Writing positive notes on sidewalks and driveways is a good activity to uplift families and neighbors.  Staff photo
Writing positive notes on sidewalks and driveways is a good activity to uplift families and neighbors. Staff photo
The necessary seclusion brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic presents both a challenge and an opportunity for families. It’s one thing to choose a week or two on vacation as a family. It’s quite another to suddenly have 24 hours together for weeks on end, with many customary distractions no longer an option.

Before long, most of us will be ready for a return to the routine, and possibly at our wits’ end over all that togetherness. So it’s important to seek activities that break up the monotony and perhaps give us some positive alternatives to the daily virus update or movie rentals.

• Get outside – a lot. Not only is it good for our physical health, we can take time as a family to observe what we might not have noticed before in our hectic lives – a goldfinch returning from winter in warmer climes, new buds and blossoms on neighborhood trees, a freshness in the air. Also look on your community’s Facebook page – many are starting neighborhood “hunts,” with a particular item viewable in a window.

• Bake … and bake some more. What better time to try a new recipe than when you are stuck at home? Dust off those old cookbooks and treasure hunt for something from years past. I was always amazed what my mother could cobble together from pantry staples.

• Bring back the board game. My son has been angling for a regular family game night for a long time. Now that our schedules have been completely upended, it has been easier to find that opportunity to gather around a table with a deck of cards, things like Clue and Monopoly, and even one modeled after the 80s computer game “The Oregon Trail” – to which I am partial, since, being a native Oregonian and thus the “one born closest to the Willamette Valley,” I always get to go first.

• Don’t forget to check on friends and neighbors. We know that COVID-19 is particularly hard on the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Many communities are encouraging people to check in on their neighbors and offer to go on grocery runs or pick up prescriptions. How about asking your kids to write or draw letters or pictures to brighten their day?

• “Read” an audio book together. The way current families congregate around their favorite television series is not unlike what pre-television families did with the radio. Recently a good friend told me she subscribed to Audible.com and began listening to “Crime and Punishment” on the way to and from work. Now that she and her kids are working and schooling from home, she and her high school daughter have bonded over listening to the familiar nightly chapter together, giving them something poignant to discuss. And really, who couldn’t use more Dostoyevsky in their lives?

• “Attend” Mass together remotely. We are blessed to have virtual opportunities to reconnect with the Church from our living rooms, simply by viewing a livestream or prerecorded Mass.  It can be a great spiritual comfort to go through the readings as a family, to listen to the homily and witness the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist. It shows our children that we are not on “vacation” from our faith – rather, that we value the spiritual Communion we are able to make, and how important it is to rely on our Catholic universal prayer and faith community, even virtually.

Perhaps the silver lining in this pandemic is that our forced physical closeness becomes a chance to work on our family relationships – and hopefully, build strength and faith as a unit, so that when our families re-emerge in community life, we will be kinder and more appreciative of all we have.