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Tensions running high at home? Try Brené Brown's 'family gap plan'

Here’s what to do when you’re all low on patience.
/ Source: TODAY

Family time is all the time for many of those quarantined around the globe, and sometimes quality takes a hit with so much quantity.

University of Houston research professor, speaker and bestselling author Brené Brown visited TODAY, via video call, Monday morning to share her advice for those who find that their family needs more than they’re able to give.

Brown, who’s made a career of researching shame, courage and vulnerability, and who just launched her new podcast, “Unlocking Us,” this month, believes that during these trying times, every family needs a plan.

Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb speak with professor and bestselling author Brene Brown about how to weather these difficult times with our families.
Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb speak with professor and bestselling author Brene Brown about how to weather these difficult times with our families. TODAY

“I think we’re all handling it in different ways,” she said of life in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. “I think, collectively, what I see is a growing weariness. I think we’re tired — physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.”

And while exhaustion is nothing new to most of us, this is different.

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“I think one of the things that’s really interesting, having lived through natural disasters and crises, normally we get enough adrenaline to get through the crisis, but this is not going to be a short-lived crisis,” she explained. “We’re going to have to settle into a new normal while grieving the loss of normal, which is a big ask of people, collectively.”

There will be times when someone — or multiple someones — within a family just can’t give their all, which is why Brown, a mother of two, recommends being prepared for that inevitability.

“One of the things I talked about on the podcast was how we have a family gap plan,” she said. “So, when I used to travel all the time, I would come home and I’d say (to my husband), ‘Steve, all I have is 20 percent.’ And he’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve been holding down the fort here. All I got is 20.’ So we’d say, ‘OK, we’ve got a gaping 60 percent. What are our rules when we don’t have 100 percent as a family?’”

Those rules may be different for every family, and she suggests checking in with each member to determine what they should be — in the case of her own family, her kids crafted their plan to navigate the gaps.

So, when things don’t add to 100 percent, they make sure to follow these rules:

  1. No harsh words
  2. No nice words with harsh faces
  3. Say you’re sorry
  4. Accept apologies with thank yous
  5. More puns and knock-knock jokes

But no matter the plan, amid the family check-ins, don’t forget to check in with yourself during these difficult days, too.

“A lot of us know that so many people have it worse, so we don’t want to say, ‘God, I’m sad,’ or ‘I’m scared,’” Brown noted. “But empathy and compassion are infinite, and we don’t have to withhold our own fear and feelings in order to be empathetic toward other people. There’s enough empathy to go around, as long as we keep practicing it.”