Parents’ Guide to Handling Chaos
by Linda De Carvalho
Today’s families are crazy busy! They complain that their time is maxed out and don’t know how they will get everything done. It’s difficult to find a day that doesn’t have a packed schedule filled with work, school, sports, homework, and many other activities that can strain relationships and dig into quality time together. Parents find themselves wearing many hats as they run around at lightning speed acting as taxi drivers, coaches, tutors, maids, mediators, referees, personal shoppers, and so much more. As time gets tight and things get rushed or forgotten, the pressure mounds on family members and chaos begins. It’s no wonder that tempers flare, fights break out, and tears flow.
Mom and dads have always had too much to do. But let’s get real, times are different now. Gone are the days that we might find neighborhood kids playing a leisurely baseball game in an empty lot as mom spends hours on a home cooked meal. Today’s challenges seem to escalate as family members push and pull to equalize the time devoted to their own various and seemingly endless needs. That’s when it can get real ugly, emotions run high, and chaos takes over.
Here are a few tips to help manage the chaos and give you the confidence to say, “I got this!”:
- Realize that chaos is normal. Every family has its share of madness from time to time. Whether someone forgot to walk the dog, somebody left a trail of muddy footprints all over the house, or a guilty party ate all the brownies for the open house—stuff happens. Learn to accept that reality so that when it happens, you’ll be more in control.
- Take a step back. Once you feel the pot of emotions are about to boil and the kids start yelling at each other, stop and observe. Don’t find yourself being a part of the shouting match and arguing points back and forth, which only escalates the tension.
- Establish rules for fighting. Truth be told, sometimes it’s best to let all parties let their feelings out and try to “discuss” the issues. Just make sure there are rules to follow that are designed to respect each other’s perceptions and that allows all parties to express themselves without fear of ridicule. For example, one effective rule is to not allow any name calling or personal insults that have no bearing on the discussion. Make family members stay on topic, give examples, and offer a reasonable solution. And don’t forget to enforce the “no interruption” rule.
- Divide and conquer. When things are too hot to handle, it may be best to stop the boxing match and separate the fighters! Suggest kids go to their room to cool down before making any decisions. Talk to each of them separately to learn what’s really bothering them and to help formulate next steps, if any.
- Think positive. Challenge family members to find the silver lining and what good can come of the obstacle/issue they’re facing. You may be surprised at what comes from the power of positive thinking.
- Remember your role. Sometimes being a parent is no fun. But being a parent is critical to keeping a family household in order. Resist the temptation of being “too cool” and trying to be your children’s friend as this can blur the lines of authority and confuse your kids. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play games, read together, sing and dance, or just have a good laugh. Just be sure your words and actions are consistent with being a parent.
- Plan to make time. In order to have time set aside for anything, you will have to plan for it. You may have to sacrifice another activity, like going to the gym, to bring the family together and do something meaningful. Maybe you want to plan a time to do crafts together to help decorate the house for the upcoming season. Or maybe just getting out of the house and finding a wonderful place to hike together will help family members enjoy each other’s company. Whatever you do, you’ll create memories of a lifetime while you’re at it! The idea is to break away from the hectic routine of daily life to allow family members to bond in the experience.
- Have fun! When appropriate, try to make light of situations when the going gets tough. Is there a joke in there somewhere? Remember that laughing out loud is good for the body and the soul.
As a parent, you may have tips of your own to add to this list! Exploring the options of how best to deal with a family crisis ahead of time will make you and your family more prepared to deal with the chaos.