For a stress-free family, make time for everyone: Give in when necessary | Sunday Observer

For a stress-free family, make time for everyone: Give in when necessary

You do a good job, keeping a happy face at work, but when you come home, let your family have it. You may be inadvertently taking out your stress on your family, and thereby doing harm without realizing it.

You may say, “All that I want when I come home from work, after decisions and deadlines, is a quiet atmosphere. Instead, I get a stressed wife, fighting kids and a rushed dinner, because we have a TV program to watch at 9.p.m.”

Is this kind of family stress inevitable and insurmountable?

Inevitable? Of course, yes. Insurmountable? Definitely no. In the next few paragraphs, you’ll see why.

Visualize yourself. One member of your family is stressed out. Think how it affects the entire family.

You’ll note familiar symptoms, such as, a constant sense of urgency, underlying tension; a desire to escape, maybe to one’s room or out of home.

I recall running into an acquaintance at the supermarket, recently. Her eyes filled with tears as she confided how she had just been berated by her child’s scoutmaster for forgetting an important den meeting.

On the day of the meeting, she had four after-school activities, to which she chauffeured various children, had a sick child at home, and unexpected house guests. Small wonder, she forgot a den meeting!

The many people who do enjoy home as a place to be refreshed, are different from families who suffer because of everyday stress.

Talking to more than twenty families in the past few weeks, I have isolated 5 ways how families can defuse stress.

Stress-free families talk openly about money.

The No. 1 family stress involves money: how it is to be spent, who has spending power and whether there will be enough for the future. Stress-free families have the same financial problems and worries as other families, but, talk more openly about money matters.

When couples disagree over how money is to be spent, the hidden issue is power, who has the right to decide, and why. That’s the reason some couples avoid discussing money, they do not wish to address the risky issue of balance of power and self-esteem in their relationship.

Couples who talk about money, share values and feelings about taking out loans, investing, credit cards and children’s’ allowances, sometimes heatedly, but always openly.They recognize that collaborating on decisions is preferable to allowing the pressure on money to explode later.

If the husband wants a Home Hi-Fi system and the wife needs a 3-door refrigerator, it can cause tension. How do stress-free couples deal with such seemingly unresolvable situations? I found, they tend to give in. If they have tried reasoning, compromise and collaboration, without success, one partner will realize the issue means a great deal to the other and scrap his or her own feelings. If the relationship is intact, eventually, it will succeed.

Stress-free families make time for everyone

More than half the married men and women I talked to, named insufficient time together, as a primary cause for stress. But, stress-free families view time as a controllable resource, needing the same attention as money. They set priorities and budget time for family activities. Couples meet for lunch once a week, or call each other during the day. They set aside a time just for themselves, e.g. a jog or a walk at 5 a.m. everyday.

Many husbands said, it doesn’t bother them to eat more prepared foods and live with little clutter, if they can use that saved time for relaxation with their families. Modern parents use such time to interconnect with their adolescent children, in one-to-one chats. They now encourage children to bring friends home for entertainment.

Stress-free families also believe in children’s right to have time alone with their friends. But, one wise mother told me, “Of course, they can have fun, they can be alone, but we must keep a watchful eye from a distance, to ensure that they haven’t overstepped the boundaries.”

Stress-free families maintain parental authority and flexibility.

Effective parents are authoritative rather than autocratic.

They listen to their children’s wishes, complaints and feelings, and make decisions based on what they believe is best for the child, and do not abdicate when society or children object.

One parent said, “We draw a line between words and behaviour, and they know it.” Yet, such parents are also flexible, able to bend.

A child’s bedtime, for example, is usually based on age, but, on special occasions they waive the usual time. They also tend to allow children a voice in the rules and their consequences, as they mature. “What time do you think you would be in?” and “What consequences do you suggest?” are frequently asked questions.


Stress-free families communicate feelings, not words.

One wife told me, “I learned early, in my marriage, not to ask my husband the question, ‘What’s bothering you?’ because his answer would always be, “Nothing.” One day, I told him, “I feel bad when something’s bothering you and you won’t tell me, as if I’ve failed.”

He was astonished. “The reason I don’t tell you my problems is, because, I don’t want to worry you.” That day, we agreed that when I felt he was shutting me out, I would say, “I’m feeling bad,” and he’d try to be more open. It’s taken us a long time, but it works.”

Stress-free families share household responsibilities.

Lack of shared responsibility in the home was named as the second-highest stress by married women, especially, when both parents work. But, successful families tend to share responsibility for household chores. Parents can expect children to do their share at home only if they make it clear from the earliest possible age, that a home is a cooperative effort, and not solely the mother’s responsibility.

“From the time we were married,” said one wife, “we pitched in and helped each other, whether it was housework or outside work. Our children just followed the example as they grew up.” This activity tends to become resourceful. The children feel more ownership in the family because they are given an opportunity to be responsible, not merely sharing chores, but in managing their own lives.