Updated: December 1st, 2022
Reducing Family Stress
As we ease our way out of the current pandemic, old and new stresses will appear. In all families, the stress that each individual experiences, always impacts other family members. The most important tips to keep in mind are:
try to be understanding and accepting of each other's struggles;
try to not be judgmental
Effective communication in families is the key to positive growth and change.
A Safe Internal Space
Imagine how helpful it will be, when faced with growing stress and anxiety, to be able to take a deep, slow breath and drop into a safe, relaxed and calm space inside you. In this space, connected to your 'observing self', you are able to consider experiences from a variety of perspectives, consider alternative ways of responding, and make choices that are best for you and for those closest to you. Such a space exists within each of us and it can become stronger and more accessible.
Effective Parenting Strategies
We are all creatures of habit, in how we think, feel and interact. In parenting, and in family systems in general, we fall into patterns of interacting - including patterns that have become reinforcing of a problem. The solution is to engage in practices that can stand against the problem and shift the pattern - then, parents become the source of strength and positive change. Watch for opportunities to praise and reinforce attitudes and behaviours that you want to see more often - and you will!
Managing Anxiety & Depression
Creating a strong and accessible 'safe space' inside us, provides a solid foundation on which we can build a more effective system for responding to anxiety, depression and illness in general. Accepting that emotions will come and go - worries, fears, frustrations, disappointments, anger and sadness for example - allows us to not 'get stuck' in them. We know that they will pass, as long as we let them.
Effective Parenting Strategies
All parents want to have more open communication with their children – particularly when they are having a hard time and, how parents respond, when the young person does share their experiences, will determine whether they will come back to share more. Below, are some of the key components to build more open and efficient communication.
Accept (without judgment) what the young person brings to you – it is their experience and perspective. Accepting without judgment is one of the most difficult things to do as a parent because it involves “active listening” – listening without interruption, without offering “solutions”. Once the young person has shared an experience, then comes “validation”, which shows you get what they are feeling. Parental instinct is often to try and take pain away by sharing things like: “you have no reason to be so sad, you have everything you need” or “look at all the children in the word who don’t have what you have”. Such statements are usually experienced as both judgmental and invalidating – this decreases the chances that they will share with you again.
Validate experience – “I can see this is a real struggle for you.” Or “I am sorry that this is so hard for you right now.” Or “I can see you are really worried right now.”
When you validate the experience that someone shares with you, this increases the chances that they will continue to share more – often parents do not need to “solve” anything, just listen and validate.
Support by offering help – “How can I help? Would you like to talk more or do something together?”
No one can get through hard times alone – we need to know that others we care about understand and are there for us. When young people know that parents will listen and support them, they are more likely to share.
Hope – reinforce that there is always a solution to every problem and that they are not alone. “We will get through this together.”
Reminders that any problem can be resolved and that they are not alone in their struggle, reinforces hope.
Non-Verbal Communication – remind yourself that we all communicate through facial expressions, tone of voice, as well as the words we choose.
*These are things to aim for – when situations arise, we do the best we can! No one is perfect!