Stress-busting tips for a Calmer, Easier, Happier 2020
Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash

None of us has a magic wand that will make all of the usual family problems simply disappear, but you can reduce your parenting stresses and be calmer and happier in 2020 by making a few small changes in your everyday activities.

Here are five things you can do that will help improve things at home:

1. Descriptive Praise

Every day, frustrated parents tell me that the most stressful aspect of being a parent is feeling that you need to remind, repeat, nag, persuade, threaten, bribe, negotiate or shout just to get your children and teens to do what they’re told. It doesn’t have to be like this!  One of the most effective techniques for improving cooperation is Descriptive Praise. Many times every day take a few moments to notice and mention exactly what your children did right.

Even on a not-great day, you’ll find lots of little bits of good behaviour that you can praise: cooperating the first time you ask, sharing (even if it’s for only a few minutes), being gentle with the baby, saying please or thank you, writing a slightly longer essay than last week, turning off the computer with less of a fuss.

Remember to also Descriptively Praise when your children are not doing something wrong: not grabbing, not laughing when a sibling makes a mistake, not interrupting, not leaving their schoolbag on the floor (even if they didn’t put it where it belongs), not hitting when they’re angry.

Children (and even teens!) want to please their parents, so the more often you Descriptively Praise, the better behaviour you’ll see. If you’re new to this technique and are not sure how to Descriptively Praise, you can get a free copy of my ‘Descriptive Praise’ ebook by going to our website and giving us your email address.

2. ‘Special Time’

A powerful de-stressor for parents is spending time with each of your children separately. Even siblings who usually get on well together will appreciate spending time alone with you because they won’t be having to compete for your attention. I call this one-on-one activity ‘Special Time’ because it results in lovely times together.

With a bit of planning, you’ll find that almost every day you’ll be able to squeeze in some Special Time, even if it’s only 15 minutes with each child. Do something you both enjoy that:

  • isnít in front of a screen
  • doesn’t cost money
  • isn’t about a food treat

You can use this Special Time to learn new things together, play a game, do a puzzle or read together, tackle a household chore, go for a walk or just hang out and chat. Whatever you do during Special Time, you will be making happy memories for yourself and for your children.

As you put into practice this habit of daily Special Time, you’ll discover that without the undercurrent of sibling rivalry and without screen distractions, you will be seeing your child at his or her best. And when you are not rushed or preoccupied, your children will experience you at your best. As a result, Special time helps children and teens to become more cooperative, confident, motivated, self-reliant and considerate.

3. Taking Care of Your Adult Relationships

One way to be a happier parent in 2020 is to devote more time and attention to the couple relationship. Every evening that you and your partner are both at home, as soon as the children are in bed, spend the next half-hour (or longer if you like) on what I call a ‘nightly half-hour date’.

Leave the dinner dishes or that urgent email until later. Reconnecting with your partner is more important. Spend this precious half-hour enjoying yourselves as a couple.

These are the rules:

  • no screens
  • no talking about problems or about the logistics of daily life
  • no talking about the children

What can you do instead?

Here are some favourite activities that our clients have told us about:

  • listening to music together
  • playing cards or board games or doing a crossword puzzle together
  • looking at family photos and reminiscing
  • reading aloud to each other
  • telling jokes
  • planning your next holiday
  • exercising together
  • and of course cuddling

This habit of a nightly half-hour date will help to refocus you both on each other’s good points. This in itself relieves a lot of stress. The half-hour dates will also help to build up your emotional stamina, enabling you to stay more positive, more firm and more consistent when dealing with the inevitable stresses of family life - and one result of this is that you (and your children) will feel calmer and happier.

If you’re a single parent, you can use your nightly half-hour ‘date’ to take care of yourself. The rules remain the same, as do the results.

What can you do to replenish yourself? How about:

  • phone a friend
  • listen to or read a good book
  • enjoy the silence
  • start a hobby
  • write in a journal
  • pick up a pencil and draw something you can see or something from your imagination
  • meditate or do breathing exercises

4. Experiment

Look carefully at each family flashpoint that feels stressful. These could be:

  • mornings
  • mealtimes
  • bedtimes
  • homework
  • screen time
  • sibling interactions

You might already know what might help to improve things, but maybe you just haven’t got round to implementing any consistent changes. Or maybe you’re not sure what changes would make a real difference.

Choose one flashpoint to tackle first. You might want to start with the least stressful or the most stressful or perhaps one that feels particularly important to resolve.

With your partner if you have one, or with a friend if you’re a single parent, decide on a few tweaks that would probably reduce problems and make things go more smoothly.

Make those changes, even if your children seem resistant at first. Stick with your new plan for a minimum of a month before you judge how well it’s working. You’re likely to see improvements. If the problematic flashpoint needs further tweaking, keep making changes until you can see that what you’re doing is having a significant positive impact.

At that point, pick the next flashpoint you want to tackle, and decide on which strategies you will experiment with to improve things. In my books I recommend a number of useful changes that parents can make to improve all the usual family flashpoints.

5. Prepare for Calmer School-day Mornings

School-day mornings are an example of a flashpoint that is often stressful, both for parents and for children. Research has shown that when mornings are less fraught, parents and children feel happier and more relaxed all day long, even though they often don’t realise why.

Wake up a bit earlier so that you have enough time to get yourself completely ready for the day ahead before the time your children need to be up. This way you can focus your attention on guiding them into sensible habits because you won’t be rushing, nagging or scowling. You may also need to get your children up earlier so that they have plenty of time to do everything they have to do at a pace that’s realistic for them at their current stage of maturity (or immaturity).

Paediatricians tell us that most children and teens aren’t getting enough sleep, which often results in them being distractible or irritable in the mornings, and not interested in a healthy breakfast. To achieve smoother mornings you will probably need to put your children to bed earlier. Another benefit of earlier bedtimes is that you will have more time to unwind in the evenings.

The more consistently you put these strategies into practice, the more likely you are to reduce your stress levels. As a result, 2020 will be a calmer, easier and happier year for all the family.

Let us know how you get on. We love to hear from our calmer, easier, happier families!

You may like these ideas but be unsure how to put them into practice. Would you like some advice about how to make all this happen? To find out how the ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting and Teaching’ resources and services can help you and your family, please browse our website or email us: admin@calmerparenting.co.uk

On our website, our Youtube channel and our Facebook page we provide support materials: videos, podcasts, articles, books, CDs (MP3 audiobook downloads coming soon).

If you would like personalised advice that is specific to your family’s needs, we offer a parenting programme that includes private consultations (via Skype) and home visits.

For schools we offer parenting talks and teacher-training.

Please get in touch for more information. Noël and her team welcome enquiries from parents and educators.

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