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home : columns : dear harriette August 13, 2020

5/5/2020 7:49:00 AM
Family sheltering in place together needs more rules

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have three grown children, and we have all been living together again since the government issued a stay-at-home order. In some ways, it has been nice having them around. We are getting to talk about all kinds of things that didn't ever come up on our short check-in phone calls before. On the other hand, it has been tough with all of the personalities. My husband and I don't get much quiet time like we used to enjoy since the kids moved out. I feel like we need to enforce a few more house rules so that we don't end up driving one another crazy. Do you have any ideas? We live in a small house, so it is hard for us to be completely separated. -- Family Time

DEAR FAMILY TIME: Draw upon your children's creativity. Have a family meeting that you call a brainstorming session. Tell your family how grateful you are that you are together and healthy. Point out what you are enjoying about being in their company. Then state that you believe that it is also hard at times because it can feel like too much togetherness. Tell them you want to come up with some ideas that allow you to each have a bit more space and privacy. Ask them if they can think of any ideas.

Some suggestions include: scheduling bathroom time so that each person can enjoy the bathroom alone; rotating meal preparation and cleanup; observing quiet time with no audible TV or music (you can use headphones); reserving an area for alone time, and scheduling it for each person.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son is graduating from high school this year, and I feel so sad for him. He has worked really hard to be a good student. Plus, he has been involved in student government and other activities at his school. He was an all-in kind of student leading up to the quarantine that has shut down his school until next year.

My son will not have a graduation ceremony, and he is moping a bit. This is only exacerbated by the uncertainty of whether college will start next year as planned. He had considered taking a gap year, but there's nowhere to go now. Without a clear path for the future, he is becoming depressed. How can I help him? -- Uncertain Future

DEAR UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Plan a Zoom graduation party for your son. Have him help you with the plans. Make an invitation list. Decide on activities that will occur, including him wearing his cap and gown (if he has it already) and giving a speech. Invite loved ones to give him presents. You can encourage financial gifts, which students always appreciate, and let them know how to send it electronically.

As far as the future goes, encourage your son to reach out to his college to find out what the plan is for the fall. If the school hasn't decided yet, encourage him to stay in touch. He needs to become proactive. This will keep him engaged even though times are tough.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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