Smart Parenting: A burden shared is a burden less

2011/02/19

ZAID MOHAMAD

zaid@smartparents.com.my

THE nation was shocked yet again by two cases of suicide killings by parents of their children. In the first case, a young mum allegedly tossed her five-year-old daughter from a five-storey building. In the second, two young siblings were believed to have been fed poison by their mother.

As a parent myself, I found these cases disturbing as killing one’s own children is about the most unimaginable thing a person can do. There must be some strong reason why they did the unthinkable. These cases show that running a family can be a highly stressful affair if the negative aspects of life are not nipped in the bud.

In both cases, the incidents were committed by mothers who were reportedly showing signs of depression long before the tragedy struck.

Many factors can contribute to depression — marital problems, financial difficulties, work or medical issues. These will affect most people in one way or another. It will be a tough battle to face these alone. In fact, no one should be a lone fighter if he or she has a family.

Physical burdens

There are many ways how a family can work together to spread the burden. Physical burdens, like doing household chores, must be shared fairly, especially if both parents are working. The father can lead by example, by helping the mother in the house.

Yes, it requires effort from the father since the alternatives — watching television, reading the papers or simply not doing anything after a hard day at work — are too tempting.

But helping out is for the good of the family. A stressed and tired mum is not beneficial to anyone. She would usually let out her frustrations by nagging, scolding or even abusing the kids.

Kids also must be taught to take on basic responsibilities as early as possible. Again, parents can, together, initiate, discuss, agree and enforce some sort of workable schedule at home, for example, a duty roster.

Besides distributing the burdens, this can go a long way towards instilling discipline and the spirit of teamwork into the young minds.

Appreciate the little efforts by family members to chip in. Based on my experience, even the little ones want to be part of it all after seeing parents and older siblings working together harmoniously.

Don’t expect perfection, though. Just appreciate their little gestures as a sign that they also appreciate your hard work and wish to reduce your burden.

Emotional burdens

Sharing physical burdens is somewhat easier, emotional burdens are a little tricky.

Not everyone is ready and willing to share their feelings with another. This is especially true in sensitive matters such as relationship conflicts. We can’t just go around telling others about the fights we have had with our spouse, or how much we were hurt by someone’s words or action.

Work expectations can also cause emotional problems — pressing deadlines, a demanding boss, boring routines or difficult tasks, all have their way of messing with our emotions, leading to stress and frustrations which may affect our relationship with the family.

If you think that these can happen only to adults, think again. Our children, especially teenagers, are also vulnerable to emotional turmoil in their growing years.

Take action

Experts generally agree that such burdens are harmful if not addressed. So it’s important to find the remedy before they manifest into destructive behaviour, as presumably happened to the two mothers.

There are many ways people can lessen the load on their shoulders.

First, start with self-rationalisation. Are we the one at fault? Did we unintentionally do or not do something to cause the problem? If the answer is “yes”, then we have to acknowledge our mistake and apologise to the concerned party. If our apology is sincere, things will quickly return to normal.

Second, we can share the burden by talking to a trusted friend or relative. Choose the person carefully — he or she must be someone who doesn’t have any personal interest in the situation. Be careful not to badmouth the other person or situation, but focus on sharing our feelings and finding the solution. If done well, we will find that the burden will quickly disappear and we’re ready to think rationally again.

Once this is achieved, the next step is to face the person we have conflicts with directly. It’s critical that both parties are in the right frame of mind, rational rather than emotional. Postpone the meeting if one party is not ready.

If the situation gets out of hand, we may need to seek professional help.

Fortunately, most emotional burdens can be effectively dealt with without having to go to the extreme. All we need to do is to learn to see the signals.

When the people we love start becoming moody or angry often, they are showing that all is not right. Offer to share their burdens by lending an ear or shoulder. Be supportive, not judgemental. Quickly find the root cause and be ready to address it. Give time to heal, but always be there as needed.

And acknowledge that everyone — our spouses, kids, even us — faces emotional burdens from time to time. This is just a normal part of any relationship.

Prevention is better than cure

The best way to deal with both physical and emotional burdens is to proactively avoid them. Start sharing the workload around the house. Find the best way and the right time to help all understand the importance of doing so. Occupy time with fulfilling activities. Use lots of loving gestures.

Forgive and forget. Choose to be happy now as life is too short. Recognise the symptoms and rediscover how beautiful life can be.

The writer is a certified parental coach and author of two best-selling books, Smart Parents, Brighter Kids and Smart Parents, Richer Kids. Find out how you or your organisation can help other needy parents through his latest corporate programmes. Log on to www.SmartParents.com.my or write to him at zaid@smartparents.com.my

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