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Wilburn: Ease after-work tension
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Home is a place of shelter from the hard knocks of the world, but maybe not in that first 20 to 30 minutes when parents arrive from work and the children get home after the day's activities.

The stress that occurs when people get home from work or school happens even when there is a parent staying at home

The feeling of stress might come from a combination of physical and emotional needs. Everyone has to deal with problems and concerns both at work and at school.

Having a family environment where children and adults alike believe that they are loved and accepted just as they are, and feel safe enough to let their guards down and be themselves helps strengthen us to tackle the challenges that we face in our daily lives.

There are physical needs at that time of the day, too. If lunch happened around noon, the body is at a low energy point. Sometimes a little snack will get the energy level back up to help family members deal with the activities of the evening. But, try to avoid too much caffeine, sugar or carbohydrates.

Here are a few suggestions to strengthen your family.

First, make those first minutes when you get home easier. Parents might encourage very young children to rest with the parent for 10 to 15 minutes - just enough time to relax. If the children are older, explain that the parent needs some time to look at the mail or change clothes, just to get adjusted to the different atmosphere of home and the evening activities. Stay in the car for an extra 10 minutes, just to adjust, if that helps.

Second, try to solve some of the issues by planning ahead. Knowing what you will prepare for dinner gives parents a break.

Making part of the meal ahead by doing something such as cooking double batches will make it easier to get a meal on the table during the rush of the work week. Or, share meal planning and shopping with other family members. That is also a good way to have time to talk as parents teach meal-preparation skills.

Finally, schedule family time. When everyone gets home they are anxious to talk about both the good and the rough times of their day. Even if they are bursting to tell, it might be better to know they will have an audience. Perhaps families can set a time with each child and for the parents with each other. Keeping communication open is the real goal.

Come up with a family tradition or routine to help relieve stress when first arriving home. Dedicated time spent together playing games, taking walks or bike rides, creating a family memory book, planning family events, reading a book together and so on builds family bonds and a sense of belonging.

The rough time at the beginning of the evening can become a smooth transition period if the family is willing to support one another. Anything that helps ease that time makes the family stronger.

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column runs in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.