Work and Life Balance: How to Bridge the Family Stress of “Re-Entry” between Work and Family

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish

Just as children need “re-entry” time when they come home from school, parents need similar adjustment time when they return home from work. All family members can be wound up from the day’s mental and social pressures. Most families know the signs of family stress at the end of the day—hyper-activity, moodiness and tempers. Here are some family strategies to bridge these transitions between work, school and home.

  1. Be proactive—develop a relaxation routine for re-entry into the family. On the way home from work, listen to soothing music. The goal is to calm the brain, so if music doesn’t calm you, find what does. One of my clients who took the commuter train home, kept on her phone photos of her favorite vacation pictures of beaches and birds. There is no one right answer for everyone—just keep the goal in mind of shifting from overdrive to third gear—the driving gear that nicely hums along.
  2. Exercise before work or at lunchtime. A weekly schedule of aerobic activity, 3-5 times a week, is another way to calm the brain. Exercise reduces depression, increases brain function and makes you feel better and happier.
  3. Take control of loose ends at work. Develop a solution before you leave. Limit your time on the cell phone managing work issues on the way home.
  4. Don’t walk in the house angry. If you have an unresolved work problem, a great way to get another “set of eyes” on the issue is to have to explain it to someone else—like your spouse. The person with the work problem has to focus and organize, and the listener tends to ask questions that spark new idea. Some of my couples, for example, set aside “work brainstorm” sessions with each other. The extra benefit is the couple feels close, and they establish a sense of mutual help and respect for each other’s issues.
  5. Get proactive with household responsibilities. If you are a stay at home parent, don’t do all your errands and shopping on one day. Spread them out. Don’t create a laundry day. Instead, spread loads out and assign some of the task to older children. The goal is not to be exhausted from one or two big tasks so that when you take time to relax, you collapse instead. Reserve time for yourself such as 20 minutes or more to do something for you, including exercise. The good news is that you can divide up the exercise into two separate 20-minute sessions and still get the emotional and physical benefits.
  6. Establish routines and traditions with your children. For example, prepare cut up fruit to munch on when they come home, and use that time to create the ritual of talking to your kid. Tell funny stories from school or announce a good grade on homework.
  7. Hug and kiss. Families, including teens, need a sense of warmth and welcome. Be affectionate. And let’s not forget sex with your spouse. Some couples “schedule” sex on nights that for whatever reason are calmer. Scheduling does not take away that sense of joy and excitement. In good relationships, just the anticipation of being together starts that engine.
  8. Finally, give up the notion of perfection. The house shouldn’t look like a cyclone hit it, but not everything has to perfect—and people don’t have to be perfect either. There will always be instances when grumpiness doesn’t fade so easily.

This article first appeared in

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Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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