How do you handle a “family heat advisory?”

I am writing my first blog post on the hottest day of summer, so far!

The Health Department has issued a heat advisory. It’s somewhere in the upper 90s and the heat index is in the low 100s. We are advised to take extra precautions for ourselves, our children, elders and even our pets.

Everywhere I go, people are talking about the heat. Pools and cooling shelters have extended hours. Water, juice, sport drinks are flying off the shelves in stores. Just about everyone I see, seems to be walking a little slower.  I know I am. I’ve noticed, too, that many are making an extra effort to check in on loved ones, friends and neighbors. People are offering water to strangers.

If we take just a moment (maybe 2 moments because it’s so hot) to think about it, the hot weather and heat advisory remind us that we are connected to others. For everyone to survive and remain healthy during a heat wave, we have to make an extra effort to stay connected. Family life can be a lot like living through a heat wave.

Things get “heated” in every family. When a family heat advisory happens, everyone is affected. When things get “heated” in families, the tendency for many of us is to pull away, freezing family members out or giving them the cold shoulder. The opposite tendency is to turn up the heat with fighting or violence. How and if the family makes the effort to cool down can make all the difference in whether the family survives and remains healthy.

Some families “cool down” by taking space or a family time-out. They agree that they will stop whatever they are doing right now and come back at a time when they can talk.

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

Some families have a signal or a code word. Family members agree ahead of time that when anyone in the family uses the signal or the code word, everyone will stop and do what they need to do to cool down, so the family can come together to resolve the conflict.

Others set a timer when family conflict is catusing things to “heat up” and use the time till the buzzer sounds to “cool down.”  They might go to their separate rooms, take a short walk, journal, meditate or listen to music. When the timer sounds, they come back with cooler heads and work it out.

I’m curious. What is your family strategy for cooling down when your family is experiencing a “heat advisory?” What have you learned that doesn’t work? Have your cooling down tools remained the same over time or have they changed?

Every family has their own unique way of handling family heat advisories. What tips can you share that might connect with another family?  Please share your comments here and we’ll revisit them in a future blog.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again. We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us onFacebook, or call 1-414-342-4560.

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