"Create sacred spaces at home — the kitchen, the dining room — and reclaim them for conversation."– Sherry Tuckle
In a world that is increasingly complex and uncertain, many of us are beginning to feel the weight on our shoulders.
With the children’s ever-increasing school workload, stresses from work, and concerns over the care of aged parents, the stress can sometimes feel too much to bear.
But it is precisely in such a climate that the family and home need to be a place of refuge and rest.
As COVID-19 safety restrictions continue to curb our social activities and movement, home becomes the default place to “get away from it all”.
However, with work-from-home still the recommended option, the line between work and rest has blurred, and the ability to leave our work responsibilities at the door is also lost.
How can we reclaim the home as a place of safety and recovery for our weary souls?
Acknowledge toxic habits within the home
Notice when certain behaviour or things make you feel tense. Do you occasionally cause others to flare up too? Acknowledge the tension, make time to understand the issue and then deal with its roots.
Perhaps it is a spouse’s incessant nagging or criticism. Perhaps it is your own unmet expectations of others. Even our loved ones’ habits can annoy when they clash with our personal values.
But instead of lashing out at the person, we may find it more productive and respectful when we can speak in terms of our own feelings and our needs in the specific situation.
For example, consider saying, “I need the dirty laundry to be placed in the laundry bag as I feel it makes the home untidy when they are strewn everywhere” instead of “Why are your clothes everywhere?”
Or, “I need some quiet when I take work calls in the afternoon. Would it be possible for you to stay in your room to do your homework instead of calling out for me during this time?” versus “Can you just leave me alone?”
Children pick up our tones of annoyance and frustration easily, and when left undiscussed, it can cause more resentment with our restrictions and rules. Thankfully, they are also willing to forgive and move on quickly when we reflect that we err often as well, and ask for a chance to be kind and loving to all at home again.
It’s tougher with adults, because we carry the baggage of our upbringing mixed with the expectations of our relationships into the dynamics of being in a smaller space. Working from home in a confined space can cause tension to build.
Find ways to zap that tension without a screen – go for a walk, talk about 3-5 things you’re thankful for and 2 things that stressed you out in the past week, take time to plan a meal together with a clear intention to not let your spouse’s quirks get to you.
Tap the power of connection
When different members in the family are experiencing high-stress moments, it is important to give each other space to vent or unwind.
Let your children know when it is a challenging period of you at work, for example, and ask for support where necessary.
In the same vein, let them know that they can come to you for help at an appropriate time.
Explain to them that it’s even more crucial to show kindness and patience to one another. This may not be the best time to deal with little irritating habits, so learn to let go.
During more restful moments, or while sending the kids to school, express to them how much you appreciate them for helping out, or simply for understanding.
In times of stress, it is critical to draw close and draw strength from one another.
Communicating your needs to your spouse may occasionally come off the wrong way; find ways to express your frustration with work or colleagues without being mean to the other. Be a safe space for each other too.
It can be challenging not to take a child’s poor behaviour or a spouse’s irritation personally but learning how to reframe the situation will go far in building a strong connection with one another, and in making the home a safe haven.
It’s okay to have bad days
While children tend to look to their parents for a sense of security, you don’t have to set yourself up for failure by thinking that everything has to be perfect.
It is okay to have off-days; it is normal to sometimes feel like you want to crawl under a blanket and wake up only the next day.
If you are feeling tense and need some space, try letting your family know while you are still able to articulate your emotions. But if you do explode, then take some time to recalibrate and return to make amends when things are calm.
Go for a run; take a hundred deep breaths. Read a book or write in a journal. Reflecting on your journey can encourage gratitude and help change the perspective of a current long-drawn challenge that you’re facing. Remind yourself that you’ll get through this.
After processing your difficult emotions, you will be in a better place to show love and compassion to those you care for.
Choose information sources carefully
If you have young teens in the home, remind them to not just choose their Instagram filters carefully, but to filter out the bad stuff they hear or read on social media also. A constant bombardment of bad news or hearsay can lead to undue worries, and sometimes it can be hard to separate the facts from the fluff.
Model healthy unplugging for your kids and designate tech-free zones or times in your home. Your social media or news feed feeds you – what do you want to be full of?
Find a balanced mix of news and leisure media, so that your body is allowed to rest from the already stressful mix of work, relationships and schedules.
Establish healthy routines
Make use of the weekends to indulge in a spot of family time – at home or outdoors. Go back to basics by playing some of your favourite board games, taking the bicycles for a spin or experimenting with a new recipe.
These simple indulgences allow us to “practise presence”, that is to enjoy the moment and just being all-present with our loved ones.
Above all, have conversations without scolding, judging, or nagging. Listen wholeheartedly – there is no better way to show your love and support to your family.
But what if home is actually a place of toxic and difficult relationships? What then?
It can be tough if there are tensions in your home that are not completely within your control to try to change or fix things. In such a scenario, it might help to find external sources of support, such as a trusted family member or friend. Or do what is within your power to try to minimise the stress triggers.
If all else fails, know that you are not alone, and that you don’t have to beat yourself up over it. Acknowledging that your family is not perfect is perhaps the first step toward healing and restoration, so always hold on to hope and look out for small ways that you can make a difference.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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