The Family Project: Balancing work, child-care a full-time job
Q. My husband and I work full-time. After school, it is always a scramble to pick-up and drop-off for activities, and find time to feed my three children, 8, 10 and 13. Then it’s the evening routine with homework, etcetera. We all get tired and impatient when there is any glitch that throws off our schedule. How can I have more patience?
“How to be more patient isn’t the way to phrase the question,” panelist Mike Ramsey said. “The question should be ‘How do I deal better with stress?,’” Ramsey said.
A related question, Ramsey said, is: “How do we communicate with each other when we are under stress?” Ramsey said children respond to their parents’ stress by adding more stress to an already stressful situation.
Part of what is needed, panelist Chad Stefanyak suggested, are family discussions where the parents can explain about stress. “We all react in ways we shouldn’t, so we all need to be more understanding of each other.”
“The conversation should happen on a Sunday evening, watching the Disney Channel with chips and pretzels,” panelist Mike Daniels said, thinking back to his own childhood when that was how his family held important discussions. “They can acknowledge their busy lives, but observe, ‘Isn’t it nice to sit and chill? Maybe we can do this once a week,’” Daniels said.
The panel agreed that the parents need to plan some downtime into the schedule, which may mean taking a look at what they do.
Panelist Denise Continenza said the family members should ask themselves, “How are we spending our time? Are we overscheduled?”
“There is a tendency to be involved in things just to keep up with the Joneses,” panelist Mike Ramsey said, “and not to allow for downtime.”
Panelist Pam Wallace recommended taking a look at the children’s activities, and considering why they are doing what they are doing. “What are the goals?” Wallace asked.
“The schedule needs to be flexible,” panelist Wanda Arroyo-Mercado said. “Be creative looking for support like sharing pick-up and drop-off tasks with another parent. Also, look at expectations. Ask if everything has to be done, and what can the kids do to help?”
One of the things that seems to cause stress are meals, Ramsey said. “Get the children involved in helping takes a little of the burden off of mother. Certainly, the 13-year-old could help with dinner. Each child could be given a responsibility for something mom usually has to do.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, and Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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