Ways To Lower Your Stress
Is your stress spilling over on your children?

Patti Faughn
Family Life Educator
University of Illinois Extension

April is Prevent Child Abuse Month. Although abuse is something we know and agree we are against, expressions of it can slip out, or erupt suddenly from, even a pleasant well-intentioned parent when circumstances have become highly stressed or overloaded.

Research has shown a connection between having a stressful day at work and the way parents interact with their children and each other at the end of the day. When we are stressed it is easier to be impatient and over-reactive, or withdrawn and less attentive with our kids and spouse.

Most of us would agree that it is important to reserve time and energy each day for the people who mean the most in our lives. What if we find ourselves depleted at the end of the day? Taking steps to make a positive transition between work and home life is one way of re-energizing ourselves to be able to give to our family. Consider these strategies from Intentional Harmony: Managing Work and Life, University of Illinois Extension for re­uniting with your kids and partner:

  • Make necessary phone calls BEFORE you pick up the kids. (This helps free you to give your
    ­attention to them instead of work.)
  • Create a “hello” ritual. It may be as simple as a hug, kiss or special endearment you repeat, or as structured as “Everyone think of and tell one good thing that happened today.”
  • Focus on the KIDS in the car on
    the way home. Ask about their day. (“Who did you play with today” or “What did you learn about today?”) Tell them how much you thought about them or missed them during the day.
  • Recognize when your kids do fall apart on you that they have been good all day and you are a SAFE person to fall apart with. (They need you to not fall apart when they do.)
  • Change clothes. Make a rule that everyone puts on ‘play’ clothes when they get home. (Then don’t forget to play some!)
  • Eat a healthy snack like yogurt or fruit together when you get in (to lessen your hunger and stress with getting supper on the table).

So what if it has been a really bad day or you’ve gotten into a negative pattern of interaction with those you love? All of us can have bad days when we act in ways that we are not proud of. It’s when it becomes a habit, a typical way of reacting and responding, that it is vital to stop and change the direction we are going.

  • Take some time before you pick up the kids or enter your home to regroup. If that is not ­possible, you may need to tell your kids and partner you need a few minutes alone.
  • Instead of rehearsing over and over negative emotions and thoughts of the day, purposely make a decision “I’m not going to let work problems ruin my time with my family.”
  • Recognize simple environmental changes that can help you calm down and lighten up. Put on music you enjoy that lightens or calms your mood, or do something active like dance while you make dinner or go for a walk or bike ride with the kids. Activity is a great way to change our mood and get a handle on our stress so that we can reestablish positive patterns of ­interaction.
  • Enjoy your family. As you pour out your love and joy to them, the spillover effect will again be put in motion. Only this time instead of leaving stress you will leave joy.
For more information

Patti Faughn, Family Life Educator,University of Illinois Extension, Springfield Center

Contact Patti at 217-782-6515 or