The Gerber Life Parenting Blog

Who Comes First? Tips for prioritizing each family member’s needs

February 6, 2015

family spending quality time togetherKeeping up with each family member’s unique needs and schedule can be challenging. Between your spouse’s and your children’s schedules and demands, it may often feel as if something’s got to give. No one is perfect, but ideally you can learn to effectively prioritize the needs of your spouse and children – as well as your own – so that the entire family can thrive. These tips can help:

Stay Organized

Keeping your household emotionally in order is a lot easier if it’s physically organized as well. Lorie Marrero, professional organizer and author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life, points out that disorganization causes stress, which is an outward sign of things you can’t handle.

In order to focus on loving your spouse and listening to your children, you need to have a sense of stability and control. The best place to start is with your environment, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Make both getting and staying organized a priority to your family, facilitated by your family.

For example: Create a two-part action plan involving the aspects of your household that need a makeover and the components of your weekly activities that can be streamlined. Then, dedicate some weekend time to such things as organizing desks and files, or clearing out the garage and donating unused items to charity. This might include packing sports bags in advance, or cooking extra food on Sundays that can be portioned and used as lunches throughout the week – thus saving time and brain power when weekday life is too busy.

It’s All about Triage

Prioritizing the needs of your spouse and children is only as clear-cut as the current situation. Serve as a “triage nurse” in your own family. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to put your partner above your kids or your kids above your partner. As an active participant in the family, however, your decisions and actions have both short- and long-term consequences. So family triage isn’t just about fulfilling an immediate want, it also has to take into account the weight of the individual needs of everyone involved.

Your children need your care and depend on you, and so does your spouse, in different ways. The happier your marriage, the happier your family will be overall. Christine Carter, Ph.D. and author of Raising Happiness and The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work, points out that romance and the support of our partners make us better parents. So to triage family members’ needs, consider the long-term benefits and effects of the choices you make.

Quality Time

Working as a family unit produces a feeling of togetherness that bonds. Each person, however, also needs to be acknowledged and celebrated as an individual. In order to really meet family needs, it’s essential to plan one-on-one time with each person, including individual activities with the kids and date-nights for you and your spouse.

By making everyone important in his or her own right, you create opportunities for quality time and attention, which can nurture each family member and also make the group stronger as a whole. Concerning one-on-one time, it’s important to listen to the priorities of the person and learn what he or she wants and cares about, as well as how attended to that person feels. The more input you have from family members, rather than just assuming their needs, the more likely you are to understand and to be able to give them more of what they need.

Remember that you are an individual in your family, too. So your to-do list should include spending time alone to replenish yourself as well.

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Categories: Parenting Tips
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