Stress and family

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, it’s inevitable that each family will face stress together. Families who are prepared for these trying times emerge 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.

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 taking out your stress on your family and doing harm without realizing it.

If you’ve just ended a particularly stressful workday, pause before you walk through 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.

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. In the process they will learn skills they will need to live on their own.

Dinner hour is one of the most important times 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.

According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, children who eat meals with their family at least three times a week are 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods, and 12 percent less likely to become overweight.

A study from Brigham Young University found that those adults who sit down to a family meal in the evening reported their jobs to be more satisfying and healthier, suggesting dinner itself can reduce stress.

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.

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. Play board games, do an art project, or go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or even cost money.

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, ask what’s going on. Moody teenagers may rebuff your questions, but letting them know that you’re available to talk may encourage them to come around.

Living together as a family offers many opportunities to reduce the stress that naturally arises in family life. Spending time together, sharing chores, keeping communication channels open, and sitting down to an evening meal together several times a week all help to make your family life together less stressful and more pleasurable.