“Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding.”
– Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family, NYTimes.com, November 2015
It doesn’t matter what you try to do to create a little order in your life – calendars, daily planners, to-do lists – trying to cram everything in feels a burden in itself.
You’re rushed from pillar to post. And even when you catch a few moments to yourself, your mind is clouded with hundreds of other things you could be getting on with.
Throw in kids, work commitments, chores and a sprinkling of after school activities and it’s no wonder tempers can fray…
…which only drives kids to talk to less at home (or more negatively)…
…and creates more stress in the family.
It’s a vicious cycle.
In this age of tech-everywhere-you-look, it’s also slightly ironic. Some kids seemingly communicate with everyone through texting, email, Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. Everyone, that is, but their families.
So here are 5 tips to create a new cycle of open communication channels and decreased family stress.
1) Meet Your Kids…Where They Are
Sometimes it’s about meeting your kids in a way – and in a place – that they are comfortable.
For example, texting via Messenger, WhatsApp, etc is a useful way to stay in regular touch – or provide snippets of support in the day. Texting can take the emotion out of reminders. Writing “Remember your shoes” gives your child the space to avoid responding impulsively (and often negatively).
The idea is to be a source of support for your child – and available on their terms.
When talking face-to-face, try leading with open-ended questions. When you’re tired and your kids are tense, questions are much less threatening.
For example, compare “What’s your homework plan for tonight?” vs “You need to start your homework.” It’s fine to guide them to a goal but it helps to bring them into the process – in a genuine way.
At first, it may seem awkward, but the more you do it, the easier communication becomes.
2) Establish Pockets of Regular Quality Time – in Advance
Regular family time creates the backbone for less family stress.
Finding quality time can be difficult. Everyone is so busy with other activities they barely have time for themselves, let alone each other.
But it’s a critical investment that pays HUGE dividends when things get tough.
So, how can you make time to spend with your family?
- Set aside at least one day out of each week and deem it family day or game night. Spending quality time with your family shows that you’re interested in what they’re doing and that you care about them. Often teens think that their parents don’t care because they’re never home, or they feel that their parents play a passive role in their lives. And because kids and teens often don’t spend quality time with their families, they go elsewhere to get the attention they crave. Unfortunately, elsewhere may not be a good place for your kids to be!
- Take a family day out or vacation! What better way to spend an afternoon, day, weekend or week away? Family day-trips or vacations don’t have to cost the earth and are quality time together. But they can be stressful to organise if left to the last minute. So do yourself a favour and plan them way in advance, or if it’s a day trip, pack the car the night before.
For more examples of how you can spend more quality time together as a family, why not check out our blogs 10 Ways to have Super-Simple Fun this Summer and 25 Fun New Family Traditions that Connect the Family.
3) Family Meal Time…It’s the Talk, Not the Food
Kids do better in school and the atmosphere at home is happier when you make eating together a priority – on a regular basis.
Don’t get hung up on having the perfect conversation or dinner. Just ask how your child’s day went and show interest in their lives. And share YOUR life.
By the way, it doesn’t matter if it’s sirloin steak or fast-fix tacos. In fact, it’s even better if you can get the kids involved in some small part of the prep – so they can make their family contribution (and take some stress off of you).
Just eat together consistently. It could be at breakfast or even a regular family snack after everyone gets home!
And remember, no screens at the dinner allowed!
4) Demonstrate How to Communicate…with Your Partner
Your kids will pick up on how you and your partner communicate and treat each other, so set the example.
This should never be overlooked. If communication with you partner is lapsing, one reason might be you’re not speaking one another’s love language or understanding their relationship style.
This means that you need to discover what your spouse responds to the best. Is it touch, the words you say, acts of service, or spending quality time together?
Once you know how to show love to your spouse, show it abundantly!
5) Talk About Money
Financial problems are another major headache for families today.
Help your kids to understand and discuss financial responsibility from an early age. It’s an area most kids LOVE to talk and learn about.
Get them a piggy bank to help them learn about the importance of saving money and putting it aside for a rainy day.
As they get older, include them in the budget planning and bill paying. Help them understand the concept of financial responsibility and how much they contribute to household bills.
Help your kids learn to earn!
Kids need to know that your debit or credit card isn’t endless. Talk to them about how to prioritise what they spend money on and save for the bigger things in life.
Yes, family stress will always be a part of family life.
And one of the best lessons you can teach your kids? How to manage it wisely…together!
What are you family stress busters? Why not share them with the Habyts community in the comments section below.
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske