Is There Hope for Overwhelmed Fathers?

By: Mark Brandenburg Ma,, Cpcc

No man can possibly know what life means, what the world means,
what anything means, until he has a child and loves it. Then the
whole universe changes and nothing will ever again seem exactly
as it seemed before.
--Lafcadio Hearn

On this evening things certainly didn’t seem to be like they were
before. This evening had been difficult. As I was trying to get
my kids to bed, my daughter was whining and crying about
tomorrow’s school clothes while my son flopped around on the
floor without a care in the world.

It was well past their bed time and I was simultaneously: upset
with myself for getting behind schedule; preoccupied with a
project I was late on; angry with my kids for not cooperating;
and worried that they’d have another crabby day from back-to-
school stress and a lack of sleep.

I could feel the tension envelope my shoulders and jaw. My mind
was moving at a dangerous rate.

Then the moment happened.

My four year old son looked up at me as innocently as humanly
possible and said, Dad, what do snails eat?

Everything slowed down and relaxed. The drama of the moment
disappeared. My worry and concern had been revealed as a hoax. All
that seemed to matter now was getting my kids down to bed in a warm
and caring manner.

After stumbling through a snail diet answer and thanking my son for putting things in perspective for me, I marveled at how quickly my emotions could change. Unfortunately, this shift is not always very rapid or easy for fathers in stressful situations.

The challenge for many fathers is how to deal with the overwhelm
that can be a constant in modern family life. In his book, “Why
Marriages Succeed or Fail" (1994), John Gottman found that men produced
much higher heart rates and raised their blood pressure higher
than women during emotional discussions with their wives. These
higher rates also tended to stay higher for longer periods of

The result of this sense of overwhelm for men can be any number of
reactions, including: disengagement, the silent treatment,
angry outbursts, or excessive attention to work. Of course,
everyone loses when these reactions become commonplace. And the
truth is that these reactions can be improved upon and eventually

Here are five ideas to help in dealing with overwhelm with your

1. Raise your standards: Stop blaming others for your overwhelm,
this only makes things worse. Commit yourself to improving
your own skills in dealing with overwhelm and realize that it
always starts with you.

2. Take time outs. These will help to put some perspective to the
situation and they’ll also show your kids you’re working on
it. You can’t expect your kids to work on their “stuff" if you
don’t work on your own.

3. Plan ahead and train your kids. A lot of stressful situations
can be avoided by being prepared. Get things ready the night
before and be very consistent with routines.

4. Raise the bar for yourself by having your wife or kids (or
both) keep you accountable. Tell them to remind you if they
see you getting overwhelmed and angry. Then do what’s
necessary for you to create a healthier response.

5. Use a well-practiced and routine relaxation response for your
overwhelm. Whether it’s deep breathing or counting to ten,
have a tool to use when the going gets tough. It beats yelling
any day.

Fathers are often the fixers of things in their household. While not an easy taskArticle Search, the flooding that fathers feel during overwhelm is a fixable

The choice is clear: point fingers at your family or deal with
your own issues?

What do you think is best for your family?


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