The COVID-19 health crisis has required social distancing from the outside world for several weeks now, leading to tension in the household for many families, according to one Fort Knox chaplain.“There are some real stressors affecting families right now, and one of the biggest stressors is facing the unknowns of the pandemic,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Todd Claypool, former Family Life chaplain and current resource manager for U.S. Army Garrison. “Questions like, ‘How long will this last?’ ‘How do I protect myself and my family from an unseen enemy?’ and ‘Who do I believe in the midst of these conflicting narratives?’ are all things that we’re having to [figure out] right now.”He said families face the conundrum of taking out their stress on the ones most important to them.“Stress is accumulative, and sometimes people bundle stress inside themselves,” Claypool said. “The danger in doing this is stress sneaks out in unexpected ways, and hurts our loved ones.”“This is especially dangerous to our family relationships.”It is often helpful to take a candid inventory of the stressors that people are facing, said Claypool, and then face them together.“Everybody in the household needs to be aware of additional stressors and talk about this during family time,” said Claypool. “It’s important for everyone in the household to practice self-awareness, own their own emotions, and to deescalate.”The deescalating process begins with self-analysis and should start from the top down, according to Claypool.“Mothers and fathers have a great opportunity to model good emotional intelligence and conflict resolution skills for their children,” he said. “It begins with practicing self-reflection, finding out the source of the issue, and analyzing your current behavior by what you know it should be.”Claypool suggested some ground rules for productive conversation.The Speaker/Listener Technique is considered by Claypool to be one of the best communication tools because it is simple to use and gets to the heart of learning what each person wants in a calm and respectful manner.Go here for a downloadable PDF of the rules that govern the Speaker/Listener Technique.“Each person gets to speak while the other person listens,” Claypool said. “When done correctly, it validates each person while avoiding wrong interpretations, withdrawal and conflict escalation.”Deciding on house rules can also help, Claypool said.“It’s also important to maintain good rules, boundaries and structure, where the adults are in charge and the rules and the consequences for breaking the rules are reasonable and clearly defined,” he said. “Each person should be allowed room to be themselves and be alone, but that should be balanced with regular uninterrupted time together enjoying each other’s company – without distracting electronics.”Claypool said spouses and parents should never miss an opportunity to spend quality time together.“We’re with our loved ones a lot more right now, and we’re coping with being home all the time. Parents can use this opportunity to strengthen their own relationships, which promotes a better relationship with their children,” Claypool said. “Don’t miss the collateral beauty of this situation where we’re forced to social distance and telework.”Prioritizing may be easier now without some everyday distractions, according to Claypool.“This is a great time to realign and to ask yourself what’s really important,” he said. “Are those things that were important two months ago still important to our lives today? What lasts when those things are not here anymore?”__________________________________________________________Editor’s Note: The Chaplain Family Life Center is offering phone or virtual counseling by other means. Learn more at 502-624-5225.