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Don't Let Hectic Schedules Interfere with Family Cohesiveness

Friday, September 1, 2023

A family watching as a young boy rides a bicycle.


With children back in the classroom and schedules ramping up, it can be tough juggling the multiple demands families are facing. As people navigate the waters of these hectic schedules, it’s a good time to take stock of what is needed to be a successful family.


Matt Brosi, Oklahoma State University Extension family sciences specialist, said it’s more than scheduling sports practices, obtaining the right school supplies or attending PTA meetings.


“Now is a good time to truly step back and look carefully at what we need from and within our family relationships to thrive under the pressure of busy schedules,” Brosi said. “It’s vital to look at how we as individuals can prepare, how we can prepare in our intimate relationships and what we can do as a family system to become more ready to tackle the changes.”


It’s important for parents to have clarity over what they can control and what they can’t, all while maintaining flexibility to adapt to changes that will come. Brosi said getting organized, setting clear, meaningful and attainable goals, as well as prioritizing demands can help people stave off the feelings of being overwhelmed by the pressure. 


“When a person feels pressured to continually give without reprieve or reciprocity it can lead to eventual burnout,” he said. “Learning to communicate more effectively with others is a proactive measure that can keep emotions from boiling over and leading to emotional reactivity. This results in saying things we often don’t mean, or perhaps we do mean but wish we hadn’t said it so harshly.”


There is something to be said for taking care of mental, emotional and physical needs. Maintaining perspective and logical thinking helps to separate issues as all or nothing, thus triggering a survival stance.


Brosi said being aware of maladaptive coping is also important and recognizing some of our reactions, such as emotional eating, using substances or binge-watching television, aren’t helpful. This awareness may help us engage in more adaptive and helpful coping mechanisms. One of the best ways to deal with stress and subsequent mental health issues is to get adequate sleep.


“Couples tend to thrive when they both prioritize their relationship. Even after marriage, dating one another helps maintain that feeling of connection and care,” he said. “Don’t put off difficult conversations. Having those conversations helps couples feel productive and growing rather than stagnant and disconnected. Talking about feelings of disappointment rather than blaming keeps things moving forward as opposed to breeding defensiveness.”


As a family unit, it’s important for parents to be active in parenting their children and spending time together in meaningful ways. This helps kids feel grounded and connected. Take a walk together after dinner or go on a family bike ride to the park. Show your children that they are important to you.


Continuing family traditions, or creating new ones for your family, facilitates value, togetherness and predictability. These all are factors in maintaining a healthy family.


“Regular mealtimes together at the table – without cell phones within reach; everyone sharing about their day, including the highs and lows; and sharing family fun time together are just a few examples of building family cohesion,” Brosi said.

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