Family Stress Management

Bills, kids, household chores, spousal relationships… all can cause family stress. In addition to day-to-day stressors, crises like a fire or a death within the family place maximum stress on family relationships. However, learning to cope with daily family stress strengthens your family and makes it easier to cope with family crisis as well.

The Strong Family Unit
Especially these days when both partners in a family have careers and children are involved in diverse extra-curricular activities, it’s very easy for the family unit to break down, resulting in a number of separate individuals living under one roof. Each individual becomes isolated, facing his/her own problems and left to solve them on their own. Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Although he was talking about the US in time of Civil War, for families his statement is literally true. Unfortunately, stress for one member of a family stresses and often divides the entire family. When one part is stressed, the whole unit can collapse. The solution is to work through problems as a family, but for the solution to be effective, the family unit needs to be strong.

Take Time for the Family
Family togetherness doesn’t mean constantly holding hands. Neither does it mean that if Jimmy and Dad like football, Mom and Suzy have to like it, too. The phrase “quality time” has become trite with over-use, but it is quality time spent together that reduces daily family stress and builds strong families that can weather both small storms and large crises.

  1. Working at household chores together. Completing simple household chores as a family has several advantages. Doing dishes, raking the yard, spring cleaning, or holding a garage sale offers the family time to communicate, lightens the load for individual family members, and lets individuals build skills and self-esteem.
  2. Share a meal. Share at least one meal each day. Albeit, dinner time these days is often hectic with individuals having conflicting work and activity schedules. If this is true in your family, start having family breakfasts. Mealtime is a great time to tune into individual schedules and plan family activities. If you can’t do it everyday, schedule it as a regular family “event”.
  3. The family “event”. A special activity can be as complex as a family vacation or as simple as, a trip to the local park or just a family movie night. Plan the activity as a family and make the activity an “event” where each member contributes to making it a successful and enjoyable occasion. (Simple Example- Family Movie Night - Make a list of movies that you all want to see. Then, choose one of them scheduling a specific night and time for the event. That night, Mom washes the dishes, Jimmy wipes, Suzy pops the popcorn, and Dad goes to pick up the movie.)

Managing Family Stress
A strong family unit develops the tools to solve stressors, reducing stress for the entire family. Problems that stress families may be either individual stressors that carry over to the whole family such as school suspensions, addictions, mental disorders, or physical illnesses or family crises such as a death in the family, financial problems, tornado or fire.

When managing individual stressors that affect the family, keep a few tips in mind:

  1. Don’t avoid discussion. If it’s a problem for you or a problem that you notice is causing stress in another family member, chances are it’s a stressor for the entire family as well. Talk it out and work towards finding a solution.
  2. Don’t trivialize. Whether the problem is as significant as a spouse losing a job or as unimportant to you as the death of your daughter’s pet frog, the problem is a stressor for the individual that can ultimately cause stress for the family. Let the individual talk it out, be a good listener, and show them that solving the problem is important to the family.
  3. Don’t lay blame. When there’s a problem it really doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Define the problem and work towards a solution.
  4. Respect privacy. If a family member brings a problem to you in confidence, respect it. Don’t air it for discussion without their agreement. If you are unable to agree to keep the confidence, be honest in your refusal. For instance, often parents reach decisions about children together. If a child says, “But, don’t tell Dad,” your response might be, “I’m sorry, but Dad and I don’t keep secrets. He needs to know about this. Would you like us to tell him together or would you rather not be there when I tell him?”
In summary, building a strong family unit that effectively manages day-to-day stressors not only makes your home a place for each member to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate but also builds the skills necessary for the family to come together in a crisis and effectively manage family stress.

Stress Management for Kids ►

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