Family. It can be a source of joy and security; a safe nest from which we fly out to take on the world. Or, it can be a spring of constant strife; a stressful, crazy place from which we long to escape. We all want to create the first version. But how do we actually create such a place amid the constant bickering and daily dramas? Here’s some help in creating the home and family life you’ve been dreaming about:
Part 1: Strengthen Parenting Team
The first step toward a peaceful home is a strong, unified parental team. Parenting is not for wimps – it is hard, unrelenting work! That’s not to say it isn’t rewarding as well – but it’s HARD. You need to be on the same side! While the some of the suggestions that follow are aimed primarily at 2-parent households, the previous sentence applies to divorced parents as well. YOU NEED TO BE ON THE SAME SIDE! So, if you are a divorced parent, you will need to figure out how you and your ex can work together as a parenting team even though you are no longer a couple. Here are a few techniques you can start using today to strengthen your parenting team and start bringing order and joy back into your family:
Put on your own mask first. Like I said before, parenting is tough. You have to be in good physical and emotional shape in order to stand up to the demands. So, before you try to deal with a crabby 6-year-old or a rebellious 16-year-old make sure that you are up to the challenge. Brush off all your best stress management techniques (help with this here) and pay particular attention to the following:
- Get enough sleep! This is a biggie for parents. Yes, I know that you have a to-do list that never ends and that the only time it is quiet enough for you to think straight is the middle of the night. But you MUST get enough sleep. Sleep-deprived parents don’t function any better than nap-deprived toddlers. Establish a strict bedtime for yourself and stick to it.
- Watch your intake! Too much caffeine jangles the already ragged last nerve. That glass of wine to help you cope with the stress can end up piling on problems when it becomes 2 or 3 or 4 glasses. Comfort food becomes uncomfortable when you put on pounds and your health takes a beating. Make sure that you are not using food or other substances as a replacement for healthy stress management.
- Get moving! Physical activity is a great form of stress relief. It helps flood the body with feel-good chemicals that naturally boost your mood. So grab a friends or a spouse and go for a walk. You will be better able to deal with the drama when you get back.
Become a support group of two. We all need support. As parents, you have a built-in partner. It takes two people to create a baby – and it sure helps to have two people around to raise it as well. Divorced or married, you are parents together. Find ways to help each other be the best possible parent for your child. Sit down and talk about what you would like to see from your partner. How can they best support your parenting efforts? And, be prepared to LISTEN. Remember, you are in this together. This isn’t the time to find fault with each other. Try to be as open and supportive with each other as you would be with a friend confiding their parenting issues.
Re-establish date night. Children benefit from seeing parents as a bonded pair. Let your children know that your relationship with each other is important. Let them see you prioritize your time alone together. It will help them develop a sense that the family is secure and fundamentally strong. It will also help both of you cope better with the demands of family life. Your relationship with each other STARTED this family. Keeping it strong and healthy is the best thing you can do for the family.
So, there are three things you can start working on today. Nothing earth-shattering or even too difficult. But they will prepare you to take the next steps toward a happy, peaceful family. In Part 2 we will talk about creating a shared vision. Then, in Part 3, we will tackle finding a family structure that works for you. Part 4 deals with effective communication and conflict resolution. And, finally in Part 5 we will talk about increasing positive interactions.
Stay tuned – lots of good stuff coming up. In the meantime, here are some terrific books you might want to check out as well: