Families play a critical role in how successful we are as individuals. Researchers have observed the importance of family across cultures. Family relationships lay the foundation for future relationships and our most important connections are familial. Struggles, disagreements and tensions within the family unit are common, normal and instrumental in how we learn about ourselves in relationship.
However, struggles within the family can become overwhelming. Feeling confused as to how to navigate stressful dynamics can leave a family paralyzed and exacerbate the problems. Below are four common struggles families face:
Conflicts and Fighting
For some families it’s the parents in constant disagreement, for others the yelling and fighting is between siblings, and others its between parent and child. Regardless, understanding the root of what is driving these conflicts is critical to change. As humans, our behavior is purposeful and serves a function, even if this function is counter to our desired outcome. For example, a parent may feel disrespected or out of control, which can result in yelling or angry lashing out. The desire is to regain control and/or teach the value of respect in relationships, however this outcome gets overshadowed by the argument and fight. The cycle continues and tension builds for everyone in the family system.
Stress with One Family Member
Sometimes one family member is struggling and how this struggle manifests impacts every member of the family. A teenager who starts to act outing out with anger or self-destructive behavior, a child who withdraws and retreats away from others, a parent who is distant and unavailable are all examples of how one person can increase the family stress as a whole.
The family is like a machine, each member represents a cog or gear and are critical to the overall smooth running of the family unit. One person (or malfunctioning cog) impacts the function of the entire family just as the whole family affects the experience of one member. The interactional nature of the family system means that it is important to not only work with the one who is struggling, but also with the family as a whole.
As parents, how we were raised, what we learned in relationships as well as our culture, worldview and values influence our beliefs and behavioral strategies (and reactions) with our children. As a couple, there may be agreement on a value (treat others with kindness and respect) and disagreement on how to teach our child(ren) this value. When this happens, conflict arises between the parenting unit and the entire family is negatively impacted. Confusion, anger, worry, frustration and hurt abounds. Consequently, every member of the family begins coping with the distress in their own ways versus working on the very issue that is so important for the family to greater harmony together.
How to effectively handle different needs, different ages and developmental stages, as well as what to do when there is a disagreement is critical to a sense of security within a family. Many times, families feel stuck in the same negative communication patterns that happen over and over, not knowing how to move to a more constructive pattern that leads to resolution. We know how to love our spouse and/or children deeply, but do not always understand how to best attune to everyone’s needs or effectively change hurtful behavior.
All families struggle and struggle is an essential component for growth and connectedness. However, how we navigate these difficulties is the key to whether distress in the family increases. If your family is lost in distress, disconnection and overwhelm, not sure how to get to better ground, you do not need to go at this alone. Family therapy can help. Contact us for more information.