5 Ideas to Successfully Handle Family-Life Lows

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Father with Upset Child
16 Aug 2012

Our family is spending a lot of time together this summer. We had lots of good times and some not-so-good times. We all took turns being in a bad mood.

After 15 years of motherhood it is still hard to admit that even adults (that includes me) get cranky and whiny.

Father with Upset ChildI used to get very upset when things were not always running smoothly and everyone was not on their best behavior. I finally came to the realization that family life is like a winding country road. Sometimes even and flat and other times quite bumpy and hilly.

The instances where everyone is levelheaded and satisfied should be cherished as a gift. The bad moods are annoying…but normal. And they usually need to be dealt with at some point every day.

It is not easy to remain calm, cool and detached when you are watching your toddler tantrum, your teen slam doors, and your spouse get snippy. Unfortunately, bad moods can be contagious. Negativity breeds negativity. It helps if our bad moods and the bad moods of others are navigated with respect, empathy and acceptance.

Here are 5 ways to help you keep yourself and your family happy:

1. Cut yourself some slack: Low states and feeling blue are an annoying but intrinsic part of life. When we are feeling “blah” and/or we see others acting poorly, we tend to blow things out of proportion. We can become critical of ourselves and of our family members.

The best way to manage our bad moods and the bad moods of others is to accept them at face value without passing judgment.

Instead of criticizing: “Why do I always get so upset about everything? I am such a party-pooper,” or, “Why is she always whining about everything? She is so spoiled.”

Be kind to yourself and others: “Seems like I am having a rough day. I’m in a low state, but it’s nothing to worry about. I’ll come around soon enough.” Or, “She is having a rough day today. She usually doesn’t act like this. Once she pulls herself together she will get back to her cheery self.”

2. Be aware of your (bad) mood: Bad moods can also taint our perceptions of our kids and spouses. Behavior that was considered normal one day may seem contentious and irksome when we’re feeling down. Resentment can fester and the blame game starts.

If we recognize that our bad mood is the cause of the negativity we can avoid conflict.

Instead of blaming others: “Why do you kids have to complain about everything? You are so annoying and rude!”

Recognize your low state: “I must be in a really bad mood, since everything they do or say is bothering me–even the things that they do regularly that I usually don’t notice.”

3. Talk about yourself: Families who have healthy communication and coping skills manage the rough spots more effectively. Children learn best by observing their parent’s behavior. If parents are calmer and less prone to bad moods, children will naturally follow suit. This creates a more harmonious environment overall.

One of the most helpful, productive and effective communications tool is the “I” statement. Every member of the family can use this handy skill.

Instead of accusing: “You are acting like a baby with all this crying and yelling!”

Speak about your feelings: “I am getting frustrated with all this fighting,” or, “I am having trouble holding onto my patience with all the loud fighting going on around me.”

Children can also be taught to use “I” statements.
Instead of accusing: “You are so stupid!”
Teach them to speak about themselves: “I get upset when you tease me about my questions.” “I don’t like it when you touch my stuff without my permission!”

4. Don’t do anything: Many health professionals recommend postponing any important decisions until good humor is restored. Discussions of a serious nature should be avoided as well, just until everyone is feeling happy.

It is fair for family members to say to one another: “I am feeling overwhelmed right now. I need to let you know later if I can chaperone for your school trip.” And, “I am not in the best of moods, can we have this discussion another time?”

5. Take a breather: When emotions are running high, it’s time for everyone to take a break from each other. Gently encourage family members to find a quiet place to recharge.

Parents can do this by role modeling: “Boy, I am in a bad mood. I need a couple of minutes of quiet to pull myself out of this funk. I’ll be in my room if you need me.”

Family life is not always easy. Finding ways to cope can ease the tensions that arise. Treating others and yourself with respect when you are not at your best helps keep everyone on an even keel.

To learn more ways to help you and your kids get along, join Adina in her Parenting Simply workshops.

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.