You’re all going through many different kinds of challenges these days, not the least of which is spending 24/7 at home with your spouse and kids.  These people are the ones you love the most in the world.  They’re the ones you’d rescue from a burning building or donate your bone marrow, yet they’re also the ones who can easily and unintentionally annoy the heck out of you.

When staying home and sheltering in place, it’s hard to escape from those annoying people.  You can’t leave for the office, or run to the mall, or grab a beer at your local watering hole.  Nope.  You’re stuck with these people right now, so let me offer a few suggestions on both avoiding conflict and resolving conflict.

Avoiding Conflict

  1.  Insist on an hour of alone time every day.  Set the oven timer for 60 minutes, escape someplace where you can close the door, and savor the solitude.
  2. Designate a single 30-minute period each day for the Complaint Department to be open.  Listen to each person’s complaint(s), write them down, and then respond during the next day’s session.  Often times kids will come up with their own solution if they feel you listened to their complaint so be sure to offer the opportunity to handle it on their own.
  3. Sit down as a family and make a list of what’s really important (health, cleanliness, consideration for others) and make a list of what’s not going to matter at all in a month (what to watch on t.v., whose turn it is to do the dishes, when it’s time to disconnect).

Resolving Conflict

  1. Schedule a family meeting immediately to work on a list of ground rules.  Sit down together and stick to the agenda.
  2. Each family member should have equal input about the ground rules (subject to reasonable parental veto).
  3. Write down the final version and post in a conspicuous location.  Better yet, have one of your kids do the writing.
  4. Set deadlines, offer rewards, and choose appropriate consequences.  Then stick to them!

The most important skill set you can develop while in captivity is listening.  And if you think you’re already a good listener, take this simple quiz.    In fact, you can take it with your spouse and kids.  You might find the results surprising.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that at this point, the phrase “we’re in this together” has been used ad nauseam.  So forgive me for beating you over the head with it once again.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the people we live with are just that.  They’re people, and we live with them.  If we all take some extra time to do our best to both avoid conflict and/or resolve it, we’ll come out of this better people.  And while we’re together at home, let’s recognize the importance of paying attention to those relationships that matter most.

I hope you use that extra time in the way most nurturing to yourself and to your loved ones.