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 can 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.