Whether you're a parent that works inside or outside the home, are single or married, have one child or six, the challenges you and your family face can be exhausting and frustrating. Unfortunately, staying calm and collected all the time is impossible.
So, what exactly causes stress within a family? It could be any number of things. Here are a few.
- Too much screen time
- School problems (low grades, unhealthy friendships, unfair teachers, etc.)
- Financial hardships or paycheck-to-paycheck living
- Marital fights
- Sickness or death in the family
- Fear of disciplining or no follow through
- Disobedient or unruly children
- Job-related anxiety
- Lack of routine or schedule
- Poor communication
- Busy schedules
- Not enough time in the day to get everything done
- Unrealistic expectation of other family members
Stressors vary from family to family. Take a moment to think about your family's specific stress-invoking situations. Which items from the above list can you relate to?
While stress can't be eliminated, it can be significantly reduced. Here are 6 things you can do to reduce and manage the stress in your home. Talk about these practical and attainable action items with your spouse; choose 2-3 items you can start implementing this week.
1. Evaluate how you handle your personal stress
As a parent, it’s important to consider the way a parent’s stress and corresponding unhealthy behaviors affect the family. Children model their parents’ behaviors, including those related to managing stress. Parents who deal with stress in unhealthy ways risk passing those behaviors on to their children. Alternatively, parents who cope with stress in healthy ways not only promote better adjustment and happiness for themselves but also promote the formation of critically important habits and skills in children. Ask yourself:
- How do I respond to stress?
- Do I tend to engage in unhealthy behaviors—like overeating, responding harshly or snapping at others—when I feel stressed?
- In what ways could my stress coping skills be improved?
2. Get organized
Everyone's disorganized to some extent. Even if something's organized initially or a great system is created, things tend to move towards chaos over time. Disorganization can be a stressor in terms of visual clutter and difficulty in finding things we need. Taking time to get things back in order can help reduce stress.
For example, cleaning up a cluttered environment can restore a sense of order and control for both you and your family. Look around your home (and your car!) and ask yourself if the space feels relaxing or stressful. Cleaning or even tidying up your home is something you and your children can control and do together. Doing this teaches children to focus on the things they can control when feeling stressed, plus it restores order.
How are these areas in your home? What steps can you take to create order in these specific areas?
- Your desk
- Entry way to your home
- Laundry room
- Your bedroom
- Coat closet
- Clothing drawers
- Kitchen cabinets
3. Set your clock ahead 10 minutes
Being late is often a stress trigger because there's so much rushing—rushing to get ready and rushing on the road. Additionally, there's often concern or worry about being rude, causing a disruption, or appearing agitated. Being late creates a whole mess of issues.
Learning to be early can help alleviate this particular stressor. To do this, time yourself to see how long it actually takes to get ready and how long it actually takes to get to your destination—you've likely been underestimating these times. Once you know these times, you can plan backwards. Also, setting your clock back 10 minutes will give you an extra buffer of time. Being early—or at least on time—is a good feeling. Scratch that. It's a GREAT feeling.
Stop and think for a moment. When was the last time you had free time, that is, nothing on your calendar—no out-of-home commitments or responsibilities? Having free time helps combat stress on a couple of levels: it takes some responsibility off your plate, and it gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with those who matter most—family and friends.
If your schedule or your family's schedule consumes all of your free time, reduces family time, and creates anxiety, stress, or irritability, then it's time to simplify. To do this, make a list of the things you have going on in your life—the kids' sports practices and games, music lessons, church obligations, book club meetings, PTO meetings, etc. While your list may be full of good things, ask yourself what can be eliminated in order to free up your schedule. Imagine having free time available—you could pencil in a coffee date with friends or a game night with your family. Start saying "no" so that you can say "yes" to what really matters.
5. Get to bed on time
Research shows that children who are sleep-deprived are more likely to have behavioral problems and anxiety. On the other hand, studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning, problem-solving skills, and the ability to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.
While getting more sleep may not have been on your priority list—it's hard to get to bed early, after all—knowing all the benefits that come with sleep and all the disadvantages that come without it should compel you to adjust. Sleep should be a high priority for you and everyone in your family.
We all want to be at our best to face each day. With the appropriate amount of sleep (7-8 hrs) we're in a better position to handle conflict with a clear mind and treat others with a pleasant disposition.
Do you pray for your family? Do you ask God for wisdom and peace regarding the things that stress out you and your family? While you can do all the things listed above—and more— you will only experience temporary relief and solutions. By taking these concerns to God, you're relying on Him and not your own strength or efforts.
Also, look for opportunities to pray together as a family—perhaps at meal times, bedtime, in the car, or as situations (or meltdowns) arise. Modeling this type of trust and reliance on God will show your children the importance and necessity of prayer, and it will give you opportunities to praise Him—and give Him credit—as prayers are answered.
By evaluating how you handle your own stress, getting (and staying!) organized, planning ahead, simplifying schedules, going to bed on time, and praying, you and your family will experience less stress and more joy!