How to Create More Joy in Your Family & Stop Spreading Negative Energy
When you're overwhelmed with the endless day-to-day responsibilities of life, it's easy spread negative vibes to your family and focus on the bad instead of the good. For one mom, it took a near-meltdown in an Apple Store to realize this and turn around her behavior—and her way of thinking.
Moms, do you ever feel so overwhelmed by the piled up yuckiness in life that you don’t know how you are making it through the day, but don’t have time to self-evaluate and take time for emotional health? We can live on autopilot and in “go go go” mode so much that sometimes it takes a slap in our faces (metaphorically) to realize we need to take inventory of how we are living our everyday lives. My wake-up call came in the form of an Apple Store Genius, who played the role of therapist to me the other day.
My wake-up call
Just like most moms, my life has been stressful lately. I have had family challenges—we are moving, plus juggling work responsibilities and home life, tasks and to-dos were causing sadness and stress that were overtaking my happiness. Most of my work is on my computer, so when it started not to operate correctly, I began to freak out a little (okay maybe a lot)! I drove straight to the Apple Store, marched directly up to the Genius Bar, waited an hour, and finally spoke to my Genius. When I began to insist that my trackpad no longer worked and to express how frustrated I was that I could no longer click and drag whatever I needed, I was passionately demonstrating and explaining all the work I had to do that required clicking and dragging.
The sweet guy helping me gently put his hand on my shoulder looked down at my shoeless 1-year-old in the stroller covered in ice cream (the bribe I gave her to stay quiet), then looked over at my 6-year-old playing on the iPad with hair that hadn’t been brushed in probably two days, and then looked back and me with kind eyes and asked, “have you been stressed lately?”. Whaaaaat?! Me? No, I handle everything, I’m not stressed. I responded, “Why do you ask,” with a defensive, offended tone. He said that there is a gentle touch needed to use the drag feature and I was using too much force. It was a Ghost (the movie) moment but without the romance! He placed his hand on mine, and we practiced lightly touching the trackpad as opposed to the push with angst I had been giving it.
Embarrassingly, it took a while for me to take a breath and re-learn to touch the trackpad lightly. Nothing was wrong with the trackpad, it was my anxiety and stress coming out through the way I was treating my innocent laptop. I asked if they see this issue a lot. He said mostly moms come in with the same problem. We had a good laugh, and I admitted to a rough time lately and thanked him for his therapy session.
Working towards a fix
This made me take inventory of how I was living my everyday life. If my computer was feeling my anxiety, how were my kids affected? As someone who has lost loved ones at a young age, I understand the importance of finding joy in every moment of life and appreciating the little things, but I don’t always practice that. I need these funny eye openers to remind myself to live in the moment and not allow the challenges of life to dictate my happiness, especially when it impacts my sweet kiddos.
Let’s face it, the older we get, the more we have going on in our lives. Life can be challenging, but we have a choice in how we will face both the good days and the bad days. I did a little self-survey and I asked myself: do I remember what my six-year-old said to me after school yesterday when I picked her up? Did I forget what book I read to the kids three days ago before bed? Do I remember my favorite part of our weekend? How is my teen doing in his math class at the moment? I couldn’t answer any of the questions because my mind has been preoccupied with the cares of life instead of living in the precious moments that I will never get back. How do I remember to stay present and find joy in the mundane and often challenging parts of life?
My closest friend of 20 years, Angie Wooldridge, of Illuminate My Life, has spent her entire adult life encouraging people to enjoy everyday life like folding laundry, making dinner, budgeting, and all that the mom job description entails. What will our kids remember about their childhood? The little moments are often more special than the big ones. She is always encouraging, and has taught her four little girls (all under age eight!) how to love life— a fantastic gift to give our kids. Since I am apparently not on top of my happy game, I asked her for some insights:
“Remember you are the example for your kids,” she said. “Show them it is possible to find joy in the little things each day. If you want your kids to experience joy every day, you get to go first. If you are struggling with joy in your home, begin with you. You as the parent are the lid. If you are not experiencing joy, it's a good chance your children are not able to as well. But the good news is, you can change and go on a journey of discovering great joy in parenting. It may be a battle, but trust me, it's worth it! Fight for your joy, and you and your whole family will benefit!”
What the children think
Angie and I asked our eight kids, how they experience joy every day. Here are a few of their sweet answers:
- Have a good attitude
- Sing while doing your chores
- Choose to be happy
- Enjoy sitting on your sidewalk
- Make a picture in your mind of what you want an outcome to look like and keep working until the image in your mind is real life
- Enjoy the flowers
- Relax in your backyard with a good book
- Having a best friend
- Being active
- My family
- Exploring new things
- Sharing makes you happy
- Enjoy your view
- Listen to the birds singing outside
- Go for a walk and enjoy the view and fresh air
Making an actionable plan
I think we can learn a lot from our children, so Angie and I came up with 10 out-of-the-box ideas to enjoy the little things in life:
- If you are feeling anxious or worried about a life situation practice thankfulness. List 5 things you are grateful for.
- If your child is frustrating you, tell your child what you love most about them.
- In the morning, decide what's essential for the day. Pick three things to get done, that way you don't pressure yourself with tedious tasks that aren't the priority for the day that doesn't add joy.
- Train yourself and your children to look for the good and the beautiful in everything and in everyone. Every day we will have opportunities to focus on the negative AND the positive, the bad AND the good. Decide that what you are going to think about and talk about is going to be the positive, the beautiful, and the good.
- Know what season of life you are in—this helps with contentment.
- Decide that every day is a good day and help your children to think this way, too. When my kids were very little, I would ask them when they would first wake up "What day is it today girls?" and they would respond by saying "It's a good day, Mommy!"
- When you find yourself thinking five steps ahead take a breath and find something positive to focus on like the sweet faces of your kiddos.
- When doing a task that needs to get done that would typically not be very fun such as laundry, dishes, meals, cleaning, or raking leaves, use that time to say out loud all the things you can think of that you're grateful for. Or listen to an encouraging podcast or fun music. Make it enjoyable.
- Find out what fills up your soul and incorporate those things into your life. Do you need time with friends, alone time to process, a fun adventure, a date night, a healthy creative outlet?
- Prep the day before for an overcoming, beautiful tomorrow. Put into practice little routines that help bring beauty and order to your life and that help contribute to feelings of joy.
Try them out and see how your attitude and your everyday life change for the better.
Kacee Bree Jensen is the founder of Let's Talk Teens, a place parents and teens can go to ﬁnd resources and tools to navigate the modern world we are living in. Kacee is a youth advocate, speaker, contributor, parenting coach, and mom of four including a teen, who has spent the last 16 years helping families, schools, and communities across the country navigate the ups and downs of the teen years.