Social isolation does not have to be a miserable dilemma akin to solitary confinement in a jail. In fact, it can be a rewarding, connective experience – a time for families to slow down and strengthen bonds.
A long time ago, we kids loved those happy days when we were shut inside the house during blizzards and rainstorms. We’d get out our board games (favorites being Monopoly and Clue), cards, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, paint-by-number sets and have at it. Sometimes, our parents would squeeze in around the dining-room table, joining in the fun.
Here are some suggestions for turning restless isolation into a time for rediscovering what really counts most in life – one another.
• As already mentioned, bring out those board games, puzzles, coloring books and other fun hobbies. If you don’t have board games or other such items, you could order some online if you feel it’s not wise to venture forth to shop.
• Have reading sessions, each person taking turns reading aloud from an adventure storybook classic, like “Treasure Island,” “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” or the Harry Potter series. For younger children, choose simpler books.
• Pop lots of popcorn, then hunker down together to watch a great family movie. “The Wizard of Oz” is always lots of fun, and so are Walt Disney movies.
• Have a cook-in. Bake some cookies, make a casserole, mix up a cake, with all family members – even the small fry –helping in the process.
• Get everybody together, including the pooch, for leisurely, sauntering walks in the neighborhood or in a nearby park. Go for a relaxing bike ride. Go slow enough in order to really see things you’ve never taken the time to notice before.
• Play age-appropriate yard games, anything from hide-and-go-seek to softball.
• With everyone gathered in the living room, call grandparents and have a good long all-call chat with them, preferably via Skype.
• Adults could use the down-time to begin an at-home hobby they’d always hankered to do but never did, such as drawing or oil- or water-color painting. If you decide you’re no Rembrandt, so what? Go ahead, be a klutz; have fun anyway. Learning to bake bread is another hobby, a very satisfying activity, that can also involve the whole family. A home pervaded by the scent of bread baking in the oven makes for a cozy, happy home. There are many basic bread recipes online, as well as other tips for starting just about any hobby that tickles the fancy.
• Do a long-delayed home project, like finishing that basement. Make it fun so kids will want to have input and help out.
• Take out those boxes of old mementoes, souvenirs, photos and what-not and share them with everyone sitting at the kitchen table. That was one of our very favorite things to do on blizzard days, with our parents telling us stories, often hilarious, sometimes tragic, of the people pictured in a Kodak slice of time.
• For the little ones, have a scavenger hunt, like an Easter-egg hunt, in the yard or in the house. Hide treats here and there and let kids find them. We kids so loved those “hunts.”
• Surprise faraway family members, relatives or friends by writing a “real” letter to them, with everyone contributing to the writing process, then send the letter in a real envelope with a real postage stamp on it. The recipients just might go wobbly with shock after getting a “real” letter in the mailbox.
• Most of all, through every day and night, stay upbeat do not succumb to a sky-is-falling attitude. That gloom-and-doom mood is highly detrimental to children’s sense of security. Yes, there will be hardships, trials, tribulations and – tragically – deaths. But if we kick in our courage and our persistence, there will also be plenty of healthy bonding going on, with families having fun and being strengthened. And not to forget, strengthened families make for strong societies.