Why the coronavirus lockdown is a great opportunity to strengthen family ties
In the coming days, many families around the world will be obliged to confine themselves to their homes to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Such quarantines have occurred frequently throughout history, and our ancestors took advantage of the situation to engage activities normal life would have limited. For example, Bocaccio tells us in The Decameron how in 14th century Italy a group of young people sought refuge in a villa on the outskirts of Florence to shelter from the plague. They spent their time telling each other stories that have been immortalized in painting, cinema and literature down through the ages.
My purpose in this short article is to offer some suggestions for parents who are going to be in very close contact with their children over the coming weeks, based on my experience as an educator.
First of all, this quarantine is a marvelous opportunity to strengthen family ties, to get to know your children better, and also for them to get to know you better. It is an occasion to share your values and your world view.
As with all types of confinement, close contact within a limited space with others will inevitably lead to friction. As a parent, is essential to be patient, to avoid frequent reprimands or overreacting. The goal here is for the family to feel at ease rather than in a state of permanent tension. Give some thought on how to establish mechanisms to resolve conflict, for example agreeing that all disputes must be cleared up within a minute.
Children enjoy sharing tasks with their elders, even if it might not seem like it. Spending time together, parents on work, children on their homework, reinforces the habit of study. Your children will copy your ability to focus and dedicate themselves to completing their tasks. Try to be disciplined and avoid procrastinating distractions, which are the main risks of working from home.
The coming weeks will also be an opportunity for other family activities, such as reading books together out loud or encouraging your children to make a presentation on a topic, which can then be discussed. These kinds of initiatives will help provide some continuity with school life.
Group board games are also a good way to entertain the family, relieve tension and get to know each other better. The experts recommend setting a time limit for such games and that all participants understand the rules and not to take it personally if they lose.
Avoid becoming hooked on news, particularly memes and hoaxes on social networks. As with other activities, it’s best to follow one’s usual daily routine of news consumption.
The upside of 21st century life is that technology can reduce our sense of isolation, making it easier for us to communicate with friends and family, work from home, and even attend courses via our computers.
Some schools and universities have already moved to online teaching, and you can facilitate your children’s access and supervise their activities: it’s advisable to limit the time children spend online, whether it’s playing video games or chatting on social networks, rather than leaving them in the hands of Alexa or Siri.
As educators, we are responsible for other people’s children—in loco parentis—but in the coming weeks, that role will be yours. Perhaps this crisis will bring home to us what British philosopher John Locke pointed out almost four centuries ago: the primary educators of children, especially in the early stages of personal development, are still the parents.