Are you and your partner not on the same page about your parenting approach, leading to a chaotic home life? Do you often feel overwhelmed trying to navigate the negative relationship dynamics within your family? If you’re in a blended family, are you confused about what your role as a stepparent should be?
If you’re raising preteens or adolescents, it might feel like a whole new ballgame than when they were younger. As they assert more independence, you may be uncertain about how to set clear boundaries when your children act out, fight with each other, or question your authority.
Blended Families Face Unique Challenges
The additional obstacles that arise with blended families could be leading to more conflict and disconnection within your household. Perhaps your kids don’t get along with each other or you’re realizing that you and your partner have different parenting styles, creating confusion and discord. Because you may lack clarity about what your stepparent parameters are, it’s possible that both of you feel unhappy and frustrated.
On the other hand, it may be that one child seemingly causes more difficulty than the others, yet you don’t know how to address their behavior. Without a solid game plan for integrating your family into a cohesive unit, you might feel stuck in place with no clear direction forward.
Even if you’re unsure how best to proceed, you may recognize that what you’re doing isn’t working. You’re looking for less conflict and more connection within your family with the peace of mind that your children are thriving. Fortunately, family therapy offers parents the skills and confidence they need to navigate challenging issues collaboratively. And if you are a blended family, counseling provides you with the tools to build family unity that fosters mutual respect and kindness.
It Can Be Difficult For Families With Teens To Maintain Harmony
A family is a delicate organism that can easily get pushed out of balance. In particular, the teenage years can be a volatile phase when parents struggle to maintain peace and accord within the household. With so many different developmental changes taking place with our adolescent kids, such as their newly awakened desire to exert independence and push boundaries, we may be uncertain of which parenting approach to take.
Particularly, blended families are often challenged by the huge adjustment that living with stepparents, stepchildren, and stepsiblings can bring. Trying to integrate differing values and traditions can be difficult and lead to growing pains for all concerned. And if this burgeoning new family dynamic coincides with having teens under the roof, as parents we may feel out of our depth trying to steer the ship.
Our Busy Lives Often Exacerbate Conflict And Disconnection
These days, parents and children alike are overbooked and under stress trying to manage their busy lives. As we struggle to find opportunities to spend quality time together, family unity suffers. What’s more, our kids are exposed to technology and social media at an increasingly early age. These influences often promote isolation and, coupled with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, have taken an emotional toll on our kids. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, more children are experiencing anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.¹
Perhaps we haven’t considered the benefits of engaging in family therapy if we’ve decided that it’s only one member who is responsible for the household’s problems. Our perception may be that if only we could “fix” this individual, our family would regain its balance—not realizing that family dynamics are more interdependent than just this one person.
Whether you need support raising adolescent kids or are a stepfamily looking to find balance and connection, family therapy offers you helpful guidance to manage conflict that doesn’t lead to anger, frustration, fighting, or withdrawal.
Even though every family experiences hardships and challenges, when you’re in the midst of your own struggles, you may feel alone. If only there was a definitive manual that could help you with every issue you face as a parent.
In the absence of this manual, your family therapist aims to give you the guidance and support you need to provide your kids with a sense of emotional safety and positive regard from other members of the family. Establishing a healthy home environment where they feel seen and heard sets your kids up to become resilient and competent adults with a secure sense of self.
Therapy offers a safe space to learn and grow as parents without feeling judged or blamed. Because each family member will participate in therapy at some point, this process allows you to explore and understand each other’s needs and desires and identify what gets in the way of feeling greater peace and connection. By identifying your family’s strengths, you will learn how to capitalize on them to foster connection.
What To Expect In Sessions
Your therapist will recommend beginning therapy with your entire family. Once they’ve identified the relationships that are in the most distress, your counselor will work with those family members in smaller breakout sessions. Each counseling session will be collaborative and tailored to the unique needs of your family.
In family therapy, we first assess the negative patterns that exacerbate frustration, anger, hurt, and conflict. Once these patterns are identified, we will work with you to replace them with healthier communication styles that lead to conflict resolution, alignment, and connection.
For parents, family therapy offers strategies and tools for responding to children when conflict arises, achieving accord on a parenting plan and developing appropriate boundaries for kids as well as effective ways to enforce them.
Emotionally Focused Family Therapy
The family is a system of relationships that continuously ebbs and flows together with each member. It is within our family that we experience unconditional love, learn values, and develop a sense of self that allows us to make sense of the world. A systemic approach to understanding the relational dynamics at play is paramount to shifting the overall direction of the “family ship”.
Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) helps each member identify the negative patterns that arise within family relationships and teaches ways to engage with each other differently. With a better understanding of how each member communicates, you will each be equipped to relate to one another more effectively, manage stress as a family, and improve your ability to problem-solve collaboratively.
Every person in your family longs to feel loved, cared for, and have a sense of belonging. Family therapy helps clear the debris that gets in the way of this natural and fundamental desire each of you has. Working together, your family can foster closeness, compassion, and understanding.
But Perhaps You Have Wonder If Therapy Is Right For Your Family …
Because I’m the parent, I fear that in counseling I’ll be blamed for all of my family’s problems.
We know that as a parent, you are doing the best you can. After all, your love and commitment to your family are why you’re seeking a therapist to help. We also recognize that no one is at their best when they’re feeling judged or blamed. For meaningful change to happen within therapy, each family member must be ensured emotional safety. Rest assured that your counselor will be committed to creating a safe therapeutic environment for your family that allows each of you to explore, discover, and openly work toward change.
Our family is busy and doesn’t have time for therapy.
These days, it’s common for families to be pulled in opposite directions that prevent them from engaging in meaningful connection—and therein lies the problem. Family counseling is a commitment, but one that’s worth dedicating your time and resources to. A willingness to show up to therapy and consistently follow through on the skills and strategies you learn in sessions are the essential ingredients required to experience positive change within your family dynamics.
What if our kids don’t want to come to family therapy with us?
Understandably, your children might be reluctant to attend family counseling. However, your counselor will meet them where they are and make space for all parts of your child to show up—the parts that are scared, ambivalent, or don’t trust the process. Gaining the children’s buy-in may take some time, especially with therapy for a blended family, but that doesn’t necessarily impede the process. What’s important is that they witness your commitment and begin to experience changes that feel new, different, and better.