We all have those perfect family moments in our minds—the relaxed dinners where everyone shares the highs and lows of their day; the long country walks full of laughter and rosy cheeks; the cosy movie nights cuddled up on the couch. But, the reality of day to day life can sometimes be quite different. Early mornings, hectic family schedules, traffic delays, colds and flus, financial worries and the normal stresses and strains of growing up, can mean those lovely moments can quickly become fraught with tension, and we can all teeter on the edge of losing our temper.
This can also happen to our children who have to manage early mornings, long days at schools, lots of social interactions and activities and sometimes the pressure of holding it all together. When they finally get home and in to a safe space, they may find they need to let the stress and strain out somehow.
So, in a family, where everyone might be feeling some stress after busy days, it’s easy to see how the whole enterprise can unravel: tempers flare and your simple evening is full of stress; the homework is not done; the dinner is not cooked and you cannot even imagine how you will ever get them to bed.
Below are a few ways to get your evenings back on track when the strains of the day threaten to derail them.
Tune it to your own feelings.
Learn to recognise your own emotions and the signs that you are starting to feel really stressed. Think about what causes you stress-is it the pressure to get the dinner on the table? Is it your children arguing or whinging? Is it other stresses of work, finances or extended family are having a really negative effect on you?
Find ways to manage them.
If the rush in the evening is causing the stress, try to find some practical ways to reduce it. Can you meal plan, so making dinner is a matter of simply reheating on some days? Can the children help you with some of the preparation?
If you are under other stress from family members, finances or other worries, think about how you can take practical steps to address them. Even writing down a plan can help relieve some of the worry and give you space to focus on positive time with your family.
Tune in to the feelings of your children and other family members.
We have all let our own bad moods or bad feelings affect how we view another’s actions or words. Try to remember, however, that children are rarely trying to anger or annoy us on purpose. Usually, when they are upset, angry, irritable or defiant, it is because they are trying to tell us something or expressing a need.
Try to tune in to your child and learn when they are most likely to have these negative feelings. Does your child need to run around outside before they can focus on their homework? Do they need some quiet time alone? Are they worried or anxious about an upcoming test or an issue with friends?
Instead of reacting, take a deep breath, think about what they might be feeling and why, and calmly speak to them. They may not immediately respond, but know that staying with them in a calm and loving way will help them to manage their feelings.
Forgive and Restore
No parent or child is perfect. If you find that things do go wrong, be kind to yourself and your children. Give them a kiss goodnight; tell them you love them; forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.