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  • Writer's pictureDr. Meyerson

Make a Behavioral Contract for Multi-generational Families Isolating Together

What does it mean to live together in family isolation?  As the crisis continues, our 1200 sqft. 2 BR Condo seems mighty small with three staying there full-time. 

Samantha, our 21-year-old granddaughter is now here with us since spring break. She is remaining in Florida from Delaware with us until we are given the go ahead to move around again.  As we sat at the dining room table, we wondered how we would all emotionally make it through this without major getting on each other’s nerves.  

As a Counselor, I have used Behavioral contracts to work with clients trying to make changes to promote healthy interactions.  This model was adapted from the classroom where teachers use Behavioral Contracts for goal setting and relieving stress. 

The following recommendations are useful:

* Plan and identify Goals for improving behavior

* Outline the rewards and consequences for not meeting goals

* Provide support to make participants more accountable for their actions

* Write and sign the Contract or have all parties agree verbally to the agreement

In our situation, we each discussed and agreed upon the behavior to be modified. While done light-heartedly, some truths were exposed. Each of us thought about how we could ease the stress of close confinement.  My partner was identified as having a short temper, I was accused of too much chit chat and Samantha was asked to refrain from whining!  

The reward for successful contract fulfillment will have both short- and long-term effects.  We are getting through self-isolation and learning to be considerate of each other.  We are also doing our share to help stop the virus spread and move forward with this new reality. 

Consequences for non- compliance include additional dish washing, family laundry and de-cluttering closets. The ultimate consequence would be running up and down sixteen flights in our building.  This is progressing with some success in our family dynamics. We have each designated a work area for phone conversations, computer work and alone time.  Whenever the Behavioral contract is violated, it is jokingly noted.  So far, the stair consequence has not been necessary, and we are all focused on doing the right things for ourselves, our family and our community.

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