In dark times, we may resort to black humor to help us cope. Hence the joke my husband told me the other day. “A man was diagnosed with coronavirus and quarantined. 14 days later, he died. His wife strangled him.”

While I didn’t think it was very funny, I did think there was some truth hidden in the humor.

All of the sudden family members are thrown upon each other – constantly, non-stop, 24/7. It can create some uncomfortable situations. It can lead to bickering that has nothing to do with each other – be it husband and wife, parent and child or siblings. It can lead to nit-picking and frustration and lashing out, all of which is more likely to be a product of boredom, frustration and lack of routine than it is of actual issues.

College-age kids are all of the sudden thrust back home, working spouses are all of the sudden at home, desperately trying to work remotely – or not, young children are home from school…it’s a situation ripe for trouble. And on top of that there’s no toilet paper!

It would be more surprising if the stress doesn’t lead to problems than if it does. But since we know that’s true, we need to head it off at the pass, so to speak. This begins with recognizing that no one else in the house, or the room, is responsible for your situation. It’s not their fault that you’re stuck at home, that your education was halted mid-stream, that your semester abroad was cancelled, that your working hours have been curtailed, that your financial situation is precarious, that there’s no toilet paper in any of your local stores (or Amazon or Costco or…) so don’t take it out on them!

It may also be that they have different coping strategies than you. One family member may cope by organizing all the shelves while another may cope by lying around all day watching television. Although I personally favor one of those strategies over the other, the real key here is once again recognition. Their way of dealing with this challenge is NOT the same as yours. Additionally, it’s important not to judge. Your way of coping is not ipso facto the better way. It’s simply your way. And theirs is simply their way. Is it better to learn to needlepoint or to knit? To play piano or guitar? To learn to cook or to bake? These are irrelevant questions and highlight the importance of not assuming that our personal way of coping is the superior one.

The only universal success strategy is of course to learn Torah. I had to say that; I’m a rebbetzin after all!

Once we are aware of the possible pitfalls of all this time together, we want to do more than just avoid them. We want to figure out a way to take advantage of this opportunity, to deepen our relationships, to grow together. Isn’t one of our most frequent complaints that we don’t get enough time with the people we love? Now it’s been handed to us on a (not quite) silver platter and all we do is complain about it?

This is our chance – to have quality time with our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s play games, let’s share meals, let’s learn together.

And let’s pray that we learn all the important lessons quickly and that the Almighty lifts our quarantine.