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New Year Resolutions

Parents can reduce their stress and be happier in 2019 by improving things at home - even though none of us has a magic wand that will make all of the typical family problems simply disappear.

Here are five things you can do:

1. Every day, frustrated parents tell me that the most stressful aspect of being a parent is feeling that you need to repeat yourself, remind, nag, persuade, threaten, bribe, negotiate or shout just to get your children and teens to do what they’re told. It doesn’t have to be like this!  One of the most effective techniques for improving cooperation is Descriptive Praise: many times every day take a few moments to notice and mention exactly what your children did right or exactly what they didn’t do wrong.

Even on a not-great day, you’ll find lots of little bits of good behaviour that you can praise: cooperating the first time you ask, sharing (even if it’s for only a few minutes), being gentle with the baby, saying please or thank you, writing a slightly longer essay than last week, turning off the computer with less of a fuss.

Also Descriptively Praise when they’re not doing something wrong: not grabbing, not laughing when a sibling makes a mistake, not interrupting, not leaving his schoolbag on the floor (even if he didn’t put it where it belongs), not hitting when she’s angry. Children (and even teens) want to please their parents, so the more you Descriptively Praise, the better behaviour you’ll get.

2. A powerful de-stressor for parents, and also for our children, is spending one-on-one time with each child. Ring-fence the time to do this, 15 minutes or more, every day if possible, hanging out with each child separately, doing something you both enjoy that’s not in front of a screen, that doesn’t cost money, and that isn’t about a food treat. Without the undercurrent of sibling rivalry, you’ll see your child at his best. And when you’re not rushed or preoccupied, your child will see you at your best. In my books I call this ‘Special Time’ because it results in lovely times together.

3. One way to be a happier parent in 2019 is to devote more time and attention to the couple relationship. Every evening that you and your partner are both at home, as soon as the children are in bed, spend the next half-hour (or longer if you like) on what I call a ‘nightly half-hour date’. Leave the dinner dishes or that urgent email until later. Reconnecting with your partner is more important. Spend this precious half-hour enjoying yourselves as a couple.

The rules: no screens, no talking about problems or about the logistics of daily life, no talking about the children. What can you do instead? Here are some favourites that my clients have told me about: listening to music together, playing cards or board games or doing a crossword puzzle together, looking at old family photos and reminiscing, reading aloud to each other, telling jokes, planning your next holiday, exercising together—and of course cuddling.

This nightly half-hour habit will make you happier, and it will also help to build up your emotional stamina, enabling you to stay more positive, more firm and more consistent when dealing with the inevitable stresses of family life—and that will make you (and your children) happier as well.

4. Look carefully at each family flashpoint that feels stressful (mornings, mealtimes, bedtimes, homework, screen time, sibling interactions, etc) and decide on a few tweaks that you think will probably make things go more smoothly. In my books I suggest useful changes that parents can make to improve cooperation and self- reliance. Be willing to experiment with new ways of doing things for at least a month before you judge how well they’re working.

5. School day mornings are an example of a flashpoint that is often stressful, both for parents and for children. Research has shown that when mornings are less fraught, parents (and children) feel happier all day long, even though they may not realise why.

Wake up a bit earlier so that you have enough time to get yourself completely ready for the day ahead before the time your children need to be up. That way you can focus your attention on guiding them into sensible habits because you won’t be rushing, nagging or scowling. You may also need to get your children up earlier so that they have plenty of time to do everything they have to do at a pace that’s realistic for them at their current stage of maturity (or immaturity).

For happier mornings you will probably need to put them to bed earlier; paediatricians tell us that most children and teens aren’t getting enough sleep, which results in them being distractible or irritable in the morning, and not interested in a healthy breakfast.

You may like these ideas but be unsure how to put them into practice. Would you like some advice about how to make all this happen? To find out how the ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ resources and services can help you or your family, please browse our website or email: admin@calmerparenting.co.uk

We offer support materials (books, articles and audio CDs), parenting courses, workshops, private consultations (by Skype), family sessions, home visits, school visits and free introductory talks. For schools we offer parenting talks and teacher-training. Noel and her team welcome enquiries from parents and educators.

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