Family stress affects everyone, whether it’s due to a traumatic event, ongoing stressors, or daily events and activities that can become overwhelming at times.
For some individuals, family stress arises from caring for an elderly relative or parent, in addition to raising a family and working full-time.
Stress can develop through differences and disagreements within the family and a lack of constructive communication for other families. It’s essential to work with family dynamics and find a way to manage stress for your own personal well-being and mental health.
Stress Impacts Everyone in a Family
Everyone can experience stress, and it often comes from everyday living and the variety of challenges and commitments that require a lot of energy, hard work, and communication.
More recently, with the onset of lockdowns and health concerns, many families have experienced a heightened sense of stress and fear, which is a natural and expected response to everything that is going on in the world and often impacts everyone in one way or another.
For some people, financial challenges, experiencing a sudden death, loss, or illness can increase the intensity of stress and the need for support within a family.
While there is a limit to what can be done to control external factors and how they impact a family, there are proactive ways to handle stress when it comes into our lives.
Family stress comes in different forms. Some are inevitable, and some are avoidable. Below are some common family stressors:
- Being with some toxic family members, relatives, or extended family- The family feels obliged to sustain communication despite toxicity due to relations by blood or by law, as in the case of dealing with in-laws.
- Suffering from physical or mental illness – Suppose someone within the family is suffering from illness. In that case, some members may experience fatigue or stress, due to dealing with severe symptoms or conditions, or the changed behaviors of the sick family member.
- Losing a loved one – It is one of the most painful experiences a family will face. Members will have differences in coping or recovering from this loss.
- Experiencing relationship problems or considering separation – This is a traumatic experience, especially if there are kids involved. Bad memories from constant quarrels or a failed relationship may pose trust issues and self-esteem-related concerns because of the persistent stress caused by the circumstances.
- Experiencing difficulty in raising children or having a newborn – It takes a lot of effort and patience to get used to a new phase of life. Raising a child/children is a big responsibility and is often very stressful for the parents involved, especially when they may not have planned for the new family member.
- Encountering financial problems – Unfortunately, having money is a necessity in life so that we can provide for our own needs and the needs of those we love. Financial issues can induce a high level of stress within the family and are often one of the leading stressors many families experience.
Dealing with Family Stress for a Healthier Life Together
Sometimes, difficult situations can’t be avoided, even with the best strategies and diplomatic approaches towards your family. Defining family stress is the first step to finding a solution.
Chronic stress, if left unchecked, can contribute negatively to your physical and mental health.
For some people, talking with the family about specific situations and how to resolve them or change a schedule or pattern of activity can prove helpful.
Sometimes, spending time together with family can become stressful in itself, especially when there are strained relationships and emotional reactions involved. However, strategic decisions must be made to improve family life.
1. Coping with Family Stress and Managing Conflict
Balance is critical when you are dealing with family stress. Sometimes it is best to talk to one another and find a solution that’s amicable for everyone.
However, families can often disagree or misunderstand each other, which leads to conflict and further stress in the long term.
There are some helpful ways for coping with familial situations that quickly become stressful, that can provide a powerful way to build inner strength and a better way to develop a healthier way of living together.
2. Share a Meal and Talk
For many families, sharing a meal at dinner time is one of the best opportunities to enjoy social interaction and talk about the day’s events with each other. It’s a great time to relax, talk about what’s on your mind, plan for the next vacation, or team sports practice.
Children especially benefit from sharing a family meal because it gives them a chance to open up and talk about school, their plans for the weekend, or their upcoming plans to apply for university.
While dinner isn’t the best time to unleash a heavy debate or raise an issue that may lead to conflict, it’s an ideal time for keeping discussion light-hearted and fun.
Conversation can even be centered around entertainment, such as which sports team is playing the game best, or about a new recipe, meal, or menu from a local restaurant.
You can reserve serious discussion about family matters for a time when everyone is happy to have the conversation and can be prepared to tackle a challenge or situation from a better psychological place.
3. Make Space for Personal Development and Growth
Personal development and growth can easily be pushed aside when family matters leave you overwhelmed or too involved, to the point of exhaustion.
When learning to cope with particular behavior or conflict within a family unit becomes too stressful for you, it’s important to make room for your own personal space and solitude.
Respecting personal time and privacy is vital in every family, for each adult and child. Children also experience stress, especially when they feel that a major change between their parents or within the family is out of their control.
Your family can benefit from taking time away from others, practicing meditation and deep breathing techniques when the idea of talking to one another and trying to be understood is too difficult to achieve.
Each family’s problems are unique, although everyone can also relate to common stressors from various sources, such as work, school, or financial matters.
When one family member is dealing with stressful situations, it impacts everyone else, whether they are directly involved in the process or not.
