Keys to Keeping the Family Sane During Stressful Times
Our family is going through a stressful period at the moment, especially our daughter. She’s in the third grade, and besides the usual stresses of a typical 9-year old, there are a few students in her class that are making it difficult for the teacher to teach, and for the other students to learn. She also gets bored at times. She’ll also be taking her end-of-grade tests for the first time this year, and she’s exhibiting some test anxiety. Oh, and we’re moving in June. Which adds some packing and moving anxiety, not to mention she’ll be in a new school next year. It’s no wonder she’s feeling a bit stressed and overwhelmed with what’s going on.
My wife and I are feeling a bit of the packing and moving anxiety as well. I dread having to pack up our 1200 square foot home. Luckily, we’re moving into a 2200 square foot home. Not to mention what the financial responsibility of owning a home will do to our stress levels.
No doubt, we are experiencing some family stress. But, we have two things in our favor:
#1) This stressful time is temporary. It will last about 2 months until we get settled into our new home. Then we’ll have a whole new set of issues to stress about.
#2) I have a good idea how all 3 of us will react over the next few months. I’m not 100% guaranteed we’ll react the way I think, but I at least know what to look for to keep stress from overwhelming us.
Knowing that this stressful period will end is very important. Acute stress, or stress that comes on suddenly or is short lived, is easy to deal with once you have certain tips and tools at your disposal. Chronic stress, or stress that seems to go on forever without end, needs a different set of tools. Following any of these tips in this situation may, or may not, be helpful.
Key #1: Be Aware
Awareness is probably one of the best defenses against stress getting out of hand. How is the current situation affecting the family? How is it affecting you? Is there a chance it’ll get worse or better over time? Once you are aware of a looming, or pending, stressful situation, then you can take steps to mitigate the effects on all family members.
Key #2: Set Expectations
It’s important for all family members, especially children, to understand that what they’re experiencing will eventually end. School will be over in June. We will be settled into our home soon after that. The stress, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed, will be short lived. But, there will also be times when certain things will need to be accomplished with out drama or complaint.
Key #3: Communicate
Communication is second only to awareness when it comes to dealing with family stress. Communication comes in two flavors: talking and listening. And since we have twice as many ears than mouths, we should be listening twice much as we talk. Listen to your children and your spouse, listen to them as they explain how they are affected by the craziness around them. Then, set their expectations, tell them what to expect as the craziness ensues, and tell them how much they’re loved, that it’ll be over soon, and that they can talk to you anytime they want. And yes, that might mean at 3:00 AM!
Key #4: Make Time for Fun Family/Spouse Activities
That pretty much says it all! The key is to spend time as a family away from what’s causing the stress. Take a walk, go to the park, watch a movie, make a home cooked meal, play games, or just run around and be silly. Just do it as a family.
The same applies for your spouse, or partner. Take some time to be alone, even if it’s just for a moment.
Key #5: Give Everyone Their Space
Sometimes the best de-stress method is to leave someone alone. Even my daughter has requested that my wife and I let her watch something on the iPad, alone in her room, without us interfering. Considering the craziness we’ll be facing, I thought it was a fair request. I know I’ll need some quiet time alone, so why shouldn’t she?
Stress affects everyone differently and the impact it has on the family as a whole adds a layer of complexity to it. Following these 5 keys can help you and your family navigate through most stressful matters, arriving on the other side stronger, closer, and better able to handle the next one.
How does your family handle stressful times? Share your ideas in the comments.
Photo courtesy Wan Leonard/flickr