For today’s busy and stressed families, finding quiet time to decompress is not always easy. And as we go from a jam-packed work or school day to a busy homelife, sometimes the anxiety lines blur.
We all need time to collect ourselves after each hectic day, to prepare for the evening tasks that lay ahead.
For Jolene Caselli, a teacher and mother of two young children, a 45-minute commute home to Rochester, N.Y., gives her the right amount of silence to unwind. She often reflects on the day and thinks ahead.
“I would go crazy without a little time to myself,” she says. “My downtime is needed to decrease my anxiety and frustrations. If I am not stressed out, then my home life is better, too, including my marriage. Less stress plus fewer arguments equals happier marriages and happier home life.”
Play the stress away
Kenneth Barish is a New York-based psychologist and author of Pride and Joy—a practical guide to solving family problems. He says Caselli is on the right track in terms of mitigating stress.
“There’s a lot of research that says stress is good,” Barish says. “But it’s not good when it becomes chronic, and is not relieved. That’s where downtime comes into play.”
And taking time to unwind isn’t just reserved for parents. It’s a practical stress reliever for children.
“Many kids are over-programmed with all kinds of activities,” Barish says. “It creates more possibilities for tension, frustration and anxiety. It (can eventually) become a downward spiral.”
Don’t think you need to push kids into homework or chores right after school. If they’re stressed, give them time to decompress, too. The best way? Play.
“Kids learn so much from play, and it’s the best relief from stress,” Barish says.
Calming the whole clan
Whenever you take it, dedicate 20 to 30 minutes of each day for family downtime.
“Their mood will improve, they will be more cooperative, and they will be much better behaved,” he says.
Caselli and her husband add downtime to the schedule before family outings.
“We see a big difference in their behavior when we take a little downtime before going out,” she says. “They have the energy to try harder, and they are more focused and more cooperative.”
Winding down before bed is another important time in the Caselli household.
“This includes turning off the TV, taking baths and reading a few books,” she says. “Downtime before sleeping relaxes their mind and body, so they are able to get a good night’s sleep.”
Barish also suggests using bedtime to repair the day’s lowlights.
“There will be moments of anger and misunderstanding,” he says.
“Add 10 minutes to the bedtime routine at the end of the day to repair that. It’s a chance to talk with your child, and it will bring their stress levels down.”