Behavioural Change Life Coach Angela Cox shares her thoughts on household communication plans and how to meet everyone's fundamental needs in these strange times
It’s the first weekend since our Government imposed the movement restrictions and, if your household is anything like mine, the novelty of our new situation will be starting to dissipate. Have you noticed how much more time there appears to be in the day? How much smaller the house seems now you are confined within it? How the bits on the carpet that you ‘only vacuumed yesterday’ have the ability to drive you to distraction and how, when you enter the kitchen and see dirty plates and cups left in the sink, you feel the steam coming from your ears?
Add to this the demands of home-schooling if you have children, financial worries and the threat to our health, and lockdown can suddenly become the breeding ground for ‘melt-down’.
The good news is, there is a way that you can prevent this by taking logical, positive action and creating a household communications plan. I want to add at this point that, whilst the way I describe this will be aimed at those sharing a house with others, it’s just as important for those living alone to create a communications plan - so you have a network of people who are able to support you through this time.
It’s needed because we have three fundamental interpersonal needs: to feel included, to feel connected and to have clear direction. These three basic needs are at the heart of a communications plan. Without one, resentment and internalised stress can easily build which may lead to undesirable behaviours, reliance on unhelpful habits and a miserable environment for all involved.
We know that at times when families are thrust together, such as Christmas, anxiety often strikes; tempers flare and the rates of domestic violence and abuse increases. The situation we find ourselves in now is like an elongated Christmas period - just without the presents and the scrummy food - so communication, openness, patience and kindness will be key.
The first thing to note and share is the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is the acknowledgement that we each have a different way of seeing the world. How you see a situation, the suppositions you create and what you make a situation mean will be different to the way those around you will do so. This recognition of differing viewpoints and approaches is a critical part of the communication plan.
Where we make assumptions about others behaving as we expect them to, it can cause conflict and, if this is pushed down rather than voiced resentment builds, and the household becomes a pressure cooker
It might be very clear to you that schooling is the absolute priority of the day, but your partner might think weeding the garden is more important. You may believe that getting up and dressed before 8am is fundamental to everyone’s wellbeing, whereas your teenage kids will have other ideas. Where we make assumptions about others behaving as we expect them to, it can cause conflict. And, if this is pushed down rather than voiced, resentment builds, and the household becomes a pressure cooker.
The next step is to work up the values which the household will strive to adhere to. This could be things like being kind to each other, being thoughtful, and being honest about how we feel. If you have children, they will be familiar with working with values in the school setting and so this will create an anchor to something they already understand.
You then want to draw up the plan itself. To do this ask yourselves the following questions.
- What will be the weekday routine? E.g. getting up time, worktime, breaktimes, bedtimes etc.
- What will be the weekend routine?
- Where will everyone work?
- How will everyone know if quiet is needed? (For conference calls, for example)
- How will responsibilities for home-schooling work?
- Who will pick up the chores and when?
- Who will cook? What and when?
- Who will take the trips to the shops?
- How will free time be spent?
- How will you take exercise and when?
Once the principles are in place, think about doing the following:
- Install a white board with the main responsibilities outlined.
- Create and print out the weekly meal plan.
- Put a piece of paper on the fridge so that as things run out, they can be noted
on the paper.
- Draw up a ‘things I never get around to’ list and allocate tasks.
- Create a ‘fun things to do’ list.
Create a ‘morning check in’ and allow each member of the household to share how they are feeling and talk about anything they don’t feel is working
Daily management of the communications plan is crucial for its effectiveness so create a ‘morning check in’ and allow each member of the household to share how they are feeling and talk about anything they don’t feel is working. Remember this doesn’t mean others are doing something wrong, it simply means there could be some adjustment and flexibility required. Avoid stating issues as "You didn’t do the ironing" and instead say, "It would be great if you could do the ironing today, so we don’t fall behind."
Use the check-in to appreciate what was done the previous day, set out the plan for the today, agree who is doing what and shuffle tasks around if one member of the household has more on their plate than others.
Like most things, the amount of benefit you will get from this will be relative to the amount of effort you take to implement it. You can adopt and adapt this to fit the needs of your own household, knowing that any steps you take will save you a whole heap of stress over the coming weeks.
And, above all else keep safe, calm and well.
Find out more about Angela Cox on Life Coach Directory