Surviving In A Mixed COVID-19 Household

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COVID-19 househols

I’m sure you have heard of ethnically, religiously diverse households, right? There are many resources to help families navigate the different traditions and possible conflicts that can come up when two world views join together.

But what if you suddenly find yourself in a mixed household due to your views on the Coronavirus?

In my profession as a psychologist who works with moms and families, this has come up as a hot-button issue time and time again, and it is a really sensitive and challenging topic.

A “mixed COVID-19 household” is a situation whereby one partner views the immediate threat of the virus to be less severe than the other partner.

This likely creates a situation whereby one partner wants to return to “normal” activities or leave the house on a more regular basis, and the other partner has a strong preference for remaining sheltered in place under quarantine.

The reasons behind each person’s viewpoints are as complex as the reasons behind each person’s political views.

And both parties likely hold strongly onto their beliefs and see themselves as making rational and educated choices that are also highly influenced by the emotions behind them.

That is why this type of mixed COVID-19 household split can be very challenging to live with, especially when health is a factor.

The way this division typically plays out is that Parent A wants to send kids back to school, go to stores and restaurants, and see friends and family. They view these things as appropriate and conducive to the mental and emotional well-being of the family. Parent B, on the other hand, feels that the threat of COVID-19 is not gone, and that the safest thing to do for the family’s physical well-being is to remain at home as much as possible. These divisions may also fall along with personality types whereas Parent A is an extrovert and Parent B is an introvert.

The problem is that COVID-19 is a rapidly changing situation with many different research findings coming out each day, so it is hard to figure out who is “right” in this struggle.

That is because, technically speaking, both Parent A and Parent B are right.

Both have valid viewpoints that need to be acknowledged to avoid defensiveness and hurt feelings. It is likely the case that returning to some sort of normalcy is extremely beneficial on many levels, especially with children who are struggling with limited social outlets an connections. Many children will experience trauma from their time away from friends and school that will take some serious work to mend.

And it is also very true that in many states, the rates of new Coronavirus cases are increasing, which means that the threat of infection isn’t going anywhere. If you add in the recently discovered Kawasaki Disease-like condition affecting children who have been exposed to COVID-19, you have a very alarming reality that would mean that home truly may be the safest place for everyone.

So, what do you do when both parents in a mixed COVID-19 household are right but both of the strategies they want to adopt are in direct conflict?

The answer is to first come to the table and validate each other. This isn’t a situation where one parent wins and the other loses. In fact, it should never play out like that, no matter what the argument is. Relationships are based on communication and compromise, and you need both to move forward in a productive way. So, your first strategy would be to talk about your needs and your concerns openly and honestly with your partner.

And when the other person is sharing, do your best to just listen and to acknowledge what they are saying in a genuine way.

From their viewpoint and with their knowledge base, they are valid in what they believe. Try to paraphrase back what they said in a way that illustrates that you “get it.” And then have them do the same when you discuss your side as well.

Then, you will want to try to find a middle ground with a “low ticket” item (something that isn’t very emotionally heavy) that you can start with. For example, decide to go as a family to pick up a meal and eat it in your car for a “car picnic” which is in between the poles of always eating at home and eating out in a restaurant.

Then, move up the ladder to harder items, but do it on a timeline.

Each week, pick a new middle ground to work with and just do that one thing. Move your way up to the harder stuff, and for the things that you can’t figure out right now (like whether or not to go back to school in the fall) until you get more information, agree to check in each month given the information that is known at the time and see if there is a middle ground to be had.

In some cases, you will need to give a little bit more than you’d like on one thing.

But that should balance out in another area, so try not to make this a “tit for tat” situation. If it turns into a competition about who is “winning,” no one is. This will help you navigate the emotional landmine that is COVID-19 for the next few months.

If this path becomes too hard, you can take a break, or you may want to seek out external support from a counselor to help guide you through the harder topics. No matter what, you need to see you and your partner as a team that is coming together in uncharted waters to solve an unsolvable problem.

That will help you not get too defensive and will help you stay the course if you find yourself in a mixed COVID-19 household. And remember, we are all winging it right now, and that is totally ok.

Surviving In A Mixed COVID-19 Household PIN

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Megan Phillips is a licensed clinical psychologist who owns a private practice that specializes in helping women and moms in Orange County (www.cottonwoodpsychologycenter.com). She is from the Pacific Northwest, but she and her husband decided to escape the rain and move to warm, sunny Southern California in 2012. Since then, she became a mom to a smart and funny little boy and an adorable baby girl. Megan enjoys cooking and taking in the local sights, and she is always up for a fun mommy’s night out.