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What to do about today’s family stress

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A certain amount of family stress is inevitable.  Today’s families face busy schedules, health problems, teen pregnancy, unmarried parents, divorce, single-parent households, step-families, dual-careers and multigenerational families.  But the home, a recognized place for families to relax, recharge and rejuvenate, can contribute to a strong family unit and a family’s ability to build the necessary skills to manage stress. 

Is your family experiencing stress? Families under stress may report some of the following:

•Sense of urgency

•Little time to spend together

•Sense of frustration (too much to do)

•Desire for the simpler life

•Never time to relax

•Explosive arguments

•Bickering

•Conversations centered on time and tasks, rather than people and feelings

•Meals eaten in haste

•Constant rushing from place to place

•Escaping into work or other activity

•Isolation in room

•Sense of guilt

•Being hard on yourself or others

•Variety of health concerns (anxiety, back pain, headaches, fatigue, trouble sleeping, upset       stomach, weight gain/loss, high blood pressure)

De-stressing and strengthening the family requires the commitment and cooperation of all its members.  Less stressed families seem to find more time to enjoy and support each other, display more flexibility, have reasonable expectations, communicate regularly with each other, set priorities and view stress as a challenge that is both temporary and controllable. It’s never too late to learn coping strategies.  To cope with the stressors of family life and build healthy relationships, it is important for families to:

•Encourage open communication—not only through words but also through actions.

•Strengthen the various relationships in the family—including the parent/child relationship, the husband/wife relationship and also relationships among the siblings.

•Manage crises and conflict in a positive manner—try to look at change as a positive challenge vs. a threat, try not to take things personally, accept responsibility and learning to negotiate and compromise.

•Don’t worry about things that cannot be controlled.

•Prepare when possible for anticipated stressful events. 

•Set realistic goals at home.

•Avoid over-scheduling. Maintain health, including regular exercise, proper nutrition, and relaxation.

•Engage in social events and hobbies.

References: Kid Kare Newsletter.  University of Illinois Extension.  Retrieved February 22, 2012 from http://urbanext.illinois.edu/nibbles/getalong-stress.html
     Milne, D.  “Promoting Family Strengths.”  University of Missouri Extension.  Retrieved February 22, 2012 from http://extension.missouri.edu/extensioninfonet/article.asp?id=2502

Source: Amy Hosier, Extension Specialist for Family Life, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.