"Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; When they can give and receive without judgment."
Families can be tricky for all of us. Anytime we bring together a collection of people with different personalities and quirks, there are going to be some challenges.
The families that seem to work well together are the ones that are able to see and appreciate each other’s differences without expecting them to change. This is not always convenient or easy to do, especially if we were not parented that way ourselves. We typically do what we know how to do, but we also sense that what our parents may have done for us may not fit with our current situation or what we want for our children.
Here’s an example of how this may play out…
Imagine a family of five sitting at the dinner table. Around the table are four introverted family members who value peace, quiet, and introspective thought. Then there’s June, a spunky eight-year‐old extrovert, who doesn’t have a thought without saying it aloud and with gusto. In this family, it would really be easy to isolate the one child who doesn’t fit the “mold”. In an effort for the family to get the quiet that they need, they “hush, shush” and tell June “be quiet”, “why do you always have to be so loud,” or “go to the other room if you are going to be so noisy.” None of these things may be harsh or unreasonable, but June, who processes life differently, gets the message that what she has to say doesn’t matter and ultimately leaves her feeling unheard and not valued. As time goes on, June begins “acting out,” getting into trouble at school, arguing with friends. She might even start experimenting with relationships that are bad for her, or possibly even drugs or alcohol. Is the family to blame? NO. Is the problem/pattern to blame? YES!
The problem is the pattern that has developed in this family. Each family member is doing the best they know how to do with the tools they were given by their families, by society/culture, by trusted elders and leaders. But these tools haven’t worked. The family loves June, they are just at a loss to know how to change the pattern.
In these situations, I like to invite the entire family into session so that everyone can share their perspective about the pattern that has developed in the family. The beautiful thing about joining the entire family in therapy is that each member has a valuable and insightful perspective on the problem. Two heads are better than one! Just think of what we can do with three, four, or five heads all working together to figure out the problem. With a little curiosity and understanding, we can make space for all of us to be heard, understood, valued, and respected.
In our sessions, we can explore:
Identifying roles in the family system that we all play
Learning and acknowledging each family member’s unique gifts and challenges.
Becoming aware of how we try to control or change each other and also how we support each other
Learning how to communicate with many voices in the room
Creating a safe space where there can be listening and real conversation about what each member needs.
Clarifying expectations within the household
Blending families, step-parenting and single-parenting roles and tools
Working with different parenting styles in the home (or in divorced homes)
My hope is that your family will be willing to join together to collaborate and uncover opportunities for growth as well as discover each person’s inherent strengths that can be called upon to bring your family closer than ever.