Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to deal with long lasting stress or crisis in the family?

How to deal with long lasting stress or crisis in the family?

It's a question which is often posed at meetings about autism and family life.
The answer is not only of use to families with autism though.
Everyone facing a stressful situation for a considerable amount of time can rely on these coping mechanisms.

Stress is not good.

The body has problems dealing with it, and people can experience long lasting consequences, up to post traumatic stress disorder and serious depression.
Stress can also change the social life of families and destroy firm bonds.

Stress also can have positive effects and it's up top the parents to guide the way family members react in such a way that it'll be a positive learning experience and the family grows closer together and each member learns something about his or herself.

Individual members react different to stress, according to their age, character and former experiences.
Young children imitate the behaviour of others and when they have a choice they'll imitate the behaviour they think will deliver the most positive results in getting attention, getting love and other positive effects.

Buying a gift for behaving nice will result in a child wanting to be paid of for good behaviour.
A hug and a compliment will result in more self esteem and self-confidence.

When children are able to copy behaviour, and when they understand it feels well to show good behaviour, they will internalise it. With other words, they will show it even in situations where no one is available to tell them what to do.

So talk to your children when you see things you want to change.
Don't tell them: "I don't like the way you behave now", but something like: "I see you're finding it difficult to deal with this. Let's sit down and find a way that makes it easier for you."
That way you can give your child options to chose from, and you will be surprised with the solutions your child can add to the list.

Talk about the situation with your family as a whole and with the individual members, so they can hear how others think about it, form their own opinions and exchange them.
Hearing how children view a crisis or a long lasting stressful situation can be very enlighting.
Setting the example and explaining that feeling victimized does only set one back and takes away energy will create strong people in the end.

Humor and relaxation helps.
Laughing about a situation enables someone to take a distance and see it relative to other life events. It also makes clear that even long lasting problems won't last forever.
Ofcourse never take people as the subject of laughter.

Humor helps people relax and it can form an entrance to find something to do for the whole family which is relaxing.
When you see that certain members can't relax, find something they enjoy.
Some just want a quiet evening reading a book, and they're just as happy when the others are away to watch a movie.

Use problem solving strategies.
Children can learn a lot from a crisis when parents are able to use problem solving strategies. Maybe they're not able to use it to solve the complete crisis, but elements of it can be tackled, thus creating intermediate relief.

Teach children to write down what the problem is they're facing.
That way you'll enable them to escape from drowning feelings and reflect on themselves and what's happening.
When you are able to formulate a desired outcome and the way to reach it in steps, you're teaching something valuable for their whole lives.
You can even use it as a way of teambuilding and team problem solving.

Engage in activities which generate stress which is of a lower level than the stress of the crisis or long lasting situation.

A family can be completely consumed in stress and it needs to be broken to enable the family members to stay healthy.

Not cleaning, but changing the bedroom, for example, can be a great way to change the stresslevel and turn negative stress into positive stress.
Find something that takes attention and creativity and has short term positive results.
Many children enjoy creative activities, and when you look on internet you can find enough to do. Make birdhouses, create an exposition of paintings by the whole familie for friends, etc etc.

When a crisis or stressful situation doesn't change don't hesitate to ask help.
Social workers, youth workers and teachers often have great ideas to help you forward.
Psychologists can help you deal with family dynamics.

When you strive for a positive approach a crisis or long lasting stressful situation can be very meaningful for individual growth and the bonds between family members.

And it's the best way to show those who causes the crisis and long lasting stress that your family needs to be treated with respect.
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