How Do You Reduce Family Stress?


Whenever I see a map of planes in the sky, it makes me shudder.  They always look like a mess of puzzle pieces.  I know they know what they’re doing, but those maps leave the impression that the planes are piled on top of each other, ready to crash into each other at any moment.

Life can seem like that sometimes.

When I was younger, I visited the home of a family with several teenage children.  They had a calendar on their refrigerator that was bursting at the seams; it could not contain their daily schedules.  Like those planes, their kids had to be run everywhere and it looked nearly impossible for the parents to keep up.

It’s funny how seemingly insignificant moments like that can leave a big impression.  Reflecting on that family’s lifestyle helped develop my evolving perspective about family life.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think that it is unhealthy when the schedules of one’s children causes stress for the parents.  I think it is a parent’s responsibility to teach children what is most important, that being the common good of the family, not the individual.

Let me explain.

We have known for a long time that it is good for families to have dinner together.  That is nearly impossible if parents allow practices, rehearsals or whatever to get in the way.  I am not saying this is an easy thing to do, but it is a way, early on, for parents to teach children that family is most important and sometimes a child needs to opt out of an activity if it cannot be managed without sacrificing family time.

That also goes for sibling choices.

Sometimes children need to be taught that a sibling’s piano recital is more important than, say, a basketball game with a friend.  When everyone is “all in” when it comes to family, children learn (gasp!) they are not the most important member of the family and that if something is important to a sibling—or a parent—then a sacrifice may be necessary.

Children simply cannot learn these lessons without experiencing them. Visiting a grandparent and spending time with family necessarily outweighs an activity that might seem more fun, and it gives the added benefit of teaching those lifelong lessons.

Creating a family culture like this helps form adolescents for adulthood, where the world does not revolve around them and it helps them grow into selfless adults.

I fear that those types of lessons are not being learned today as parents relinquish their child’s formation in an attempt to meet every child’s preferences.

Who loses in this scenario?


Exhausted children end up with stressed out parents who don’t even have time to breathe in between work and household responsibilities, and this is never good for family life.

Every family makes the decision about where to draw the line, and it does look different from family to family, and a reasonable amount of busyness can be expected, but I’m just saying parents have the right—guilt free—to make determinations about how their family life will run and saying no to some things, while difficult, may be in the best interest of the family.

Plus, the individual children learn in a very powerful way what it means to be a part of a unit that works together, and this is something that will be very helpful down the road for them.

Parenting is about making choices and sometimes that means hitting the pause button so both parents and children can live peaceful, happy lives where their time together is a time of joy, not frustration.

What do you think?

Janet Cassidy



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