Keep an Open Mind
Keeping an open mind about the aspects of life that you can control is so important when faced with difficult situations. Learning deep breathing exercises can also help you maintain a relaxing, calm pace that allows your mind to rest and reset.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises are also excellent for children, who can practice this technique when they feel overwhelmed or anxious from school assignments or family situations that may have a negative impact on their well-being.
You can even incorporate family sessions of breathing methods that can be especially powerful in helping families improve communication and work together to improve stress management.
4. Be Candid and Transparent about Finances
Some family members develop spending habits that can get out of control or find themselves in financial situations that are no fault of their own but difficult to manage together.
During a financial crisis, it’s easy to get stressed. Often, family members blame each other, leading to harmful and hurtful behavior and strained relationships.
Instead of managing the way other people spend or making family members feel guilty about financial challenges, you can work together to create an improved, updated budget that works for everyone.
This process gives every family member a chance to contribute their thoughts and respond to any issues that arise during the discussion. It also empowers each family member to feel responsible and ensure that they are playing their part in managing the family’s resources.
Develop a Financial Plan with the Family
A proactive and transparent approach means being upfront about financial constraints between the parents while letting the children know when things are stressful and feelings are strained.
It’s also healthy to work towards a solution and that with the right resources, skills, and support, family finances will get better for everyone. It is important to remember that many negative situations don’t last forever.
However, they may seem that way within the moment, especially if the situation or issue is hard to resolve or becomes a major crisis. Working and coping together also help strengthen family bonds and create a healthy relationship between everyone.
5. Focus on the Mental Health of Family
When stress gets out of hand, some people become emotional and overwhelmed to the point of harming their own health. This can take the form of overspending, alcohol and substance abuse, or feeling depressed or anxious more than usual.
Stress can lead to serious health conditions that impact every aspect of life, and it can lead to tragedy in families when complex matters are hard to accept.
Therefore, it is important to focus on the mental health of your family as a whole. Check in with members of the family to see how they are coping and if they need help in this challenging season of additional stress.
If family members express to you that they are struggling, really listen to them and see what solutions you can come to together to alleviate some of the stress.
The Importance of Healthy Family Activities
Family stress is a common cause of many mental and physical health conditions.
Fortunately, it can be adequately treated with some lifestyle changes that include regular exercise, fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet, drinking plenty of water, and finding resources such as counseling to discuss and resolve family problems.
Getting active as a family is a wonderful way to develop coping strategies and support one another.
A daily walk around the local area or a weekend hiking or cycling trip is a great way to release stress and improve mental health while building physical strength and endurance.
Music, dancing, and playing instruments are also highly effective in improving positive emotions and reducing or managing stress in families and children.
6. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Teenagers and children experience different emotions and feelings throughout their development, which can be stressful for them, and their parents. Most families recognize changes immediately and often react without considering the impact of their words or statements.
From toddler years to university, everyone learns to adapt to personal development in their own way. This includes changing situations around the family home and the expectations set out for them by society, family, and their own personal goals.
While child development psychology can be challenging to understand and deal with at times, it’s essential to keep communication with them open and encourage family members to talk.
Understand that they may not always respond favorably or may even start conflict for seemingly no reason. It is entirely natural for this to happen, especially during the teenage years.
Just ensure that you are constantly communicating with your children, that you love them and are there for them if they ever need you.
Preparing Children for Family Changes and Managing Expectations
Couples in a family who are going through a marital conflict or considering a divorce can help children adjust to these changes by being direct and honest from the start.
Sometimes, younger children develop feelings of sadness or a sense that they did something wrong for this to happen when they have had no involvement in the decision that has been made. They may also feel like their world is shattering and find it hard to deal with this major shift that will change their life permanently.
Communication through all sorts of traumatic events and even daily challenges can profoundly and positively impact the health of parents, children, and other family members who have close ties to everyone.
Stressful times for children can also include moving house or changing schools. Making new friends in the new place can further add stress to them.
Any significant change in a child’s life can feel overwhelming to them at that moment, so walk them through the decision. The important thing is to help them feel included in the process and that their loved ones or other members of the family will always be there for them.
While most people cannot avoid family stress and situations in most cases, it’s essential to identify how these stressors can be handled and work together as a family to address them. It’s equally important to take time away to enjoy solitude and reflect on what’s most important in life and within the family.
Families continuously face many challenges, whether it’s financial constraints and unexpected bills, work and school-related matters, the death or illness of a loved one, parental separation, and much more.
While struggling through some of the most heart-breaking situations can prove challenging to cope with, these experiences can also bring family members closer together and help them find a better support system within the family unit.
It’s vital to recognize and accept that not everyone in the family will agree on everything discussed or decided. Still, in the end, it’s important to make an effort towards resolution and working on issues that impact everyone as a team.
Even the most strained relationships between siblings, parents or other relatives may be repaired or improved to some degree when the whole family learns how to manage the effects of stress and work through their problems and differences together.