Love, passion, conflict, argument—it’s how we relate to each other. It’s how we bond and learn about one another. It’s how we develop as people and as a family.
Whether it is an unexpected illness, bad grades, financial difficulties, or arguments over trash duty, each family will face stress together—it’s inevitable. Families that are prepared for these trying times come out the other side stronger and more prepared for future problems.
Here are some tips for helping your family handle stress and for dealing with stress that comes from your familial relationships.
Don’t take it out on the ones you love
You do a good job of keeping a happy face at work, but maybe when you come home, you let your family have it. You may be inadvertently relieving your stress on your family and doing harm without realizing it. If you’ve just ended a particularly stressful workday, pause before you walk in your door at night. Do some deep breathing or listen to some calming music. This helps get you in a better mood before you see your partner and children. They will thank you for not coming unglued.
We’re all in this together
No one enjoys household chores, but they are things that have to be done. Evenly dividing chores like sweeping, taking out the trash, vacuuming, washing the dog, and raking the yard can prevent future conflict. If everyone pitches in, no one person will feel put upon. It also allows for teaching moments with younger children so they learn not to become frustrated when they aren’t fully capable of completing a task and to learn skills they will need to live on their own.
Make time for a family meal
Dinner hour is one of the most important in a family’s life. On nights you’re not rushing off for ballet or soccer practice, sitting in on a parent-teacher conference, or meeting about an upcoming charity event, plan for your family to have dinner together. You get more than one good thing out of this: research shows that families who eat together eat more fruits and vegetables than families who eat individually. Also, this time together provides an opportunity for communication and relationship building. It allows you to find out about things that might be causing your children stress. You can help them prevent future problems and teach them how to respond to the pressures they are facing now.
Do things together
You don’t have to plan elaborate trips to theme parks or grand weekend outings. Setting aside one weekend a month or one night a week to spend as a family keeps communication channels open and allows you all to bond as a family.
Don’t avoid the subject
You know your children and spouse best. When they are acting differently or don’t seem to be themselves, you will likely pick up on that quickly. Instead of avoiding the obvious change, ask what’s going on. Moody teenagers may rebuff your query, but letting them know that you’re available to talk may encourage them to come around.