Secrets of Stress-Free Family Time
Here's how to downshift from a busy day so you can relax and reconnect with the ones you love.
By Jennifer Matlack
Here's how to downshift from a busy day so you can relax and reconnect with
the ones you love.
The first 10 minutes after you arrive home set the tone for the whole
night. It's been a long, hectic, exhausting day, and all you want to do is
wash your stress away with a hot, foamy bath or some mindless TV. But you
can't, of course. You've got to start the evening shift at home. And when
you're feeling frazzled and tired, switching gears to reconnect with your
family isn't so easy. "After a tough day, you're worn thin and on the verge of
losing it with your kids," notes Ingrid Schweiger, Ph.D., a family therapist in
New York City. But blowing your top could mean blowing family time altogether,
she says, because research shows that the first 10 minutes after you walk
through the door at night determine the tone and outcome of the rest of your
You can make it through the witching hour without becoming a witch, however, if
you take the time to re-enter family life the right way. First, show your
husband and kids that you're there for them — say hello, make eye contact, hug
them, kiss them. Then, grab a moment just for you, Schweiger suggests: "Change
your clothes, sit down somewhere — whether it's the bathroom or your walk-in
closet — and for two minutes visualize a peaceful evening with your family."
You'll be calmer, cooler, and genuinely ready to really be with your
husband and kids.
What to do next? Here, 10 women share their creative ideas for easing back into
family life after a difficult day:
Break the Rules
"Every now and then, we have 'backward night.' We skip homework (putting it
off until the next morning), put on our pj's, and play board games until my
husband comes home from work. For dinner, we have pancakes, scrambled eggs,
sausage, and orange juice. Afterward we grab blankets, snuggle on the sofa, and
watch DVDs. It gives us all a chance to let go of the rules for a short period
of time and relax together. It also creates really great family memories."
—Michele Dortch, 36, Glendale, AZ; mom to Chanelle, 8, Peyton, 6, and Legend,
"When I'm supertired, I stretch out on the living room floor and let my kids
climb all over me. My two younger children especially love this. Being down on
the ground with them keeps me from even being able to look at the things that
need to get done, like the stack of mail on the table that needs sorting. I'm
more present, and my kids sense that. My focus is on them and the closeness
we're sharing. Plus, I get to lie down for a little while!" —Bernadette Noll,
44, Austin, TX; mom to Lucy, 11, Otto, 9, Esme, 6, and Dean, 2