Thursday, 04 June 2015 14:43

Coping with Family Stress

Written by  Nancy W. Thomas
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Most of us have had the experience of family life becoming hard to manage at one time or another due to finances, career difficulties, demands of children, or marital conflict.  The tension in the family builds and children begin to squabble about everything, nothing gets done, and you feel guilty for not being able to function in complete bliss.  Does this sound familiar?

Family stress is different from other forms of stress because of the intensity of the relationships involved.  Much like a mobile over a baby’s crib each member affects the rest of the family.  Children are most vulnerable to stress and trauma in the first five years of their lives.  The stress they experience, but may not remember, may impact their functioning for the rest of their lives.


While some stress is motivating, living continually at your peak level of stress is unhealthy and causes biological, neurological, and psychological changes that lead to medical and psychological illness and addictive behaviors.  New research indicates that even low intensity but high frequency stress has been found to alter our ability to function the way God created us.  We become highly reactive to minor inconveniences, triggers and conflicts as a result of stress.


Why do families differ in their ability to cope with stress?  Families who cope well with stress think and behave differently than those who do not cope well. 



Romans 12:11-13 (NIV)

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

Share with the Lord’s people who  are in need. Practice hospitality.



Families who cope effectively with stress share five key beliefs:


•  Faith and a positive belief system offset worries or fears.  Believing that things will eventually work out for the glory of God is a belief that helps us endure challenges.

•  There is opportunity for personal growth through the pain of change.  Scripture is full of examples of how believers grew through persecution.

•  Participating in Christian fellowship and positive relationships provide continuity and support in a chaotic life.  Families are strengthened and nurtured by participating in regular worship activities.

•  Recognition that the pursuit of individual interests and talents is not selfish but creates normalcy and relieves stress, particularly for the children and caregivers. 

•  Confidence in clergy, doctors, and counselors who help families cope with stress.  They are not afraid to reach out to those who are trained to support them.



Families who cope effectively with stress share five key behaviors:

•  They talk about their feelings with someone they trust.

•  They maintain healthy coping skills like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, spending time with friends, praying regularly, reading an uplifting book or a daily devotional and getting enough sleep.

•  They put effort into solving the problems which can give a sense of self-determination, pride, and self-esteem.  They remain open to opportunities provided by our heavenly Father who gives us hope.

•  They take time to understand what is happening to the family.  Research online, the library, or join a support group.  If necessary consider the services of a professional.  The more you understand, the better you will cope.

•  They learn what it takes to manage any special needs.  Assume that your needs and the needs of your family are important and worth caring for no matter how challenging or inconvenient.  Come up with a plan rather than leave caring for family up to chance. 



Research shows that as affluence, relocation away from family and isolation have increased in modern life, the care and nurturing provided by living among extended family and friends has been reduced, making it more difficult for us to recover from stress and trauma.  This is all the more reason to belong to a faith community that can provide some of the support no longer available by extended family members.



1 Peter 4:8-10 (TLB)

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults. 

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay for the night.



God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.


Let us keep the faith and care for one another with these special abilities through Christian hospitality and fellowship, which makes all of the burdens of this earth easier to bear. 



Nancy W. Thomas, M.A., N.C.C., C.C.M.H.C., L.P.C.

Nancy Thomas is the Executive Director of Clinical Services at The Samaritan Counseling Center, Inc. in Montgomery. She is a National Certified Counselor, Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor. She graduated from the University of Alabama with an M.A. in Counselor Education in 1994. She has extensive training and experience in mental health and marriage and family therapy. Her professional interests are in mental health recovery, adolescent and college issues,  life transitions, healthy relationships, marital counseling, parenting,




Last modified on Monday, 15 June 2015 14:48
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