7 Secrets of Low-Stress Families

Photo Credit: JupiterimagesPhoto Credit: JupiterimagesWhat did researchers see when they spied on every living, breathing moment of 32 families for four days straight? Fights, bribes, hugs, eye rolls, and some amazing truths about how we can all live more happily together.

Researches found that getting a glimpse into the lives of other families gives us a unique perspective on how to better take care of our own. Use what they learned to calm stress and create joy in your house.

1. Low-stress couples don't divvy up the chores.
"Surprisingly, it didn't matter how evenly couples split up the chores," says lead researcher Tami Kremer-Sadlik, Ph.D., director of research at UCLA's Center on the Everyday Lives of Families. "We found that both spouses were happier when both felt like they were working toward the same goal, regardless of who did more" (and women did more across the board). Know that just talking about your joint mission for the family can eliminate much of the "keeping score" conflict.
Read more about how to split up responsibilities for lower stress levels here.

2. Low-stress families find small moments of togetherness.
"I think a lot of us have this idea that we need to create big moments of togetherness, but we saw so many times that families had opportunities to connect throughout the day that they weren't aware of," Kremer-Sadlik says. "I remember one moment when a daughter and mom were folding laundry, and the daughter stuck her foot in a sock and challenged her mom to find her foot among the pile of laundry," she recalls. "It was a loving moment of laughing and playing around in the midst of daily life."
Learn how to find these small delightful moments with your family here.

3. Low-stress parents are role models - not pals.
Treating your partner with respect is not only good for your marriage - it also actually affects the whole family dynamic. "When spouses showed patience and support, as opposed to being impatient, sarcastic, or critical, their children were more respectful toward them, and the smoother the households ran," Kremer-Sadlik says of her findings from a previous study. "Their mini goals throughout the day, such as getting dinner on the table or finishing homework, ran more smoothly and more pleasantly."
Find quick and easy organizing tips here.

4. Low-stress moms make dinner from scratch.
Believe it or not, using processed convenience foods for dinner doesn't actually save you cooking time. That's what really surprised 39-year-old mom and researcher Margaret Beck, whose focus for the study was food preparation. "All the families spent roughly one hour preparing dinner, whether they used processed foods or fresh ingredients," she says. And if you want your children to eat what's on the table: "The kids who assisted in the food preparation always ate what was served," Beck says.
Get a list of Kid-Friendly Recipes here.

5. Low-stress moms take five minutes of me time.
There's a secret to being fully present and enjoying family life after a demanding day at work: "The findings suggested that when women unwound alone for 5 or 10 minutes, it set a positive tone for the rest of the night," says researcher Shu-wen Wang, who helped review more than 1,540 hours of footage.

6. Low-stress families watch TV together.
If you feel guilty every time your family plops in front a television after a long day rather than doing something more interactive, don't sweat it. "Families who watched TV together showed many bonding behaviors," Campos says. So on days where you just can't muster the energy to recruit the kids for crazy 8's or kickball in the yard, know that a little TV time can be good for your family too.
Quiz: What's Your Mom Personality?

7. Low-stress families embrace daily rituals.
"I used to believe that spontaneity and excitement were what kept couples connected, but it's truly the routine and continuity that set the foundation for making family relationships thrive," Wang says. "Whether it was a couple sitting down at the end of the day with a cup of coffee or parents reading a bedtime story to their children, these little moments are what make family life so comforting and kept couples close."


By Nicole Yorio

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