The Top Ten Stresses Families Manage

Delores Curran in her book Stress and the Healthy Family points out the top 10 stresses that affect everyday family life. However, just listing the stresses doesn’t begin to help us understand the complexity of the decisions between individual family members that are involved in family life. So, let’s look at the dynamics of family stress.

THE DYNAMICS OF FAMILY STRESS

Most families have more conflict and stress over individual expectations about an area of family life rather than the specific issues in the family.

A common family issue is television, yet is this an actual or perceived stress?

Even without a television, stress would remain because each of the family members perceives the use of time and have different expectations. What makes one member happy, stresses another. Is free time in the family, my time, our time or their time?  

The real underlying stress is not actually the television but a conflict about who makes the decision about free time. The individual? The couple? The family? The employer? A needed household chore? (Some families look at free time as time to clean and repair the car or home.)

The expectations about time usage comes from several sources: an individual’s perception of rights, one’s childhood or the media’s image of family.

A SAMPLE SITUATION

A hypothetical family might look like this:

Mom is unhappy because her dream of spending Sundays doing some shared family activities- a day at the beach, a trip to grandma’s or playing yard games; her real family is uninterested in sharing these activities.

Dad is unhappy because he expects Sunday to be “his” time after a long week at work. He finally has time to sit in his easy chair, read the paper and watch football.

The kids are unhappy because that wanted to play with the other kids in the neighborhood.

 TALKING ABOUT AND WORKING THROUGH EXPECTATIONS

The solution to this stressful family situation is not an easy one. The answer has 3 parts.

  1. The first part of the answer is for the family members to accept the fact that there is no answer that will please all members every Sunday.
  2. The next part of the answer is for each family member to examine and share their unspoken expectations.
  3. The final part of the answer is a change in attitude. Healthy families develop an attitude that says, “I care enough about your expectations and needs, that I am willing to give up some of mine.” Communication and compromise lead to a solution that meet the needs of each family member in achieving their preferences in a fair way. This shift in attitude helps strengthen family connections and unity. Different families will solve these different expectations in different ways. However, they work on a solution together.

COMMON REACTIONS OF FAMILIES WHO HANDLE STRESS EFFECTIVELY

  1. They recognize stress is temporary and can even be positive.
  2. They work together on solutions- building family skills and connections.
  3. They develop new family rules about prioritizing time and shared responsibilities.
  4. They look at stress as a normal part of family life not a sign of failure.
  5. They feel good about effectively dealing with the stressors together.

 COMMON REACTIONS OF FAMILIES WHO STRUGGLE HANDLING STRESS

  1. They feel guilty for allowing a stress to exist.
  2. They try to place blame rather than look for a solution to the problem.
  3. They give in to stress and give up trying to master it.
  4. They focus on the family’s problems rather than strengths.
  5. They feel weaker instead of stronger after experiencing normal stress.
  6. They grow to dislike family life due to built up stresses.

All families have reactions to stress from both lists; however, each family member can be a part of solving or lessening those normal family stresses by remembering those effective strategies listed above.

Ok, I’ve teased you long enough about the Top 10 Stresses Families Manage!

THE TOP 10 STRESSES FAMILIES MANAGE

  1. Economics / Finances / Budgeting
  2. Children’s Behavior / Discipline / Sibling Fighting
  3. Insufficient Couple Time
  4. Lack of Shared Responsibility in the Family
  5. Communicating with Children
  6. Insufficient “me” Time
  7. Guilt for Not Accomplishing More
  8. Spousal Relationship (Communication, Friendship, Intimacy)
  9. Insufficient Family Play Time
  10. Overscheduled Family Calendar

It’s interesting that Ms. Curran started with a list of 45 stresses and narrowed the survey down to 25 stresses for the survey that resulted in the Top 10 Stresses. You will see that the Top 10 Stresses differ for Married Women, Married Men and Single Mothers.

Next: The List of 25 Family Stresses and the Top 10 Ratings for Married Women, Married Men and Single Mothers.

