Amid lockdowns in Saudi Arabia, families hunkering down to battle ‘cabin fever’

Amid lockdowns in Saudi Arabia, families  hunkering down to battle ‘cabin fever’
A general view shows an empty street after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has taken strict measures to check the spread of the virus. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 April 2020

Amid lockdowns in Saudi Arabia, families hunkering down to battle ‘cabin fever’

Amid lockdowns in Saudi Arabia, families  hunkering down to battle ‘cabin fever’
  • Social distancing may help forge a stronger bond between family members if situation is handled tactfully, say experts

RIYADH: Some people might consider the idea of being at home with the family for an extended period as a chance to spend quality time together, have fun and enjoy each other’s company without the distractions of school, work or the outside world. Yet for others, such a scenario may cause tensions in a household.

In a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Saudi government recommends that people stay at home and not leave unless it is essential.
The idea of hunkering down with the family might appeal to some, but others believe the self-isolation could cause a rise in domestic problems or that it even presents an opportunity to communicate with each other to face challenges and issues that were previously ignored or buried.
“I believe that staying at home in isolation made us face all of the problems that we feared before, especially with the mismanagement of one’s life,” Malak Al-Harbi, a freelance worker and mother of five, told Arab News.
“If you had an issue with managing your priorities, your emotions, yourself, your relationship with your partner, your parents and your children because of how fast life is moving or because you were escaping from it intentionally or unintentionally, now you are in the house with nothing to do, these issues are hanging over you and you must solve them.”
Al-Harbi said she was used to managing her time and hobbies and making herself busy. She was also used to being at home so self-isolation was not such a dramatic change for her.

Quarrels are more likely to happen between children because they are unaware of quarantine or self-isolation.

Shatha Hussein, Social counselor

“My problem now is that my family members who are used to going out all the time are now home. My husband and my two teenage sons can’t handle or stand to stay at home.”
She said children were easier to handle although they had to be constantly entertained and have their time filled with activities. She believed they could easily get used to staying at home and find ways of entertaining themselves as they were still young.
Al-Harbi said adults felt like they were being imprisoned, a feeling that increased their anxiety. “So some of them are not expressing their feelings and then they explode because they are full of rage and tension and stress.”

Members of a family enjoy a popular television show together. (AFP)

Who and what causes quarrels and fights?
Shatha Hussein, a social counselor, said quarrels were more likely to happen between children because they were unaware of quarantine or self-isolation. “These issues and arguments happen based on family members’ personalities,” she told Arab News. “Do they usually prefer staying at home or do they like to go out if they are used to it?”
The second cause was the pandemic crisis and daily news. The third was the tension of parents, which increased the tension of children because it “spread like a virus.”
Rana Taha, a coach in school planning and management, said that if the mother was experiencing anxiety and stress then all family members would too, but that if the mother was calm then everyone would be relaxed.


● Adults feel like they are being imprisoned, a feeling that increases their anxiety.

● Children need to be constantly engaged in entertaining activities.

● Tension between parents also have a negative impact on the overall atmosphere.

“The main issue is that now with the father around at home, he is interfering with the house management which has been a mother’s or housewife’s responsibility for a long time, which results in the latter being unsatisfied with this intervention since she was in charge before and that creates a problem,” Taha said.

“Kids, on the other hand, are feeling bored all the time and want to fill this free time by using their electronic devices and social media as many parents refuse to allow it. Even the hobbies that the kids used to enjoy are now forced on them and are not enjoyable anymore.”

How to avoid these problems
Hussein said that it was the parents’ responsibility to spread peace and positivity in the family to avoid fights, and that disagreements between parents should happen “far away” from their children.

An otherwise busy locality in Riyadh wears a deserted look as the Kingdom has imposed curfew In the wake of the viral outbreak. (Reuters)

The burden lay more with the mother because of her emotional intelligence, she added, and that issues could be avoided and problems defused if people viewed the situation as a temporary measure. One solution was to involve the whole family in a project every day so that everyone in the house could get together and work on it.
“For example, one day arrange a barbecue party or a special day for playing board games like monopoly or puzzles,” she said Hussein.

If the mother is experiencing anxiety and stress then all family members will too, but that if the mother is calm then everyone will be relaxed.

Rana Taha, Coach in school planning, management

Taha said the mother should initiate these projects as no other family member would. “They would rather take the easier way, which is staying in their rooms and using their electronic devices.” She suggested people try “‘laughter yoga.”
“What is not normal is if mothers act as if there is nothing happening around them. They have to understand what is happening and acknowledge it and try to find solutions,” said Al-Harbi.

Will divorce rates increase?
“On the contrary. I think that if the whole world can unite against this virus, then families should also unite,” said Hussein.
Taha thought the pandemic would bring families closer together and strengthen their bonds. “I am currently noticing that there is a dialogue between my husband and my older sons, it’s better than before because there is a common topic which we talk about, like the news, while sharing similar opinions.”
“I think that after this pandemic and house quarantine ends everyone will come out with a new personality,” Al-Harbi said.