A Safe Haven
Many people feel the world is in chaos now. Looking at newspaper headlines, CNN, the covers of magazines at the checkout counter, and the Internet news , almost anyone would agree. Globally, it seems we are in intense stress. As Americans, we are bombarded daily with information about the potential of terrorist activity and the threat of war. We are encouraged to buy emergency supplies for our homes; we are being told to make disaster readiness plans in case of a terrorist attack. Each day, when we hear the news, most of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop, and another calamity to hit us blindsided.
Somewhere in all of this, we must find a safe haven. We must find a way to create a place that is comfortable and peaceful where we can relax. We need to make a peaceful place in our lives and the lives of our children where everyone can feel calm and connected. Our homes can be that place-a haven of peace for our families. It is the attitude and the conscious choices the members of a family bring to a home that actively make it peaceful.
In this article you will discover some easy-to-do ways to make your home a haven and a place of peace-all without spending any money or creating more stress in your already hectic life.
1. Take Stock
Take a look around you. What is it about your home that makes you feel happy and peaceful and what is it that makes you feel stressed? Make a mental checklist (or write it down) of what is not working in your home. These can be items you can see, (dirty towels everywhere, too many newspapers unread, seems too dark) or items you feel, (no one is ever home at the same time, we don't talk at all anymore, people are not getting along).
Now, consider the positive. Items you see, (nice relaxing colors in the living room, lots of plants, great games and toys for the kids to play with) and things you feel, (family projects makes it easy for us to all get together, we manage to eat dinner together on Sunday, reading the kids a bedtime story seems to relax them). Now that you have taken stock of the current situation in your home you are ready to decide what kinds of changes you can make to create a feeling of more peace and relaxation. You are ready to make your home a haven.
2. Talk About It
There isn't a perfect way to make your home more peaceful-just like anything else, there is a little experimenting you will need to do. To begin with, discuss the idea of making your home a haven with your spouse and your kids. Talk with them about what makes them feel stressed at home and what makes them feel comfortable, and listen to their concerns and the things they appreciate. Have everyone make a list of pros and cons and talk about what is practical. It might not be sensible to agree with your children that they should no longer have to do homework because they say it is stressing them out. However, it might be possible for them to take more breaks while they work, or begin their homework after a short video game break. Children need to come back from their day and unwind as much as parents do. Sometimes even more, because children lack the coping skills in many situations that most adults take for granted.
3. Get Creative
Getting creative might just be a change in attitude. Or it could be an idea to do something different. One mother I know decided to say "yes" to her children's requests at least twice a day. She told me that she had begun, through habit of her own stress, to always say no to everything. She feels like her more relaxed attitude is helping her children to relax, too.
Another family trying the same plan decided to create a weekly pizza and games night. Interestingly, this idea wasn't the brainchild of the adults in the family, but of a ten-year-old girl who told her parents she felt like she needed to have more fun with them. Changing the patterns of stress and replacing them with new patterns that make people feel more peaceful doesn't have to be complicated. It can and should be simple and fun.
4. Try Something New
In many families, less-than-healthy routines are the culprit in what makes them feel uncomfortable and stressed at home. Maybe the routine is to always have a fast-food dinner and sit in front of the television at night. Often routines like this get started because of the incredible over-scheduling and exhaustion that plague many families. One solution that works is to reexamine schedules and decide practically if your family is over-booked. Many times children are the most overscheduled. Perhaps it isn't necessary to play three sports or join so many clubs. Consider allowing children one or two unscheduled evenings a week to do the almost unimaginable-hang out. And that goes for parents, too. Does everyone have to work late? Can you bring work home? Sometimes pulling back a little from the normal routine is a great stress reducer.
5. Let Everyone Contribute
An important idea behind making your home a haven is to let everyone in your family have a voice. Remember that each person has his or her own idea of what a peaceful place looks like. A three-year-old might want to have more time to watch Barney tapes, a 10-year-old might want to have special time to make cookies with Mom, and a 16-year-old might want more trust. You might need more alone time and your spouse might want the family to get away to camp more often. Consider everyone's opinions when deciding what works for your family. When everyone has a voice, there is more commitment to see this through and stay with positive changes.
6. Create Rituals
Rituals we can count on bring us joy and a sense of family unity. Most of us have some holiday rituals, but sometimes adding one or two new rituals can make being a part of a family more important and special to its members. When you think about your own childhood, what are rituals you remember? Maybe it was the ritual of eating together at the dining room table; maybe it was the ritual of the bedtime story. Why not think of something new to increase your family's sense of unity and togetherness. Consider some of the following ideas:
- Share good news. Have everyone tell a bit of good news to the rest of the family every night as a nightly ritual.
- Share the love. Make valentines for each family member and have a valentine exchange. (This can happen once a month, not just on Valentine's Day.)
- Share yourselves. Work together to help someone disadvantaged; adopt a needy family, or contribute time monthly at a homeless shelter.
- Share your ideas. Let everyone pick an obscure holiday and decide how the family will celebrate together.
- Share time together. Carve out special time for each child and do something together that you both enjoy. Use this time to focus on your child and hear what he or she is thinking.
- Share your spirit. Pray as a family or share good thoughts about one another around the table nightly.
7. Save Your Memories
Don't overlook the idea that it is fun and loving to remember and store good memories. As you begin some new peace rituals in your family take a few pictures or make a video recording of everyone's good thoughts about each other. Document the love in your family and then every once in a while get together and look at it. Relive the good times you have created. Doing this creates another loving moment that comes from the continuity of acknowledging your shared love.
8. Leave a Legacy of Peace
Finally, making your home a haven of peace will do more than improve your daily lives, it will forever change the way your children see the world and understand and model the idea of family. You can build connectedness in your family and a feeling of safety and safe haven just by paying attention to it. All you are doing is making a conscious effort to celebrate and explore the love you already share for the people you call-your family.
Dr. Caron Goode is an author and inspirational speaker. Sign up for her free online parenting magazine at www.inspiredparenting.net.