By Terri A. Ammirati, LCPC.
Is A Loss, Transition, Or Miscommunication Creating Conflict In Your Family?
Are you worried about how a recent change is affecting your child? Perhaps you are going through a divorce, moving to a new city, or struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one, and you aren’t sure how to talk to your child about the difficult transition. You may notice your child has become increasingly anxious, depressed, or isolated, and you want to know you are doing everything possible to help them feel better.
Do you feel like your family relationships are deteriorating? You may constantly argue with your spouse, and the fighting has begun to impact the way you connect with your child. Or perhaps you and your parents or siblings had a falling out when you were younger, and you now want to open up communication and rebuild the relationship.
Maybe your child is going through a difficult period, and the extra effort and uncertainty about how to help has started affecting communication with your spouse. For example, if your child is distressed or acting out, you might avoid hiring a babysitter or going out as a family for fear of how they will behave. Or you and your partner may disagree about the best way to support your child, and it seems like every conversation turns into another argument.
Making things more difficult, you may blame yourself for the challenges your family is facing. In addition to feeling overwhelmed and helpless, you may struggle to sleep at night or stay focused during the day. In an effort to cope with the ever-present conflict and anxiety, maybe a family member has turned to drugs or some other unhealthy ways to cope; which only increases the anxiety and stress between members, resulting in disagreements and leading to feeling disconnected from one another.
You might feel like nothing you have tried has improved the situation. Do you wish you knew how to help your family get back to a place of love, trust, and openness?
Everyone Wants A Healthy Family Connection
Whether we’re 6 or 26 when our family structure breaks down, it can affect our sense of security and our ability to relate to others. Some families are able to continue functioning in a disconnected way for a long time, but the strain and stress of holding everyone together can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health.
Additionally, our fast-paced, complex society is affecting many “intact” families. For example, a large number of grown children return home after college, putting a strain on their parents. Some may have grown up in a family that valued achievement over happiness, and the pressure to perform created a distance between them and their parents. Perhaps the parents were always away at work or the child felt pressured to attend a certain school or achieve a certain status. And now that they’re older, they aren’t sure how to connect in a close, meaningful way.
Regardless of how your family is struggling, you may believe that you should be able to handle it on your own. And for the most part, you can function with some minor stresses. But when everything builds up and reaches a breaking point, you may feel completely overwhelmed and buried by self-doubt or even shame for not being able to handle things on your own.
Thankfully, a trained marriage and family therapist can help you improve communication and close the distance that may be keeping your family from functioning in a way in which you all feel connected and in a place that feels safe, accepting and supporting.