Many of us hold the myth that families are (or should be) free from stress, that the home should be a haven of peace and tranquility. Our society gives us the clear message that it is acceptable to experience work-related stress, but not family-related stress. When we "buy in" to these unrealistic expectations, we are sure to be disappointed. The truth is, most families fall short of this ideal view.
A certain amount of family stress is inevitable. It is how a family handles and copes with stress that is truly important. Families can (and some do) develop effective coping skills for handling stress.
How do we know if our family is experiencing stress? Probably the best way is through the individual impressions of family members. Thinking about the general pace of your family life can be helpful. Families under stress may report some of the following:
- sense of urgency
- little time to spend together
- sense of frustration (too much to do)
- desire for the simpler life
- never time to relax
- explosive arguments
- conversations centered on time and tasks, rather than people and feelings
- meals eaten in haste
- constant rushing from place to place
- escaping into work or other activity
- isolation in room
- sense of guilt
On the other hand, less stressed families seem to find time to enjoy and support each other, display more flexibility, have reasonable expectations, communicate regularly with each other, set priorities, and view stress as a challenge that is both temporary and controllable. It is never too late to learn coping strategies.
The following strategies can help create a less stressful household, and allow more time for interaction among family members:
- Make lists.
- Be realistic about time frames.
- Let go of the compulsion to "get it all done".
- Accept that there will always be projects in progress.
- Re-examine your standards for housekeeping.
- Purchase goods and services that buy you time, if you can afford it.
- Let go of the "superparent" myth
- Give yourself credit for tasks accomplished, even for a small piece of a project.
- Select commitments very carefully
- Learn to say no to things that are not of utmost importance to you.
- Learn to say yes to things in which your child is directly involved.
- Try not to spread yourself too thin.
- Limit time spent on the telephone.
Source: Kid Kare Newsletter, April 1991