3 Communication Skills to Help Your Family Thrive During Shelter in Place

During this time of Shelter in Place we are all in close quarters. While we love our families and we have often wished for more time with them, this is more than we bargained for. How can you keep from going crazy? And maybe even learn to appreciate each other more? The key is in communication. Keep talking to each other about what’s going on and communicate what you need. All this togetherness requires a new level of communication that you may not be used to so here I have provided 3 skills that will help. With these skills under your belt you will not only gain some peace of mind while you’re all stuck together, but you might even learn to enjoy each other’s company.


Skill #1: Think before you speak 

If you find yourself upset with a family member, before you say anything to them, STOP and ask yourself the following question, How do I feel right now? Emotions are high right now so it’s even more important that we check in with ourselves regularly. I know you’re aware that sometimes when we are stressed we take it out on the people around us. Now that we are in close quarters we are in danger of doing this too often and it can really put a strain on relationships. So before you go to hash out your differences, take a moment to reflect on your own emotional state. 


Skill #2: Ditch the blaming

It may seem obvious that blaming statements kill communication. With stress levels higher though you may notice statements like, “Why do you always…” or “Why can’t you just…” coming out of your mouth. The ‘Think before you speak’ skill can really help combat this. When you’re talking about your own emotions you automatically shift your attention from the other person’s faults to your own emotional needs. 


An important secret to ending the conversation of blame is to stick with basic emotion words like Happy, sad, afraid, embarrassed, and angry/frustrated. The reason I say this is because feeling statements can be disguised as blaming statements. If you use statements like, “I feel harassed.” the person hearing this can easily feel like they are the cause of your upset, communication stops and they feel defensive.


Skill #3: Talk about yourself first

So how do you talk to your loved ones about your feelings? What if I’m really upset about something they did? You ask. The answer is talk about yourself first and then, if you have to mention what they did, do that second. The magic formula for this is to use an “I” statement. If you don’t know what an “I” statement is here is an example, “I feel afraid when the news is on all day.” Or here is a more advanced version, “I feel frustrated when you leave your dirty dishes in the living room, because it makes more work for me, can we come up with a solution?” 


Bonus Tip: Take care of yourself

Even if you practice awesome communication and are enjoying all of this family togetherness, you will still need to get away sometimes. Pay attention to when you need a break and find ways to get some alone time. I see people getting creative and taking time away in the bathroom, their car, and even a closet. Therapy can also be good self-care during this time. If you’ve missed seeing your therapist lately give them a call, or if you need a new therapist, many people are realizing that video sessions are really helpful. 


For more tips on weathering Shelter in Place with your family, read this article featuring Sonoma County advice from Sonoma County therapists.




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