Family Self-Care and Private / Public Space in the Time of Social Distancing

By Bryan B. RSS Wed, May 20, 2020

This is the 4th in an ongoing series of family self-care blog-posts. I’m not a professional healthcare worker. I’m simply someone that practices self-care in his daily life and for whom self-care is an important element. If you need professional help, please get the help you need. Below are some ways of getting help. I’ve gotten help before, and it made a difference.

Today, I’m going to write about finding personal space, missing public interaction, and self-care.

Before we go there, please take a moment to check-in with yourself. How are you doing today? If we want to take care of ourselves, let's start by looking at ourselves. If you would like some help doing a self-check-in you can find information from our previous blog posts and video.

Once you’ve finished your check-in, let’s think about how we can do some small things to improve our day. You may be at home right now when you used to be at work. Your kids are home when they used to be at school. This change can be challenging. Family members can start to feel cramped and that they have no personal space. Other members can miss their school friends, work friends, neighbors, and public interactions.

Talking about the changes in our lives is a great way of coping with those changes, but talking about our feelings is often difficult.

Here is my suggestion for the day: build a city of blanket forts.

  • Blanket forts only require basic household supplies and furniture.
  • It is an all-ages activity.
  • Blanket forts are a great way to engage your children and teens to have discussions about the disruptions to their private time and public interactions.

Ask everyone individually if they would like to build a private fort or a public city.

Does your child or teen want a private fort? For those that want to be alone, it is useful for them to share those feelings.

  • The goal for these family members is to help them cope with the loss of personal space without fostering unhealthy isolating behavior.
  • Asking the child / teen for supply requests is a great way to get them to describe their plans for their spaces. Do they need their phone because they want to video chat with friends? Do they need books for reading? Pen and paper for writing or drawing? Try to gently learn their plans for their fort. This is an opportunity to learn about them and where they are emotionally.
  • Also, try to make it easy for them to participate. For example, allowing them to simply drape a blanket across a section of a room. Explain that participating in this family activity is going to give them more personal freedom.
  • Set an end time for the activity and ask, at the end, if they would like to do this again. This is another opportunity for them to talk about how they are coping with these new lifestyle adjustments.
  • Try to get everyone to agree to give privacy to those who seek it. It is good for family members to know that you can be part of a family and still maintain some personal space.

Does your child or teen want to create public spaces?

  • For those that are missing public interactions, see if they can recreate some of those interactions with play. For example, if your child is missing school, suggest that they make a blanket fort version of school.
  • As a parent / caregiver, try to participate. You can participate without crawling around on the floor. Create a fort with a large open end. For example, if you have a large table, cover three sides with a blanket. You can sit beside the opening and interact with those under the table without being on the floor yourself.
  • Parents / caregivers can also play roles like mayor (requesting new roads, buildings, and services), teacher (holding classes and giving assignments), banker / store owner (dispersing money, buying and selling). Try to be open to the roles your children suggest for you.
  • Talking about the things your family members miss and helping them create imaginary reconstructions can help them adjust to those changes.

Here are some additional tips for a successful family activity:

  • Remember that the goal is self-care. If it becomes a source of stress or family tension, don’t do it anymore. The goal here is enjoyment and family dialogue.
  • Here is where self-awareness is important. You, as parent / caregiver, may be missing your usual private time. This activity isn't a good time for you to get that private space. It is highly likely that at least one family member is missing public interaction, and your attention will be requested. However, you can later use this activity to explain your need for private time. Further, you can model self-care to your children / teens by talking about your desire for some privacy.
  • You want to avoid fighting over supplies. Give everyone the essentials and a place to build. Establish rules for supplies at the beginning and reward sharing.
  • Have a set beginning and end time to temper expectations and establish that everyone must participate in putting the house back in order.

Are you new to building blanket forts? Check out these blanket fort basics!


If you are struggling, please get help. Below is a list of groups that can offer that help.

  • For thoughts of suicide: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
    Phone: 1-800-273-8255
  • For mental health issues: National Alliance of Mental Illness NAMI Philadelphia, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, provides information and support to people with mental illness, their families, caregivers, and friends. All services are free.
    Phone: 267-687-4381
  • For drug and substance abuse: National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline has 24/7 information, support, treatment options, and referrals to local rehab centers for any drug or alcohol problem.
    Phone: 800-662-HELP (4357)

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I love this so much! This idea brings me so much joy! Thank you, Bryan!
Aurora Sanchez - South Philly
Tuesday, June 2, 2020