A recent Pew Research Center study of modern parenthood found that more than half of parents say they find it very or somewhat difficult to juggle work and family life. Dad are doing more housework and more moms are being are being paid for working out of the home. And the public is conflicted about what’s best for children.
Despite the stresses of family life, today’s parents generally rate themselves well in how they raise their children. And many are looking for additional tools to improve family life.
I’d like to offer five tools that I know will make a difference in reducing stress and improve family life for children and parents alike.
1. Is joy something you emphasize? To do so requires a commitment to avoid demanding that everyone in the family act a certain way, look a certain way and speak a certain way. PREFER, yes, but demand, no. When you demand you inevitably set yourself up to believe it’s “horrible, terrible and awful” if others aren’t acting as you demand. When you PREFER, believe IT WOULD BE BETTER, you are more likely to communicate effectively and be better able to handle it when others don’t live up to your demands. This opens the door to diminished anger, which improves the overall atmosphere in the home.
2. Guess who’s watching you? Yep, the kids have big ears and wide eyes. So be terrific role models in everything you do and say. Hard to do? Then stop expecting them to “do as you say, not as you do.” Put your marriage above all and show your children what a loving relationship is, what it means to go out of your way to be sensitive to the needs of others, and what respect looks like. Remember, children live what they see.
3. Who’s at your side when you eat? If it’s not your children enjoying meal time together with you at least a couple of times a week depending on work schedules, then you may be shortcoming them. Whip up meals together, go food shopping together, and you’ll see that your children will be more likely to enjoy what is served. It makes for a much happier meal0time to avoid yelling, demanding, that kids must eat this or that. Meal time is a time to ingest lots more than food—be sure the conversation is positive and not filled with complaints about work, people or family members—kids will only regurgitate the same about their school work, teachers, friends and siblings.
4. What’s that you see in the mirror? If it’s a smile, chuckling, laughing, then you are on the way to happiness. Why not find something to laugh about several times a day? Why not sing together in the car on the way to or from school, shopping or to grandma’s house? Why not play games in between homework assignments? Why not go for a skip around the block? Why not enjoy some gardening together? Why not dance around the bedroom with your kids when they are cleaning their rooms? They do clean their rooms, right? Speaking of rooms, they are more likely to clean their rooms if you’ve made room for fun.
5. Are those your blessings you are counting? Sure hope so. It’s sometimes easier to focus on the thorns on your rose bush than on the roses on your thorn bush. Your happiness is never – ever – dependent on outside circumstances. It’s clearly an inside your head job. Counting your blessings is not a religious or spiritual ritual. It’s an important step towards positive emotional wellbeing—physical health too depends on a positive, what’s going right, perspective. Ask your family at the end of each day “what when right today?” and start every morning with “what’ll go right today?” and see how much better your family life can be.