Is it really possible to transform a chaotic, busy, kid-filled home into the calm oasis that you have dreamed of? A pleasant atmosphere where there is no fighting and siblings get along, the house is relatively organized, and there is a semblance of harmony? Or is this a dream only to be achieved once the kids are grown and have left the home?
A calm home is achievable but it does take some thought and planning. And when you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and have a million things to do, it may seem like a hopeless fantasy. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and small, incremental changes will eventually lead to some big payoffs.
If you are feeling unhappy and overwhelmed, try to identify the source of your distress. If you have just had a baby and are exhausted, then your exhaustion has a reasonable source. However if life is pretty much normal and you’re feeling like you can’t cope, sit down and try to identify the source of your stress.
Have you over scheduled your life or become the carpool for too many of your children’s activities? Is the atmosphere in your home consistently tense? Are your finances the source of pain?
Once you have honestly identified the source or sources, take an honest look at your life and see where improvements can be made.
Over Scheduling Can turn Calm into Chaotic
We want the best for our children and we want them to benefit and expand their horizons from the myriad activities that are available after school. However, everyone’s needs have to be considered here. After all of the running around, carpools and shopping, will you have anything left at the end of the day to give your kids or your spouse?
Add several kids in the mix with their varied activities and the tension builds.
Look at your life and see if your kids really need all the extra activities that you are juggling on a daily basis. Can you reduce some of the activities, spend more time at home and create a more calm, peaceful atmosphere?
Are your kids coming home in a bad mood or do they start fighting the minute that they get home? This is where they need you to intervene. Don’t take the easy way out and ignore the fights hoping that they will work things out on their own. Take a look at the patterns and identify the source.
Are the kids just hungry when they get home and need a substantial snack before dinner? If the kids are not ready to eat a full meal when they come home, a healthy snack can keep them going until dinner.
I would often have a soup or salad waiting when my kids came home, so that they could fill up temporarily while I got dinner underway. Even crackers and humus or cream cheese can tide your kids over until dinner.
When the Squabbles Turn into Fights
If your kids are well fed and rested and the squabbles are turning into real fights, it’s a good idea to find out what’s really going on. I don’t mean that you have to be a referee, but maybe you and your spouse need to lay out some clear expectations about getting along.
Siblings need to know how important their relationship is now and will be in the future. Tell your kids how important it is for them to be close and how it makes you so happy when they get along. Give very specific positive feedback when you see them sharing or playing together.
If this is not making a difference and they are still fighting, perhaps they need some individualized attention from you. Can you all play a game or read a book together? Can you and your spouse spend some quality individual time with each child separately?
Have Kids Take Responsibility
If your kids continue to fight, try to come up with a plan that clearly states your expectations. Tell your kids that one of your values is a calm, peaceful home. Let them know that occasional squabbles happen between all siblings but you expect them to take responsibility for their behavior.
This is so important that you will hold them accountable. If they are fighting over small things, they will have to separate and give some thought to their behavior. Perhaps you can designate two separate areas where they need to go before they can come back and try again.
You can let them know that this is not a punishment but it is time for them to cool down. They should use the time to think of ways that they can better negotiate a solution next time. You can give them ideas such as one playing with the toy for five minutes and then switching. You can also model some thought processes for them. For instance you can pretend that you are the older sibling and say,
“I want to play with this but I know I can wait longer than she can”
You can model for the younger child and say,
“You might just be playing but when you say those things, it hurts my feelings.”
Obviously every child is different and the dynamics of every family are unique but these interactions with children help to bring awareness and set the tone in the home.
Your finances can be a great source of stress, especially if one parent is home with the kids and you are trying to subsist on one salary. However each family has to weigh what is important for them at the time. Perhaps when the kids are small, a family may opt to have one parent stay at home to be there for the kids. However even with one salary, finances do not have to be a source of stress.
Advertising leads us to believe that we cannot be happy unless we can buy everything that we want. That is simply not the case. We make so many purchases that are not necessary and by sitting down to make a budget we can stay on track. The discipline of staying on a budget can be difficult at first, but with time it will reduce financial stress. In fact a budget can actually lead to realizing many of our financial goals. Here is one of my favorite books that helps my family stay on a budget.
What are the Vibes?
Life has so many ups and downs and there are bound to be bumps in the road. A spouse is laid off of work, there might be an illness in the family or another particular challenge. There are always times when we have many obligations or life cycle events that challenge our ability to cope.
These times will always be difficult but what sets the atmosphere in the home is what the kids see most of the time. Are parents happy to spend time with their kids and each other or are they on their phones most of the time? The kids will know.
Are parents always complaining or worse, always fighting? The kids will know. Are parents happy with what they have or always wanting more? All of these messages that we send, whether we are aware or not are sent to our children every minute of every day.
We Can Change
But all is not lost. If we see that we may have fallen off track, we can change old habits and change the atmosphere in our homes to one of calm. This is how we grow and develop and constantly become better. If you are not happy with the way things are going at home, take the time to see if working on any of the above might improve the atmosphere in your home.
Small changes over time really do make a difference and you can truly transform your home. If you have made some changes and your home is happier and more calm because of them, please let us know.
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