Family Dynamics During Shelter in Place

Shelter in place is a challenging situation for all parties involved. Family dynamics is a fascinating field of study, even in the cheeriest of times. In difficult times, it can be useful to take a deep breath, go for a walk, and then prepare as best you can, considering the circumstances. 

Coping with Chaos

2020 continues to present unique challenges for families. Even in the best of times, family dynamics can be tricky to navigate, especially for families with young children. The recent chaos of sheltering at home, distance learning, and social distancing can complicate family dynamics. Without the usual release valves for stress, such as socializing, big events and travel, many families must search for a means to manage stress. Adapting to these circumstances can feel daunting, but don’t lose hope.

Your family can survive and thrive even during these tough circumstances.

It’s okay to admit you need a little help. If you require assistance managing stress or helping your children cope with chaotic times, connect with NeuroZone for a free consultation. NeuroZone has three convenient locations in Santa Monica, Redondo Beach and Playa Del Rey that you can reach at (310) 821-3640. You can stay updated on the newest developments by following our blog.

About Family Dynamics During Times of Stress

In general, a three-pronged approach can help a lot of families navigate through stressful times: Identify, Plan Solutions, Adjust to Circumstances.

Identify Stressors

An important first step for every family is to identify the points of stress that affect the family. These stressors can be one major issue or a combination of issues. Common stressors during the pandemic include:

  • Distance learning 
  • Loss of job and loss of income 
  • Uncertainty about finances and/or healthcare
  • Working from home
  • Fear about infection 
  • Isolation from physical social contact

One psychologist found the three biggest stressors in families were poor communication, financial uncertainty, and boundary-crossing.[1] Financial uncertainty can impede healthy child development and cause parents to lose their tempers and argue more frequently.[2] Identifying which stressors are affecting your family is an important step in managing the crisis. Determine what is working and what is not working. Stay positive about what is not working and make sure everyone feels good about what is working.

Plan Solutions

When planning solutions, try to focus on priorities and values rather than strict results. To plan for open and positive communication, it’s helpful for each individual to focus on their feelings without making assumptions about other family members. It’s important for everyone to feel validated. If (or when) a conflict arises, be open and honest about each person’s feelings. Try to stay connected with extended family, outside your immediate household. This helps everyone stay aware of the bigger picture. Try to nudge everyone to practice listening skills. Listening is an underrated skill in today’s world of social media where everyone seems to want to talk but not listen. Parents should frame expectations in a positive manner. For instance, say “Please put your dirty clothes in the basket” instead of “Your room looks like the aftermath of a hurricane.”

Adjust to Circumstances

It’s important to hold realistic expectations. There will be some conflict, the house might be a mess, people will get tired and irritable, and plans will go awry. This is okay. Coping with chaos is not about maintaining a rigid series of requirements that must be met in a linear fashion, but instead entails navigating through constantly changing dynamics. It’s okay to make adjustments and change plans. This doesn’t mean acting irresponsibly. It just means being flexible and trying to recognize that stability is change.

Distance Learning

One of the biggest challenges for parents with children at home (from pre-schoolers to college students) is the adjustment to distance learning. Most parents never anticipated that they might suddenly be thrust into the role of homeschooling teachers overnight. The best way to handle this is to plan as best you can and adjust to the circumstances. Being able to pivot when something isn’t working can be vital to managing distance learning.


Encourage open communication with teachers. Many teachers are struggling during this time as well, so try to open a line of communication and be honest. They will probably work with you as long as you keep in contact. It also helps to have a dedicated space for school time so kids can associate a physical space with school and a different space with play. Some teachers suggest not allowing kids to take their Zoom calls in their bedrooms as that can be distracting. But for some families, especially ones with multiple children of different ages, that might not be possible, so do your best.

Outside Time

Try to incorporate outdoor activities if possible. Even if your family lives in an apartment, try to take the kids for a walk to at least get them out of the house and change scenery. Getting outside can offer psychological and physiological benefits. It can help break out the monotony of school and homework in the same room.

Empathize with your kids and do your best to reinforce a daily schedule.

Structure and Routine

Creating a daily routine is an important way to reduce stress but be flexible. The goal is a healthy balance of structured time with free time. If your kids struggle with Zoom learning, then try to include outdoor time in between Zoom classes and homework time. Let their minds and bodies have a chance to unwind.


Enforcing a normal sleep schedule is also important. Try to reinforce that this isn’t an extended vacation. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for healthy developing bodies. Kids and adults both need a chance for their bodies to reset and refresh. Normal sleep schedules help establish a healthy pattern of behavior that aids in other areas and keeps our bodies in balance.


As tempting as junk food might seem, try to keep your diet healthy. While it might sound great to your kids (or you) to just eat cookies, potato chips, and soda, a nutritious diet will improve your mood over time by ensuring the body gets what it needs to function optimally.


Try to carve out screen-free time. While many kids might want to spend all their free time playing video games with friends, it’s important for their bodies and minds to have a break from digital engagement.  

Expect some setbacks and difficult days. Not every day will be perfect and it doesn’t have to be. Try to stay flexible throughout the school week and don’t feel bad if you have to adjust the daily schedule as needs demand. Remember, your family is resilient and you can make it through this.

Managing Sibling Conflict

Boundary violations are common with siblings, especially with the spatial restrictions of shelter in place. Even the closest of siblings can sometimes irritate each other or get on one another’s nerves. A good approach is to focus on sibling privacy and private time. It’s important to teach all kids to respect privacy and give space when needed. Allow each sibling to communicate when they feel they need private time and enforce that. It’s also good to structure some family activities in which everyone can participate. Balancing together time with time apart can feel tricky sometimes, so try to get each sibling’s input and take their concerns into account.

Families with Special Needs

If your family has special needs, some of the above advice takes on added importance. Try to reassess goals and expectations, and plan for some setbacks. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, seek out additional help. Everyone needs help sometimes. 

Your Free Consultation with NeuroZone

To help you maneuver through these difficult times, NeuroZone offers free consultations. We offer programs for a variety of conditions and specialize in helping children. The first step is coming in for an evaluation and testing so we can determine what treatments might best suit your situation. We use quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) brain mapping as the foundation for our evaluation.

In addition to brain mapping, we can conduct a variety of other assessments to better understand what’s going on under a variety of conditions and stimuli. By establishing a baseline of brain waves and integrating that with a variety of other associates, we can glean insights into what issues might be affecting the situation. This process allows us to personalize treatment plans specifically for each individual.  

Evaluation and Testing

Therapy and Programs

After your initial evaluations and testing, we devise a plan of treatment and therapy to help you. This can be adjusted to take into account shelter in place restrictions. Even without visiting the office, teletherapy has proven very helpful for some people. We adapt our range of treatment plans to each patient’s unique experience. If you have any further questions, please read through the following pages and give our offices a call at (310) 821-3640.


  1. Silverman, R., & Silverman, R. (2020, July 27). 3 Good (and Curable) Reasons Your Family is So Stressed Out. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from
  2. Kalil, A., Mayer, S., & Shah, R. (2020, October 09). Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Family Dynamics in Economically Vulnerable Households. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from
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