If there is one truth we can all agree on is that parenting is stressful.
And then we add on our job, our domestic work, and all the other social and emotional stressors that are thrown at us on a daily basis.
If you feel overwhelmed at home, just remember that all families experience stress and all families share that stress amongst themselves. To be in a family is to be exposed to stress. It’s normal and healthy and unavoidable.
But have you noticed that some families handle the stress better than others? Sometimes you hear of a family that has been dealt far more than their share of tragedy and disappointment and you wonder “how are they still standing??”
Family Stress Theory explores and explains why some families are resilient and thrive in the face of adversity and why others don’t – and helps you know what you need to do so that your stress doesn’t turn into an insurmountable crisis that knocks you off your feet.
This theory was developed by Rupert Hill during the great depression. He wanted to better understand what set apart those families that came out of the depression thriving (no matter how much loss they suffered emotionally or financially) and what families simply never recovered, even if they had abundance around them.
I feel this type of theory is especially applicable today given, well, you know, *gestures broadly at everything around us…*
Here’s what he found after analyzing countless families overtime.
Three things distinguished families that thrived and families that barely survived:
Understandably, families that had access to – or took advantage of – resources, and those families that had, and called on, support networks, were much more likely to come through the stressful time in their life relatively unscathed.
Families that either didn’t have or didn’t use resources and supports struggled much more.
Those two facts seem rather logical.
However, the most interesting ting that Hill discovered was that one of the greatest impacts on the wellbeing of a family was simply their perspective. Did they believe they could get through it or not?
In addition, the belief that one could cope with the stressor event led to people realizing they had more support and resources available to them than they thought, and made them more likely to take advantage of those resources (thus increasing the likelihood of their wellbeing even more).
Put simply, if you don’t think you can manage the stressor event and believe it will sink you and you won’t be able to cope…well then you are right! You will find you are more likely to allow overwhelm to take over and are less likely to believe there is any help available for you. Understandably this leads to feelings of isolation which has negative health impacts.
Let’s break this down using a very relevant example: Homeschooling during a lockdown (though the same principles apply to other stressor events as well like a job loss, a death in the family, a huge fight, a natural disaster, a diagnosis, a divorce, a rebellious teen and so forth)
Here’s the scenario: You may have just found out that schools are shutting down (again!) and you are still recovering from the last time you had to balance your own work, your domestic tasks, and coordinate the schedules and work of your kids (along with their attitudes and their own emotional wellbeing because this is really hard on them too). Gah!
And you can’t call over your dad to help with the english essay or your mom to teach them that grade 7 algebra and you can’t go and have the glass of wine with your friends at the end of the day and you can’t quit your job…
It’s easy to think this is too much, there aren’t any people I can call on for support, and there are no resources for parents who are just told “here your kid is coming home again good luck!”
This is where we have to dig deep and use Ruben Hill’s model as a guide.
You need to ask yourself what are all the supports and resources I can think of that will help me?
– Are there youtube videos on Grade 7 algebra? What about a writing software that helps with English papers?
– Can your kids become the experts who teach you the technology they are using?
– Are there distress lines or therapy lines you can call when you need someone to vent to anonymously?
– Are you in contact with other homeschooling parents who would like to form a zoom support circle?
– Have you reached out to the teacher to ask for support? (Teachers by the way are absolute rockstars and are busting their butts off for your kids)
– Are there other parents who are experts in a certain subject matter that can step up to run tutorial groups? Can you all divide homeschool days where they are responsible for motivating all kids in the morning on Wednesday and you get Thursday afternoons for example?
– Can you call your parents?
– Are there blogs on motivation with tips that you know will help your kids?
– Can you divide up the domestic tasks and dive them out to your kids as their “Home Economics” credit?
– Can you manage takeout once a week?
– Can you negotiate flex time with your boss?
– Can you rely on coworkers you can delegate tasks to?
These are just a few basic ideas – the point is for you to sit down and really think “Have I actually reached out and asked for the support I deserve? Have I investigated what there is on offer to help with homeschooling? Have I thought about all areas of my life where I could delegate, ask for support, or let things go?“
It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of “this is impossible”. But I ask you to instead say (to borrow the words of Marie Forleo) “this is figureoutable”.
Speaking of mindset – this is the crucial part: Do you truly believe you can do this? And if not, what will help you get through?
Perhaps make a list of all the things you need to tell yourself to get you through the rough patches. Here are some ideas:
– I don’t need to do dishes. Dishes are not the most important part of my day today.
– It’s Ok to order food. The money spent is worth the stress reduction.
– My kids can help cook and clean. These are essential skills.
– My child isn’t angry at me, she is frustrated with the lockdown too. We are all scared and upset.
– This one assignment will not be the determining factor as to whether my child gets into Harvard or has good self-esteem. But a hug and a break might help!
– My child isn’t dumb, this software is a challenge and they are overwhelmed.
– the teacher won’t hate me if I say I need a bit of additional support
– I am not alone. There are a million parents like me going through the same thing. They probably want someone to talk to as well.
– My boss will understand more than I realize. She knows it’s a pandemic and that no one can balance everything.
– I am a good worker, a great dad, a loving partner. That is what will matter after this is over.
– This IS hard. There is no shame in feeling stress. I CAN get through it though and it will get better.
– If today is a disaster it’s ok to say “screw it” and allow my kids to take a break. We can always do school tomorrow.
I hope there are some nuggets in there that will help you feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel.