Secrets to Low-Stress Families

Families handle the demands of daily life, differently. Studio 5 Contributor,
Maggie Stevens, says parents can learn a lot from research that shows how
low stress families live.

Have you ever wondered how your family life compares to others? Most of
us at some point in our parenting wonder if what goes on in our home
would be considered normal. We should be proud of the fact that each
family is unique and have their own personality but sometimes it is nice to
get a glimpse into the lives of other families…if for no other reason than to
better take care of your own.

Researchers from UCLA did a study on thirty two California families that
may help you decide how your family is doing. In the first experiment of its
kind, thirty-two California families allowed a three person research team
into their homes for four days (morning ‘til night). They conducted this
research through interviews with each member of the family. Spending time
in each home they witnessed sibling arguments, dinner conversations,
homework panics, after school shuttling, temper tantrums, etc. The team
measured the stress levels of each family member throughout the day.
Through those stressful moments, researchers discovered great ways to
lower the stress in all of our homes. (The tips also came as the researchers
witnessed key instances of warmth and love between family members)
Some of the secrets of low stress families will surprise you. Use what they
learned to calm the stress and create more joy in your home.

1.Low-stress couples don’t divvy up the chores. One part of the
research included the division of household chores between couples and
how that related to marital satisfaction. Regardless of who did more,
spouses were happier when they were working towards the same goals.
Splitting and assigning chores created more of a division. A more his
job/my job attitude. With a shared goals attitude there was more of a ‘we-
ness’…we do for our family, not, I do this for you. Children pay attention to
these interactions. Kids notice how their parents come to solutions in their
marriage and will eventually mirror what they have witnessed. If both
partners have an understanding of what needs to be done (husband
vacuuming while the wife helps with homework) you can get rid of the
“keeping score” conflict. One important notation: Researchers noticed that
when wives expressed appreciation, husbands did more around the house.

2. Low-stress moms make dinner from scratch. As a heat and
serve mom(more than I care to admit), this one surprised me. But I think
they have a point. All the families spent approximately one hour preparing
dinner, whether it was fresh or processed. The moms who prepared
processed, overcompensated by having additional side dishes. Simple,
fresh and healthy seems to be the key. Researchers also found it best to
encourage help from the kids. When involved with food choices and
preparation, the kids ate what was served, engaged in conversation and
were happier.

3. Low-stress families find small moments of togetherness. The
battle of quality time vs. quantity time is never ending. Quit worrying about
expensive family vacations or perfect family outings. Real bonding time
comes from the brief moments we spend with our children. Create great
conversation when you are driving your kids to a soccer game. Make
bedtime a special story and snuggling time. Steal a few minutes right after
school. What child doesn’t love the ol’ cookies and milk after school. It is
also the perfect time to find out about your child’s day. Family
relationships thrive from the simple routines we form in life. Slow down
and find time to cherish these moments.

4. Low-stress moms take five minutes of me time. My first
reaction to this tip was, “who has time for this?” Researchers think it is
better to take that selfish 5-10 minutes to unwind before trying to tackle
family issues. Mom’s especially need to figure out how to unwind and what
makes them happy and calm. Whether it is a quick exercise routine,
reading a chapter in a book, Jamba Juice, or yoga, find out what makes you
your best self. Indulgent as it is, your family needs your best you.

5. Low-stress families watch TV together. I loved this one
because it takes some of the guilt away! Sometimes there is just not
enough strength or planning time for a more interactive activity. Cut
yourself some slack and remember that memories can be created watching
the Jazz score a winning basket. It is O.K to spend 30 minutes laughing at
the craziness of another family on Modern Family. Or relaxing with a
movie, popcorn, and the entire family snuggled under blankets. Whenever
you are having positive interaction with your children, you are building
relationships. In the end, those bonds are what hold a family together.

Maggie Stevens is the author of Parent Fix.

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