Is there a lack of respect in your family?
Dysfunctional families have at least some of the following characteristics:
- Is there a lot of fighting, yelling, slamming doors, profanity or drug use?
- Is there poor communication?
- Is there one problem child that causes trouble for everybody?
- Is there rudeness and criticism?
- Are your children ignoring you?
- Is there a lack of appreciation?
- Do you just want everyone to get along?
- Do you feel confused, tired and overwhelmed?
All families have rules, either spoken or unspoken. Rules that are unspoken and unhealthy create dysfunction. Do any of these unspoken rules apply to your family?
- We don’t hug.
- Dad is always right.
- Love must be earned by success.
- It’s OK to keep secrets.
- We don’t discuss unpleasant things.
- We don’t show or talk about emotions.
- Only mom and dad can get angry.
Most families have the same types of problems.
One definition of a family is a set of relationships. Our families have a lifelong impact on us and our descendants. Family characteristics, both healthy and unhealthy, are passed down to each generation. Perhaps you have an idea what your family has inherited. This is something we’ll explore.
Your family is a complicated system. Just deciding who is part of it can be confusing. Who is in your family? Just the immediate biological relatives? Or does it include ex spouses, stepparents and stepchildren, half siblings, grandparents and close friends?
There are many ways a family can struggle. And it can be difficult to untangle problems and have a lasting solution. But perfection is not the goal. If you can have a family that functions in a healthy way most of the time, you’ll be ahead of the game.
You can have the kind of family you want.
Family therapy can bring you all together as a healthy unit.
One of my initial goals in family therapy is to identify the processes the family uses to operate. We focus on process not content. This includes behaviors, motivations and perceptions that guide the family’s interactions. It also includes identifying recurring patterns and separating out content that can hide processes.
Your family is in a state of constant change. The relationships are always evolving. One of the fundamental truths of a family is that what affects one, affects everyone.
Every family has a unique balance that it continuously seeks. That balance can be either healthy or unhealthy. When that balance is disrupted, the family energy is directed back toward its original balance.
This is important because a dysfunctional family must be permanently disrupted to become healthy. And that disruption must become permanent by fighting the strong forces that try to bring it back to dysfunction.
There often seems to be one problem person. And the belief is that if this person could be fixed, the family would be better. This would be a mistake. Every person in the family contributes to the problem in some way. Finding out how is a step in the right direction.
Unhealthy patterns and habits must be replaced with their healthy counterparts. Every family member has his or her share of responsibility to make the family better.
What’s the point of being a parent? To prepare your kids for life could be one thing. How about growth in your own life? There’s no more enriching experience than being a good parent and seeing the positive effect you have on your children.
Some of the questions we will discuss in therapy are:
- How much can family members be themselves instead of performing a role?
- Who has the real power in the family?
- What happens when someone doesn’t follow the rules?
- Do the rules apply to everyone equally?
- What does each member contribute to the family?
- How understood and accepted does each person feel?
- What’s the atmosphere like in your home?
- What are the family secrets and myths?
- How are disagreements handled?
- What do you appreciate about your family?
My role is to be a facilitator of the whole process, a role model for good communication, a mediator of disagreements and a teacher of healthy habits. My job is to create an environment where there is truth, support and healing.
I act as a facilitator to, among other things, uncover unequal power dynamics, make sure every person has a voice and is heard and liberate emotional expression. I will act to foster and reinforce the elements of a healthy family.
A family should be greater than the sum of its parts.
How a family functions is determined by:
- How people think
- How people feel
- How people act
- How people relate to others
Disrespect in a family is corrosive. It degrades everyone’s life.
As parents, how do you earn the respect of your children? Do you say: “You don’t get to speak to me that way.” Or “If you want my attention, you will speak to me with respect.”
Do you find that harsh? If you do, I’ll bet your children don’t respect you. These responses send the message that what just happened is unacceptable and it needs to change right now.
It tells the child that they will not be acknowledged until respect is shown. A child must be taught what respect sounds like so they know what to do.
There should be zero tolerance for disrespect by anyone. Every act of disrespect should be called out. This can be done calmly but firmly. If there’s a repeat offender then consequences are appropriate.
The following are some elements of a healthy family:
- Healthy boundaries
- Respectful speech and action
- Individual freedom
- Shared appreciation
- Unconditional support
- Freedom to disagree
- A common set of values
- Healthy attachments
- Identities that are accepted and nurtured
- Mutual respect
- A safe haven
It’s normal for parents to fight. And when parents fight it affects the children. How have your children been affected by the way you fight? Avoiding conflict is not a solution.
Parents are always teaching their children whether they realize it or not. So what are you teaching them?
Children are truth tellers. When I want to know what’s really going on I ask the children. Often parents don’t get the truth because the children don’t feel safe to tell them.
We can’t get everyone to come.
That’s OK. As long as we have two or more of you we can make progress. However, the better the attendance, the better the result. I will accommodate your schedule and we can meet on evenings and weekends if necessary.
My child is the problem not the family.
This is a common belief. However, as I said before, it’s not true. I’ll be able to show you how every person in the family contributes to the problem.
It’s too expensive.
What’s more valuable than an investment in your family? What price would you pay to have a healthy functioning family?
I can help your family function better.
I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist. This is special passion of mine. I have the education, training and experience to improve your family. I also have my own family experiences that have helped me be a better therapist.
I have a mobile of a family of whales hanging in my office. It was a great gift from a valued supervisor. I use it to illustrate the basics of how a family works. It enables me to show that:
- The family is always in motion.
- Every time one person moves, it affects everyone else.
- A disturbance in the balance will eventually cause the family to return to its normal state.
Making lasting change in a family is difficult. The default state of the family is a powerful influence. We should be better people because of our family. This is realistic and attainable with professional guidance.