How Stressed Are You and Your Family?

The lazy days of summer over and the kids are back in school.  While many of parents look forward to having the kids back in school, they also know this can be a time of rising stress for their whole family.  There may be financial issues or after school issues that can increase tension for mom, dad and the children.

Keeping a roof over your head and food on the table has many American homes in crisis. The added stress in seemingly ”normal” family situations, such as a child struggling with homework, a sibling who wants to stay out late, or a teen that won’t clean their room, can undermine the parents’ ability to promote family togetherness and maintain a healthy emotional environment. Single parent homes can be at even greater risk.

Money Worries

Economic issues that affect their commitment to remain stable as a family can include :

1.         Foreclosure
2.         A spouse laid off and now staying home
3.         A vacation eliminated due to limited funds
4.         After-school program(s) eliminated due to budget cuts
5.         Preparation for college
6.         An elder parent
7.         Caregiving issues
8.         Decision to support parents so they can continue to live autonomously
9.         Geographical differences

The list is endless and unique to the family dynamics already at work in the home. One thing is certain; the attitude and reaction of the parent(s) in stressful situations sets the bar for family problem-solving.

Overcoming Stress

Key factors to overcoming these stressors:

  1. Get help for communicating more effectively. There are many online resources and books on effective communication.
  2. Improve listening skills. For example, let the other person speak to you without interruption. In response, tell them what you heard them say and comment on these points.
  3. Develop empathy.  Be aware of putting yourself in another’s shoes.
  4. Avoid impulsive decision-making and give yourself time to consider other options.
  5. Initiate outdoor activities to spend more time together such as walking as a family.
  6. Ask yourself, “How do we spend time together during meals? Do we watch TV or do we set time to eat together?”
  7. Reduce individual computer time. When the children are sent to their rooms to play on the computer, father is on the computer in the living room, and mother on her laptop in the bedroom this is costly isolation for the family.
  8. Know what the child in the next room is playing, watching or doing on the computer. Cyber-bullying is a serious and growing problem for today’s youth. Speak with your children about this openly and emphasize the importance of letting you know if they are a victim or even a participant in this behavior.
  9. Keep your home clean and organized. Clutter can cause tension, stress, confusion and discord within the family unit. Cleaning and organizing can be a family project with positive rewards. Having your house in order creates an atmosphere of security and promotes a pleasing and harmonious lifestyle.
  10. Maintain a balanced diet. Do not consume an excess of caffeine/sugars.
  11. Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep affects our ability to process the next day.

Applying just a few of these suggestions can help to keep the effects of stress on the family as a whole in check. The example you set as a parent will allow each member of your family to discover and evolve their own set of problem-solving and stress-reducing skills.

Maribel Quiala, LCSW is a speaker, author and media consultant well-known for her thought-provoking commentary on critical contemporary health issues in diverse populations. She graduated from Seton Hall University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both psychology and music and earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Barry University.

She has been recognized by Florida International University for outstanding service and support towards reducing health disparities in substance abuse and HIV/AIDS among Latinos. Mujers Dinamicas American Cancer Society honored her for her tireless work with women who have cancer. Her latest accolade is being named a Hispanic Woman of Distinction for 2012.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, D.C., is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world with nearly 150,000 members in 56 chapters throughout the United States and its territories. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

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