12 Feb Positive Ways to Handle Family Stress by Martin Wright
Life can be likened to embarking on many different journeys. Some journeys we are made to travel, whilst others we choose to make of our own volition.
If we have children we can also be taken on a double journey, where for a time we end up living theirs as well as our own. The effect that our children have on us as they prepare to set out on their chosen journey in life can be one that causes heartache, great joy, tears, bundles of stress and finally immense pride.
So how do you get through these challenging times? How do you get over the times when all you want to do is take them in your arms and tell them that it’s all right?
In pursuing his chosen career our youngest son recently embarked on one of his journeys – one that is leading him on a totally life-changing experience and turning his day to day life on its head.
The initial stages were long and littered with challenges. As we were going through them the end results at times seemed unobtainable given the long application process to achieve his goal. After at least three formal interviews, eye tests, medicals, profiling and days away he eventually received his acceptance letter. Initially we were all ecstatic; all the hard work had paid off. Then reality started to set in, and all through Christmas there was this strange atmosphere that something momentous was happening. No one wanted to talk about it as we didn’t want to upset the others. Our stress levels rose. The usual signs of stress (sleepless nights, lack of appetite, the feeling of wanting to burst into tears all the while) came with abundance
The day of his departure arrived and we deposited him on the train, all of us hiding our feelings whilst attempting to carry on with our day to day lives.
All seemed to go well until, after five days he rang home in tears. He said that it was all too much, he couldn’t handle it and he wanted to pack it in. Each night that followed, we were dreading the phone calls home.
Trying to help we asked friends and family who had been through similar homesickness situations, to text and call him to reassure him that what he was experiencing was normal and that it would pass. It worked! Gradually he settled and up to date he seems to be enjoying it again.
Our stress levels started to diminish, and we as parents felt we were back on track supporting our son positively towards his goal.
Whether it’s children off to University, making a round the world trip or working abroad, family stress will always be there. Here are tips I learned from our recent and ongoing experience:
Keep sight of the goal. Everything will be okay in the end, it may not be exactly as planned but it will be okay.
If you have a husband /wife /partner make sure that you are both saying the same thing, and always talk to each other for mutual support. If you are a single parent find someone with whom you can discuss the situation.
Find someone to talk to. Not someone who will tell you what you should do or what they did in a similar situation (it can never be exactly the same) – it won’t help.
Cry if you want to. It doesn’t mean that you are weak or silly. It’s a release and will help.
Avoid listening to people who have ‘been there’. No one can have been where you are, as every individual has their own experience and journey.
Try not to put your life on hold. Being afraid to go out and anxiously waiting for the phone call you don’t really want isn’t good for your stress levels. People who have had trouble with homesickness admit that they phoned their parents in tears, then 10 minutes later were laughing with their friends, not realising the havoc that call caused at the other end of the line.
Keep away from the bottle. The temptation may be strong but it will only dent the bank balance and give you a pounding headache!
Remember all parents experience challenges. It is a special privilege to share our children’s path towards their chosen dreams. Our support enables them to succeed and move along their own journey as adults.