Navigating Family Turbulence: 3 Tips I Learned From My Family Therapist
Conflicts within the family are a natural part of life, particularly when parenting teenagers. I’ve dealt with my fair share of difficulties and disputes as a mother of three kids and a wife of 25 years. Although parenthood is a wonderful and fulfilling experience, it often comes with difficulties that pressure my marriage and our family relationships. I know how challenging it is to keep a close relationship with my husband amidst the pressures of parenthood. It can be difficult to balance the demands of being a parent and the desire for a closer relationship with your spouse. Counseling has proven helpful for my husband and me as we work through these difficulties.
Different discipline styles can create a significant divide between parents, leading to conflicts and challenges within the family dynamic. This is what happened to my husband and me. We each have our unique upbringing, beliefs, and experiences that have helped shape our approach to disciplining our children. His style tends to be strict and authoritative, while mine is more lenient and permissive. These differences led to confusion and frustration for our children and conflict for him and me. When there are no consistent consequences, it strains the relationship between partners. We desperately needed help to find common ground and engage in open and respectful discussions to understand each other’s perspectives, establish shared values, and work together to create a unified and effective approach to discipline.
After six months of family therapy, these are my takeaways:
1. Step Away From The Problem To Connect
Raising children requires significant time, energy, and emotional investment. Juggling school activities, and extracurricular commitments, and addressing the ever-evolving needs of growing children can leave little room for personal or couple time. It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and spread thin, making it challenging to maintain a strong bond with your spouse
Our family therapist helped us learn to make time to step away from the parenting life to spend time with each other as lovers, not parents. We used the time to talk about ourselves and purposely avoided discussing our children or parenting problems.
2. Wait, But Don’t Avoid
Before attempting to work out a dispute, it is preferable to wait for our emotions to calm down. When our emotions are high, the functional half of our brains shut down, making it incredibly difficult to conduct a rational conversation with workable answers. Again, there are personality differences we found ourselves up against in this area. My husband thinks my requests for “space” are just me avoiding the problem.
Counseling helped him see that I was not avoiding the discussion but trying to come to a place where I could think without letting my emotions (anger and judgments) rule. I learned that I must agree to return to the conflict and conversation within a set amount of time. My commitment to returning within that set amount of time allowed my husband to comfortably give me space. It turned out that the space was good for him, too.
3. Compromise and Give Up Control
It’s crucial to strike a balance between what each partner wants and feels comfortable doing. Conflict resolution often involves making compromises, and this is where we received the most constructive help from our counselor. He was able to suggest reasonable solutions that met both of our most important goals in parenting. For example, my husband and I agreed to pick our top three issues for each child to focus on. The others we agreed to let go: no lecturing, no incessant scolding, no arguing or begging. This improved his relationship with our children significantly. It also improved our marriage because he didn’t feel I was ignoring discipline altogether.
As parents, we serve as role models for our children. Our actions and reactions significantly influence how conflicts are resolved within the family. Demonstrating patience, kindness, and effective problem-solving techniques sets a positive example for our children. When family conflicts arise, my husband and I have learned to take a step back, breathe, and respond thoughtfully rather than reactively. By modeling healthy conflict resolution, we are providing our children with invaluable life skills that they can carry into their own relationships.
With help from our virtual family therapist, we have learned to nurture our connection, allowing for growth and resilience in the face of difficulties. Remember that receiving counseling is not a show of weakness but rather of your dedication to creating a harmonious and rewarding family dynamic. You can bridge the gap and reclaim the joy of parenting and loving one another with time, compassion, and expert advice.
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