Family Stress 

September 5, 2013

All families deal with stress at one time or another. With the images of “perfect” families we so often see in magazines and on TV, parents and children can begin to develop unrealistic expectations for both themselves and their family members.

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What does stress do to families?

Every family reacts different to stress, but some of the most common effects include:

  • Arguments, fighting and other poor communication skills
  • Fatigue, health problems and general exhaustion because of busy schedules
  • Confusion (especially in children) about relationships with other family members
  • More dependence on food, alcohol and other substances

Why doesn’t anyone else seem stressed?

They must be hiding it! Just as all families experience different effects of stress, they also deal with stress in different ways. We’ve all seen children acting out at a busy grocery store or a couple arguing over finances. But families can react in different ways. Some might stop communicating at all, while others communicate only by fighting.

It’s important to remember that your family is not alone! Today’s family is dealing with busy schedules, high costs and long to-do lists, all natural triggers for more stress!

If your family gets stressed out, that’s okay! The important thing is how you choose to handle the stress.

Work together as a family to fight stress.

  1. Talk about your feelings. Keep the lines of communication open so that every family member feels comfortable voicing their feelings if they start to feel stressed out.
  2. If you think your kids might be getting overwhelmed by all of their activities and events, ask them about it. Let them know it’s okay if they need a break. Then take action. If late bedtimes and crazy schedules are wreaking havoc on their behavior, you might need to say “no” to hosting the baseball team picnic or signing your daughter up for another dance class. Spending a quiet night at home with the family will help your kids feel better and shows them that above all, your family comes first.
  3. If you find yourself getting stressed out, do the same thing. Your behavior can set the tone for the rest of the family. When things get crazy, it might help to sit down and talk to your children about it, if they are old enough. If they know you’re choosing not to do something (like attend a neighborhood party) because you’d rather spend quality time with them at home, they’re more likely to understand and be happy with your decision.
  4. Set “Family Priorities.” One of the biggest causes of family stress is simply TOO MUCH to do in a short period of time. From sports practices to tutoring sessions to friends’ parties, we often try to squeeze too much into a short period of time and end up not being able to enjoy any of it!This year, sit down as a family now and make decisions about the traditions that are most important to all of you. You might be surprised to hear that your child is more interested in playing ball with you in the backyard than spending all weekend playing in a soccer tournament.
  5. Get everyone involved. Once you’ve made your list of priorities, get everyone involved. Too often, parents are running around like crazy trying to make everything perfect for their kids but don’t get to spend quality time with them. Plus, kids will feel good when they feel they are an important part of the process.If you’ve decided that your family wants to keep on hosting a neighborhood block party, make it a family affair. Someone can decorate the yard, someone can help in the kitchen, someone can pass out invitations. Everything may not be done “perfectly,” but that’s okay. You get to do something as a family and also cross something off your to-do list.

Master the toughest stress-busting skills to limit stress from the start:

  • Learn to say “no.” It’s not easy, but it makes a huge difference. Fewer activities on your calendar means more time to relax with your family! If you feel guilty about saying no, remember that saying no means you are putting your family first, and you can always feel good about that.
  • Limit travel. On top of everything else, long trips can be more than your family can handle during especially stressful times like the holidays. If you still think it’s important to see your family and friends, suggest you visit them a bit later in the year when things calm down and you’ll be able to enjoy the visit more.
  • Spend smart. Financial pressure is another leading cause of family stress. Parents often go overboard in spending (especially on their kids!) and end up neglecting the importance of quality time with their family. This year, make the switch! Concentrate more on how much time you are spending with your family instead of how much money you are spending on them. It’s always a better investment!

Make the decision this year to help your family be less stressed and more happy together. If too many activities and events start to stress your family out, put a stop to it. Work together as a family to prioritize (and trim) your to-do list, get things done and enjoy time together. You and your children will be much happier with the results, and start off the year as a less-stressed, more connected family.

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