Do you ever find yourself in a frenzy on the weekend driving between karate, soccer, art, swimming, and tutoring appointments? Is your family eating meals in the car on a regular basis? Are you exhausted by the time Sunday night rolls around? If so, you are not alone. Many families are in this situation. However, you may seriously need to slow down!
In past decades, parenting was mostly focused on learning the value of cooperation and teamwork. This is something that tends to get lost today. As parents begin to worry that their children won’t have the necessary edge to make it, their efforts shift focus towards pushing for accomplishment. Although sports and activities can greatly enrich a child’s life and development, over scheduling them may not be what’s best for young children. They need to feel peaceful and have time to decompress for their emotional stability to develop. They may need to play outside, use their imagination, sit quietly, or read a book. Some time to just be a kid.
If you are a parent with a super busy schedule, it is very important to prioritize your family’s time. Think about how important certain activities are in the grand scheme of things. Say NO to anything that is not very important and schedule downtime instead. Perhaps a weekly family night or daily dinner together should be higher on the priority list than being on every sports league and committee or going to countless lessons. A few lessons or sports, just their favorite, may be enough.
Many behavioral health professionals have found through experience that the most effective thing parents can do in the case of family stress is to lead their family out of it by example. Children are very perceptive and pick up on their parents’ moods and stress. Studies actually show that stressed parents is the number one stressor in the beginning of their lives. Try to become a better stress-free role model for your family by not overloading or over scheduling YOURSELF. Take better care of yourself by eating well, exercising, taking time to meditate, learning to control your emotions, and feeding your spirit. You will start to see your kids feeling better and following suit!
Try to avoid unrealistic expectations for yourself and your family. Try not to be unnecessarily controlling about things like neatness that can create unnecessary tasks and stress. Try to delegate housework among family members in a kind way so everyone feels like they are contributing to the team and no one getting to overwhelmed with an unreasonable amount of domestic responsibilities. It is OK if your home does not look like a Martha Stewart catalogue layout. Those are NOT real homes that people live in, they are photography studios.
Stressful situations unleash a physical reaction in people. Stress is normal and arises at certain times is life. However, if someone is chronically under stress, their health may suffer. The physical effect of chronic stress include headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, and irritability. Constant stress creates an allostatic load on the body and mind and can lead to short-term memory loss and learning problems.
What may truly be best is to try giving children a safe environment and unconditional love. If a child in their home environment is made to feel like they have to constantly work hard at countless activities to earn their parents’ approval, they get stressed and their performance and health actually suffers. Teach them healthy stress-management techniques for the competitive world so they can maintain inner peace and handle things with grace. This may be the most effective edge to have in life.
Create a community with other parents for support. After all, they are in the same boat! Encourage each other to slow down and enjoy family time. You can possibly work together to host laid-back family get-togethers that follow a reasonable schedule.
Implementing these techniques to avoid stress and over-scheduling can have wonderful outcomes for you and your family. These steps help insure that your family will be able to handle stress in a healthy way, bounce back to normal, and come together. Living life in a more balanced way feels so much better and it will become a habit to let go of unnecessary busyness and competition to schedule time for “downtime”.
Goldberg, Josheph, MD. “Causes and Effects of Stress: Family, Work, Health, and Other Stress Factors.” WebMD. WebMD, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.
Mintle, Linda, PhD. “6 Tips to Stop Over Scheduling Your Kids.” Beliefnet. N.p., 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.