ideas are shared.

Have an Affirming Reaction. Affirming reactions, such as nodding, maintaining eye contact, asking questions and using validating statements during conversations, assure others that they are being heard and their point of view is valued and recognized.

Resolve Conflict with Consideration. When households are confined to one location over a long period of time, conflicts are likely to happen due to differences in personalities and opinions on decision making. When attempting to resolve a conflict, consider the age and communication style of the other person. Sometimes a pause or break is needed between the incident and the resolution conversation. Think about the best ways to address the conflict. Then mutually agree on the time to address it.

Participate in Activities Enjoyed by All Household Members. Discuss enjoyable and creative activities that can be pursued with as many family members as possible. Discuss these activities at dinner or weekly family meetings. During the discussions, individuals can describe activities they would like to do as a household. Fun shared activities are great ways to build closeness and discover interesting qualities in others.

Support the Aspiration of Household Members. When household members want to try something new, find ways to support them. Help them fulfill their goals.

Develop Helpful Relationships Outside the Household. While staying safe at home, find ways to connect with other relatives, friends and acquaintances. Try texting, video chats and other virtual activities on a routine basis. Strive to connect with outside relationships that will support and encourage you to stay positive and active.

Continue Traditions and Develop Family Roles Based on Household Needs. Households should strive to maintain healthy and bonding traditions. These might include working out together, preparing meals, holding game nights, or having religious rituals like praying together at bedtime. Wholesome traditions remind household members that they are not alone in facing the stresses of the pandemic. At meetings, discuss new roles and assignments to help the household function effectively. For example, chore assignments might need to change based on the physical and emotional health of family members. Being flexible with household roles can ease the transition to a new norm.

Discover Entertainment That Encourages Productivity and Healthy Relationships. With more time at home, there will probably be greater use of the internet and television. Use these communication tools to take a yoga class, learn a new language or improve cooking skills. They can also be used to watch or listen to programs that project positive and healthy human interactions. Many educational institutions, museums and faith-based groups have created online programs that stimulate positive thinking, strengthen relationships, and develop skills that can be used going forward.
These 10 practices can instill hope and create a closer and safer home life, while fostering healthier communities. As individuals show greater compassion and care for each other, they contribute to happier and more resilient households across Anne Arundel County.

By Darin Ford, reprinted with permission