Feeling stressed lately? Did you know our kids feel quite a bit of our stress? I’ve recently begun looking into ways to lessen the stress on my family so that they have more enjoyable, productive days. It hasn’t been easy, and I haven’t been perfect, but these steps have made a difference.
Stress Can Be Everywhere
My mom friends and I joke about how different things are now that we are adults. When running in a neighborhood by our school, some teenagers waited an extremely long time at a stop sign so that my friend and I could run by safely. My friend made the comment that they were out for a leisurely drive and didn’t mind waiting for us. We agreed that it had been over a decade since we had nowhere to go in our vehicles. The days of cruising down the avenue or gravel road detours are long gone. When I am behind the wheel, we are flying from one place to another, be it work, games, practices, or meetings, and I let that stress get to me too much.
In addition to driving, school days are as busy for teachers as they are for students. I can name many times that people in the hallways can hear me before they see me due to the aggressive pounding of my heels on linoleum trying to get from one place to another quickly. I’m not alone. My coworkers and I joke about how fast we walk from here to there. We comment that we don’t remember the last time we had a relaxing walk from point A to point B.
We make light of occurrences in conversations such as these, but I find that the stress of the day comes home with me. Stress dictates the level of intensity I seem to have each day. I thought my inability to handle stress well was only affecting me, until last week when my 11-year-old made a comment about my abnormal relaxed demeanor on a Monday morning before school. I had such a productive Sunday getting ready for the week that I was ahead of schedule for the first time in a long time. He looked at me with his head cocked sideways and said, “Hey, you’re not stressed. What’s up?” Oh no. This is what I have always feared. I had let my high strung personality affect my children. I made a pact with myself that I would try to lessen my stress so that I could lessen theirs. So far, I am imperfect, but small changes have made a difference.
Deep Breaths to Refocus
If I feel myself falling into my old ways, I try to stop and breathe. If I can carve out ten minutes for meditation in my day, I am a much more tolerable human, but that’s not always the case. So when I get worked up about deadlines and homework, and I can feel myself projecting that stress on my family, I simply stop and take some deep breaths. This seems simple and it is, but I use the seconds I take to stop and remind myself that nothing is really worth this kind of intensity. At least not everyday routines that may go awry. So what if they do? If I can learn to brush things off a bit more, my children will have a chance to see an adult model ideal behavior.
My middle child feels all of his feelings to an extreme level, he’s been trying to take some deep breaths and remove himself from stressful situations before they become emotional explosions. My school counselor friend posted an article and 4-minute video about kids’ emotional health. In the video featured on Smart Girls, children are interviewed and model ideal breathing techniques. In addition to Smart Girls, PBS Kids has a great article on belly breathing for kids. Check it out here, and see why it benefits all humans. This helps when my daughter needs me to do three different things for her at once, or my sons are moving at a snail’s pace in the morning. It also helps my middle guy not be so reactionary. If we all stop and take a deep breath, our loved ones benefit. It really is that easy.
Let Them Help You
It’s human nature to want to feel valued, and this can be a way to solve the routine stress in many homes. When my boys don’t have sports practice, they can help by doing the dishes, bringing up the laundry, and vacuuming. Although they are too old to really feel special when I ask them to do these chores, they beam with pride if I mention how much they have helped me by doing them. My five-year-old daughter–on the other hand–thinks dusting, pulling weeds, and cooking are gifts that I have given her. She is so proud if the family loves the food she has helped prepare or if someone mentions the furniture shines. I have recently come across a helpful chore chart on The Modest Mom Blog. Not only does she offer the chart by age group, but she also talks about how chores work in her household. While I don’t think I could ever get my group that organized, it’s beneficial information from another awesome mom. Working together can lessen the workload for one parent; it can make the kids feel like a valued part of the home; and it can make memories if fun is involved.
Give Them the Gift of Routine
Although children have some predictability at their daycare centers and schools, a large part of their stress can come from things they don’t expect. That’s okay in my book. Kids need to learn how to be versatile and flexible with their expectations, but one place they could use predictability would be at home. We have established a routine that goes like this: play until dinner, dishes after dinner, homework, relaxation time, same bedtime every night. We very rarely stray from this on weekends unless there is a sleep over involved. This kind of routine allows kids to know what’s coming next. They can find comfort in the fact that this doesn’t really change. Good sleeping and eating patterns are also great indicators of success in the classroom. My nine-year-old has fought bedtimes since he was one. At least when he protests, we simply point to the clock and tell him he knows 8:30 pm is bedtime during the school year. On the parent side, these routines make for a house with some order. Routines can help children and adults find peace and lessen stress.
I have had the routine element in place for eleven years now, but having my children help me and breathing through insignificant stresses are two new approaches I have incorporated into my daily life. Even though I falter and it’s hard for me to unlearn this high strung personality, the approaches have helped tremendously in making our home a more comfortable place. What are your tricks for calm and comfort with your children? Please share them on our blog, Facebook, or Twitter.