Why Consider Faith in God, Jesus and Biblical Authority in our Spiritual Well-Being?

You might be asking, “What does all this talk about faith, God, Jesus and the Bible have to do with family connections?”

DEVELOPING OUR IDENITY

I have come to believe that as we develop our identity as a person and interact with other people, this topic of spiritual well-being is at the foundation of our understanding of ourselves and our relationships with each other in the family. We gain wisdom for life and relationships from the Bible. We find out who we are and how we belong with a worldview that includes God and Jesus.

IS THE WORLD AS IT SHOULD BE?

Why would I say that? I would challenge you to look at the world and ask the question, “Is the world as it should be or is there something wrong?” I believe you would be hard pressed to say the world is as it should be. So, what is wrong and how did it get that way?

LIFE FROM THE 35,000 FOOT VIEW

I would like you to join me in exploring your identity and family relationships from a different perspective. I would like us to zoom out and look at our lives and relationships from a 35,000-foot view.

Ok, here we are at 35,000 feet and looking at life. The first thing I notice is: There is good and evil; right and wrong; light and darkness; life and death. There appears to be two opposing forces in life.

This idea of opposing forces is explained differently in different cultures and based on the worldview you have embraced. I have been experiencing & studying the effects of these two opposing forces all my adult life, just as most of you have. I have had experiences from both forces. I have been wounded deeply by actions I have taken as well as actions of others toward me. I have wounded others with my actions, damaging important relationships in my life. I also have created healing in relationships in my life and have enduring friendships that have been life-giving and been healing to my wounds. Through all these experiences I have concluded, I want to be aligned with the good, the right, the light and life.

ALIGNING WITH THE GOOD, THE RIGHT, THE LIGHT AND LIFE

So how do I align with the good, the right, the light and life?

At the risk of sounding simplistic, there has been only one person in history that has told us how to align with the good, the right, the light and life. That person is Jesus Christ. Jesus said He came to give us life and demonstrated how to love the poor, the diseased even people with messy lives as well as enemies. He loved to the point of willingly putting himself in a position, as an innocent person to die a painful death for seemingly no reason and forgave those who killed him. His life and teachings can’t just be considered good teaching about life. Jesus doesn’t give us that option. He made many bold statements including this, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” He was either a liar, a lunatic or who he claimed to be.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

The final actions of Jesus to validate his divine nature was his resurrection from the dead, appearing to his disciples and ascending to heaven. There is no grave with the bone of Jesus to visit.

I will explore this further in future blog posts.

Next, we will explore the needs we all have and how to meet those needs.

Commitment to Family- Commitment to Marriage

WHO NEEDS MARRIAGE?

The first characteristic of commitment to family is marriage- the foundation of the family. Marriage is a man and woman committing to each other and choosing to have a child or children. The goodness and desirability of marriage was universal up until recent history. Marriage has been the foundational relationship that is the beginning of all civilizations.

Who needs marriage? This is a question we hear frequently today.

Timothy Keller, in his book, The Meaning of Marriage challenges the relatively recent minimizing of the value, goodness and relevance of marriage. Keller affirms the biblical account of the establishment of the marriage relationship.

OBJECTIONS TO MARRIAGE

Keller lists the objections to marriage which includes: marriage was originally about stabilizing peoples financial situation; marriage crushes individual identity and is oppressive toward women; marriage stifles passion and is ill-fitted to psychological reality and marriage is “only a piece of paper” that only complicates love. He goes on to say, “But beneath these philosophical objections lies a snarl of conflicting personal emotions, born out of many negative experiences with marriage and family life.”

MARRIAGE BREAKUPS

The statistics regarding divorce further document the lack of stability of marriages with the average couple marrying for the first time, the lifetime probability of divorce is around 40 percent. However, the large majority of divorces occur in those who marry before the age of 18, who have dropped out of high school, and who have had a baby before marrying.

IS LIVING TOGETHER THE ANSWER?

