Tips for a calmer family
Tips for a calmer family
- Decide priorities
- Plan and organise
- Make fun and relaxation a priority
- Down time
- Get smart!
1. Decide priorities, what is most important?
What is important to you, and your family – time together as a family? Or perhaps fitness together? Or community involvement, or being part of an extended family? Or some combination? Ask yourself, and talk with your family – what defines our family? What is the culture/feel of our household? Then get down to specifics. You may have an important goal of developing a career or business, or perhaps two careers. If this is a priority, other things may need to come second.
If possible, it helps for the adults in a family group to make decisions about who works and how much, who cares for the children, how much income is necessary versus desirable, and how leisure time will be spent. These decisions cannot be set in stone, but will shift with changes in job and household make-up, and as children grow and priorities change.
It sounds straightforward and, of course, the reality can be much more complicated, but the solution is to work out what works for your family – and keep updating it from time to time as circumstances change.
Good communication takes practice; for most of us, it doesn’t just happen naturally. No matter how good a relationship is, we need to work on communicating well. And one good talk session doesn’t cut it – communication has to be ongoing.
There’s also a dilemma in busy families. It is particularly important that we communicate well when our family is under stress. Yet it is at these times that communicating well becomes more difficult.
What helps communication?
- Create a good environment for talking and communicating. Turn the TV off, make sure everyone is sitting in the same room, ensure that everyone has a turn to talk and a turn to listen. Some families like to make mealtimes a time for talking together; other families organise special family meetings.
- Do it often. Check in with each other regularly – how was your day? What went well today?
- Proximity. In this age of electronic and distance communication, nothing beats face-to-face talking! Phone calls, emails and texting are all useful for organising and planning, but when it comes to discussing something important, it’s best to be in the same room.
3. Plan and organise
Busy households often need almost military-style planning to operate smoothly.
Problem-solving how to get things done is something that everyone in the household can contribute to. You might want to sit everyone down and have a brainstorm session about what might work best. That process is likely to result in routines that will be longer lasting.
For example, if a child is not very switched on in the mornings, allocate chores for other times of the day – the dog gets walked after school, the lunchboxes come straight out of bags and are washed ready for the next morning. If one day of the week is always particularly busy, make that a takeaway night or plan the meal in advance. Monitor the family mood to notice peaks of tension and busyness that need attending to.
4. Make fun and relaxation a priority
Make sure that having fun doesn’t get lost amid the hustle and dash of daily life. Initially, you might have to make a conscious effort to schedule more of it into your week. Relaxing or fun activities don’t have to be complicated or expensive; simply getting outdoors can literally be a breath of fresh air and give you all a time to stretch and laugh.
Families and household groups need support just as much as individuals do.
We need support from others in the community in its broadest sense. This might mean extended family, or friends or neighbours, or paid help, or using community agencies.
Think about what support your family has access to (and can provide for others). Does it meet the needs of your family? Are there gaps where perhaps your family is more isolated than you would like it to be? Develop a plan for how you might start to change this. Talk to other people and families, and suggest you link up in some way. Or you might want to re-establish contact with extended family and ask for help.
Holding optimism is important in families. We know from research studies that expecting positive outcomes in relationships makes these outcomes more likely, and leads to greater relationship satisfaction.
It is easy in close relationships to start taking people for granted and to miss or not pay enough attention to their strengths. Especially when we are busy or tired or feeling under stress, small niggles can start to bug us, and it is easy to focus on negative qualities.
Try to turn that around by looking for the positive qualities in people you are close to, including children. Pay attention to those aspects rather than the negative ones. Talk about them – even write them down.
7. Down time
Whatever “down time” means to you and your family, make it happen and enjoy it! It’s a crucial and simple way to maintain health and wellbeing.
8. Get smart!
Many workplaces want people to work “smarter” not harder – we can do that at home as well. As a family, try to:
- Prioritise: focus only on tasks that are essential or those that are most important to you as a family.
- Delegate: make sure everyone is helping out.
- Say no – to requests to do things or to activities that are not a priority for your family.
- Be realistic about what can be achieved.
- Modify those perfectionist standards! You don’t need to have the tidiest home, or the best home-cooked meals, or be participating in every after-school activity going.
- Build on strengths: if you or your family are good at or enjoy something, do more of it. Get help with things that are harder. You might consider swapping tasks with another family: for example, you help with their gardening and they help you with your house painting.
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