The top 5 family pressures - and how to deal with them

11th Jan 19 | Family

Money, job and relationship worries top the list. Lisa Salmon finds out more.

Family under stress

While family life can be full of fun, it can also be full of tension: Three in four British adults – equating to almost 38 million people – feel their family is under pressure.

Research for charity Family Action found the top five family pressures were money, health and wellness, lack of time together, pressure from work or education, and family relationships. Some families don’t get any help when it comes to dealing with these pressures, claiming they’re prevented by psychological barriers, such as feeling other people need more support (12%), lack of confidence (11%), embarrassment (9%), or feeling scared of being judged (9%). Plus, 14% aren’t sure who could help them.

But Family Action chief executive David Holmes stresses that getting help is vital, and that’s why the charity has launched the Family Monsters Project, alongside a new FamilyLine helpline. The free FamilyLine (0808 802 6666) is open between 6pm-10pm on weekdays, and 10am-1pm at weekends, or families can e-mail familyline@family-action.org.uk.

“Family monsters are a normal part of family life, but can grow when they’re kept hidden away,” says Holmes. “Simply talking about them can stop them becoming overwhelming.”

Here, Holmes outlines the biggest family monsters, and suggests where help can be found…

1. Money

Family on a budget
(Thinkstock/PA)

More than half of people (52%) say money is one of the pressures they face in their family. As well as not having enough money, people say debt, the cost of living, and housing costs are current pressures.

“If you’re struggling to make ends meet, do something – don’t wait until you can’t pay the bills,” stresses Holmes.

It can be helpful to create a budget to set out what money you’ve got coming in, your financial commitments, and where you could spend less. Holmes says Family Action has helped many families sort out money matters, such as checking they’re getting all the state benefits they’re entitled to, negotiating a debt repayment plan with a lender, or shopping around for a cheaper energy deal.

Where to get help: Families can also try the Money Advice Service   (moneyadviceservice.org.uk) or Citizen’s Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk).

2. Health and wellness

Half of people say health and wellness, including physical and mental health and disability, is one of the pressures they face. Understanding who to approach and what help is available is often stressful itself, so Family Action suggests writing down what you need to go through with your GP before an appointment, including any worries you may have, or what’s been happening at home.

If your child has a long-term health condition, go through their individual healthcare plan with their headteacher and check the school’s policy to support students who have long-term health needs.

Holmes advises: “Parents can feel all their attention needs to be on their child or older relative who needs support, but not looking after yourself or staying healthy can make managing family pressures even harder.”

Where to get help: The NHS Live Well (nhs.uk/live-well) scheme offers useful tips on how to make the best health and wellbeing choices.

3. Lack of time together

Half of parents (49%) are worried about not having enough time together, or not having quality time together, because of other pressures such as work. But Holmes points out: “Quality time doesn’t have to be lots of time. It could simply be eating dinner as a family, playing a game or going for a walk in the park.”

He says psychologists suggest the nine most important minutes in a child’s day are the first three after they wake up, when you or they get home, and just before bedtime, and adds:”This is when to give them your full attention. You might feel under pressure to go on expensive days out, but simply creating a den in the garden can be as good for boosting your family’s bond and for creating happy memories.”

Where to get help: Contact your local authority to find out what free activities for families are on offer, and scour the what’s on pages of your local newspaper for things to do.

4. Pressure from work/education

Woman at work late at night, stressed
(Thinkstock/PA)

Two in five people are feeling pressure from work or education (40%), with the Family Action research identifying work pressures, including job security worries as well as job hunting or being out of work, and finding the right work/life balance.

Education pressures focus on worries about a child’s education and their future prospects. As well as tackling the curriculum, children may find relationships with peers and/or teachers hard, so it’s important for parents to help manage these worries, says Holmes.

“Take a few minutes to give your child your full attention, listen to what they have to say, and show understanding in your responses,” he advises. “Be specific in what you ask and show you’ve listened to what they’ve said, and this will help you draw out what they’re thinking and feeling.”

Where to get help: Be brave enough to raise any issues you’re worried about with your employer or your child’s school. Communication is key.

5. Family relationships

Scales weighing work/life balance
(Thinkstock/PA)

Family relationships (37%) was the fifth biggest pressure identified by Family Action, and within that, lack of communication (19%) and arguments or disputes (16%) were the most common relationship problems reported.

Holmes points out that becoming a parent can have a huge impact on personal relationships and family dynamics, as can separation, divorce and introducing a new partner to the family. “It will take time for things to settle and for a new routine to be found – and it will take work,” he says.

“Explain this to children and make sure you find some one-on-one time with them. Involve your children in setting family rules and be consistent enforcing these. Show your children how to play together, as well as how to resolve and recover from differences”

Where to get help: If you’re struggling with new parenting responsibilities, don’t wait to ask for help – talk to your health visitor or GP about how you’re feeling or call Family Action’s FamilyLine. Meeting other people in a similar situation can help, for example, support groups for single parents like Gingerbread (gingerbread.org.uk).



© Press Association 2019

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