Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Manage kids’ extracurricular activities to lower family stress
Stress for Success

August 28, 2012

Remember when after-school activities were typically neighborhood kids playing whichever game with no adult supervision until their mothers called them for dinner?

Today it’s different: kids are enrolled in any and all classes they – or you the parent – have an interest in to provide those sweet darlings with skill building activities. Since most are after school, everyone hits the race-track to fit everything in.

Extracurricular activities are great as long as they don’t turn from an enjoyable challenge to stress. So limit activities, even if that means just one activity per season.

Extracurricular activities certainly benefit children. They:
• Build self-esteem;

• Help kids make new friends;

• Teach them how to be team players;

• Improve school performance;

• And importantly, keep kids from becoming inactive TV watchers and video game players, packing on the pounds as the sedentary years march by;

Consider these ideas to create a healthy lineup of activities for your kids, which will also help avoid burnout for all. Since you’re the parent and in charge (you are in charge, right?) make sure their schedule works for you, too.

1. Help your kids prioritize and choose activities that match their interests versus doing anything that looks exciting. Mostly, let them choose their own activities since pressuring them into something YOU’RE interested in may create tension.

Your answers to these questions can help decide which activities to sign up for. Is the activity:
• Meaningful? Would it be beneficial to your child now or later?

• Interesting to your child?

• Within your time and resources?

• Located in an area that fits your schedule?

2. Insist on one family day per week with no outside activities to build family time and to avoid burnout.

3. Start slow with new activities and encourage personal responsibility in choosing what to do. Instead of automatically buying the best equipment for a new endeavor simply because your son’s interested in the activity, require that he commit to a full class or season before upgrading the equipment. Have him demonstrate he’ll stick with it. This also keeps him from irresponsibly jumping in and out of activities willy-nilly.

4. Reduce commute time by choosing classes close by when possible, arranging carpooling where possible and running errands in that part of town when you drive.

5. Keep all kids’ commitments on a family calendar posted where all can see. List who’s doing what, where, when and how they’re getting there.

6. Look for signs of boredom and stress: does he procrastinate on practicing or even attending? Does he worry excessively about it? Find out why. Speak with his instructor to gain additional insight into the worth of the activity for him.

7. Adapt involvements as your children mature to accommodate increased commitments elsewhere.

Kids, like adults, can’t do it all; that’s why prioritizing is important. And never underestimate the importance of kids playing with kids with no supervision. It offers skills supervised activities don’t. And, not every moment of their “free time” needs to be scheduled.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hotheads often blow up because of unrealistic expectations
Stress for Success

August 14, 2012

A supervisor I had during college was a good guy but had the temperament of an angry 4-year-old. He pitched fits at the drop of a hat. Shortly after yelling at someone he’d act normally toward her oblivious to her seething.

This is typical of many hotheads. Minutes after they explode they’re fine again wondering why you’re still upset.

Another commonality is that some chronically angry people are unassertive, building up reservoirs of frustration and anger to be dumped onto someone who triggers their temper. Then, watch out!

If you’re chronically angry and would like to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, not to mention improve your relationships, here are three steps to better manage your temper.

First, become much more consciously aware that you’re uncomfortable with your temper. This is required to motivate you to do the hard work of change.

A married couple developed a tiresome dance of anger over their 25-year relationship. She’s a smothering-mothering-type wife who continually tells her husband what to do, which is met by his angry outbursts. They’re very uncomfortable to be around.

Recently he became more conscious of his angry reactions. He learned, after yelling at her, to back his way out of his attack. This growing awareness gave him more power to change future angry reactions.

To increase awareness, become an observer of yourself. Notice when your blood pressure shoots up in anger and notice others’ reactions to your outbursts. You don’t need to change anything yet. Just observe. The more conscious you become the easier it will be to ultimately change your behavior.

Second, determine if your expectations in the situation are realistic. Anger is often triggered by unmet expectations. Those with hair-trigger tempers usually have very unrealistic expectations.

The husband above expects his wife to stop mothering and smothering. She’s in her 60s; do you think she’s going to change? Why does he continue to expect something different? He increases his stress by continuing to expect something beyond his control.

Finally, always bring the solution for a given stressor back to yourself. Restate what you want in a way that’s within your control to get. Instead of hoping she’ll change, he needs to develop a goal that’s within his control like accepting her as she is and being more assertive with her. This implies his options include:

• Breaking his angry retaliation habit;

o Looking for humor in their interaction style could help;
• Asserting himself with her vs. yelling at her, requesting she not mother him;
• Divorcing her if her smothering is a divorceable issue;

All your emotions are your responsibility to manage. As long as you blame outside forces (people or situations) for your feelings and reactions, you’ll never be in charge emotionally. You’ll also lack the ability to change your ineffectual ways; a very powerless and stressful way to live.

Increasing awareness of your anger and adjusting your expectations also help you see additional options for handling your difficult situations, improving your heart health along the way.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.