Social Distancing Equals Closer Family Dynamics
“One day vacation and then the next day everything shuts down,” said Regina Rolocut, single mother of two girls, Gabby and Gianna, from Merritt Island. The family’s spring break snowboarding trip to Utah came to a sudden halt in mid-March as the pandemic took over the headlines.
COVID-19 became real when all the stay-at-home orders started going into effect and even the happiest places on Earth, theme parks, had to close. As did schools and businesses across the country.
The transition in Rolocut’s life was life-altering. According to her, the most challenging part “has been to not sit all day long. I’m used to going nonstop and it used to feel like I was in a hamster wheel always trying to catch up. Everything has changed now.”
Rolocut is grateful for the time spent together as a family.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to be with my girls as I have now. I think it’s because we’re not under so much stress and time constraint. In my normal life, I’ve worked the entire time they’ve been alive,” Rolocut said.
When discussing the inevitable changes in family dynamics during this unprecedented phenomenon, it is obvious people have different coping mechanisms. But one thing is consistent across the board: not many were prepared for this big change.
“For me, it’s been a complete upheaval because none of us had the infrastructure at home to be ready for such change of events, change of finances, change of responsibilities that just came out of nowhere,” said Dr. Odilie Bagwell, doctor of audiology and mother of four in Merritt Island.
Although it may not seem obvious in the moment, seeing the glass half-full has its benefits.
“It has been a wake-up call for many families around the world,” Bagwell said. “Despite the simplistic aspect of it all, the dynamics come into play when everyone is in the same household 24 hours a day. Those relationships or situations that haven’t been dealt with, that were covered up by distractions, have risen up since all those distractions have been removed and we are more connected.”
The Bagwell family are business owners and they’ve had to temporarily close their doors, but not without thinking about their employees and the impact these troubling times would have on their lives.
“We’re continuing to pay them and they’re helping keep the company afloat, and that’s all we can ask of them right now. We are trying to educate those who qualify to file for unemployment benefits,” Bagwell said.
The “new normal” has been an adjustment for many families across the world. For other parents in Brevard, such as Kimberly Hettinger, it has been enlightening: “This is the first time my husband has ever cooked! These are miraculous times to all be home at the same time.”
Hettinger acknowledges that it will be difficult to go back to all the sports and commitments they were used to on their children’s busy weekly schedules, because this time has shown them how to sit and have dinner as a family.
Josh Cooper, dad of two teenagers on Merritt Island, said one of the biggest challenges has been generating more trash and using more consumables.
“Cabin fever creates short fuses and there is no hiding from that,” he added.
In most cases, working from home was optional, but now it’s become a necessity for many businesses. Cooper, a project manager for Martinez Construction Services, is familiar with the concept of working from home, unlike his wife, Nicole, who cannot do much now since her job is patient based.
As for the kids, Cooper said that with maintaining social distancing, they have had more time to interact as a family, they are bonding, and chores are getting done together.
“Presently, people are being challenged by spending so much time in closed quarters, which is a true test on any relationship” said Dr. Arthur Bregman, a psychiatrist in Miami-Dade County and the former chief of psychiatry of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Bregman explained that parents are role models, and children are really looking to them to mirror how they respond and cope with this pandemic.
“That this pandemic will either be remembered as a trauma or as a time where they have learned how to be resourceful adults,” Bregman said.
When asked about anxiety, Bregman said it’s a natural function that all humans exhibit to help protect us when there is a threat. This threat in particular is not one we can see or is palpable. When it interferes with our daily lives, then one of his recommendations is to take a step back and figure out what it is we are actually worried about.
Standard practice is to understand the source of the problem in order to find solutions. We can ease our anxiety by understanding that we are doing everything we can, we are safe in our homes and we are doing our part to help flatten the curve by social distancing — as advised by health authorities.
Self-care and having a positive mindset are crucial during this time. Those two things will undoubtedly influence our reactions as the new normal takes control, Dr. Bregman said.
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