Therefore, many young adults have a wariness and pessimism about marriage that leads them to live together without marrying. Ironically, some research shows that 85% of the couples who live together without marrying will either break-up or divorce by the end of 10 years. The desire and choice to cohabit weakens your chance for a strong future marriage.

Many young people advocate cohabiting for several reasons: the assumption that marriage is a financial drain and they should own a home and be financially stable before marrying. However, the fact is there are financial benefits for marriage. Married men earn 10-40% more than single men with the similar education and job history. And continuously married couples have 75% more wealth at retirement than those who never married or those who divorced and did not remarry. Marriage provides higher levels of holding each other accountable by encouraging personal responsibility and self-discipline. Spouses can encourage saving, investment and delayed gratification better than the friends and other family members of those who are single.

Another reason for cohabiting is the perception that married couples are unhappy in their marriages. Surveys    show us that 60% of married couples rate their marriages as “very happy”. And longitudinal studies show us that “unhappy marriages” become “happy” within five years if they stay married and do not divorce.  

WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT COMMITMENT TO MARRIAGE?

Marriage has been a stabilizing factor in all societies throughout recorded time. The consensus in history as well as the teaching of all major religions and the accumulated empirical evidence of the most recent social science validates marriage as having substantial personal, social and societal benefits compared to remaining single or just living with someone.

MARRIAGE- MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS

Marriage helps the individuals recover from the traumas, disappointments and illnesses of life more effectively. In numerous international studies, married people on average report fewer signs of psychological distress and higher rates of emotional well-being than do unmarried or divorced individuals. A study following 14,000 American adults over a ten-year period found that marital status was one of the most important predictors of happiness. Married Americans were more than twice as likely as divorced or separated Americans to say they were very happy with life in general.

Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.

MARRIAGE- PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS

Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.

Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.

Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.

Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.

MARRIAGE- FAMILY BENEFITS

In “Power of the Family,” economists Alberto Alesina and Paola Giuliano conclude that families with stronger ties are likely to report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with their lives.

Children are most likely to enjoy family stability when they are born into a married family.

Family breakdown appears to increase significantly the risk of suicide.

Children raised by their own married mother and father are more likely to stay in school, have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and earn four-year college degrees.

Children raised by their own married mother and father are more likely to have positive attitudes towards marriage and greater success in forming lasting marriages.

MARRIAGE- SOCIAL BENEFITS

Being married changes people’s lifestyles and habits in ways that are personally and socially beneficial. Marriage is a “seedbed” of prosocial behavior.

Marriage generates social capital. The social bonds created through marriage yield benefits not only for the family but for others as well, including the larger society.

MARRIAGE- SOCIETAL BENEFITS

The biggest societal benefit to marriage is the impact it has on children. Studies show that children who grow up in married two-parent families have two to three times more positive life outcomes than those who do not.

Another societal benefit of marriage is the increases in financial and quality of life issues. Bradford Wilcox and Robert Lerman showed in their study that the decline in traditional two-parent married families is associated with rising income inequality, lower median incomes and lower labor force participation rates. Two parent married families earn 30% higher median family income.

In fact, States that have higher rates of two-parent married families are strongly correlated with more state GDP per capita, greater levels of upward economic mobility, lower levels of child poverty, and higher median family incomes.

The institution of marriage reliably creates the social, economic and affective conditions for effective parenting.

Next: Commitment to Family- Commitment to Each Individual

References

http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/NMP-BeforeIDoReport-Final.pdf. (n.d.).

https://brandongaille.com/43-statistics-on-cohabitation-before-marriage/. (n.d.).

https://www.forbes.com/sites/aparnamathur/2015/10/30/the-family-foundations-of-economic-growth/#727813ef2a9b. (n.d.).

Keller, T. (n.d.). The Meaning of Marriage.

https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/relationships-marriage-and-health#1

Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, 3rd edition http://www.americanvalues.org/catalog/pdfs/wmm3-30-conclusions.pdf

Marriage and Mental Health in Adults and Children W. Bradford Wilcox, Linda Waite, and Alex Roberts http://americanvalues.org/catalog/pdfs/researchbrief4.pdf