A home with less arguing is within everybody’s reach – do you want better family relationships?
Family relationships can be delightful, painful and complex things.
We are bonded through birth, adoption or foster – and that bond comes with expectations about how we feel for each other, and, how we treat each other. No-where else in life are you forced to manage a relationship for such a length of time, with so many limitations on how you can manage it. Yet many of us want, and need, better family relationships.
When we think about it, even committed relationships in other areas of life have ‘get out clauses’. If you absolutely can’t stand your co-worker, or your boss, you do have the option to leave. You can move on and build new relationships in a new company!
Even marriage, a relationship which you have promised to be bound to for eternity, can be dissolved if the relationship becomes so bad that one or both of you are permanently unhappy.
But family relationships are different.
- You can’t divorce your children when it breaks down
- You can’t leave them if they are being horrid
- You can’t stop being responsible for their care, guidance or wellbeing
In no other relationship are you bound so tightly to their needs, above your own – and this, is not always easy. In fact, if you are raising a child who is struggling with the world, this journey can be the hardest thing you will ever have to do.
I recall the years with my own child. Having (finally) been diagnosed with ADD, and having suffered a number of rejections and trauma’s – my son was angry.
Angry with the world.
Angry with me.
And – constantly angry with himself.
Of course underneath all the anger were far more complex issues. Constant fear, disconnection from those he loved, a desperate desire to be accepted and loved by those who were not there for him. But, as with all close family relationships, the brunt of these emotions was taken out on the person whom he knew would love him no matter what. The one who was ‘safe’.
And that, was me.
Our relationship was, for some years, a source of great pain for me. I was not a family coach then, and I did not know all the things I have since learned about child behaviour, family support and ‘how’ to manage the issues we had.
I look back now in horror at the lack of knowledge, and understanding, I had at that time. But – we only know what we know, and if I could have done better I would.
We now share a close relationship, and he often tells me that regardless of my own opinion of my mothering at that time, he thinks I did a grand job. He is in fact one of the biggest reasons I have dedicated my work to helping others.
All of those experiences, coupled with all the training and work since, has made it possible for me to help many other families who are going through similar situations.
In this work, there are some key issues which are common for families to face, and which I see again and again. Here I touch on just a few of them.
Better Family Relationships – Arguments & Conflict
Conflict in families is probably going to happen at some time, in fact, for most of the families I work with, it;’s a fairly consistent factor for them!
When you live with someone full time, it can be hard to avoid!
It’s so important for families to learn to manage conflict in a way which reduces the reaction, and need for further conflict, over time.
Here are some tiny steps which make a BIG difference when conflict is in your home
- Don’t take the things they say personally, and don’t say anything personal!
- Always wait 5 seconds before responding, to reduce the emotional reaction
- Know your triggers, the signs you are about to stop managing it maturely yourself, and step away
- Process your emotions afterwards to make sure they do not ‘fester’
As children become young people, there can be an awkwardness which wasn’t there before. You are both unsure of this new footing, and as such, communication can stop feeling natural for a while. You may lose your ‘flow’
Simple requests can cause issues, and conversations are sometimes met with a look of confusion.
To improve communication, start stating what your common goal is.
Your child’s brain is far too busy changing and developing to work logically, so make it easier for them. Stating your intent before you communicate can be extremely effective.
“We need to decide who is doing……”
“We are going to discuss……..”
“It will be great for both of us if we…….”
Letting the child know the intent of the conversation helps them to process the next bit, with less emotional reaction!
Better Family Relationships – Missing your child
When young children reach adolescence, there is what I refer to as a ‘Natural Disconnect’.
Your child is preparing to become their own person, and in dong so they are disconnecting from certain factors in your relationship.
They no longer feel that you ‘own’ them, and begin to push for autonomy in making their own decisions
They begin to covert peer acceptance and praise, and no longer need, or wish for, your approval
They realise you are only human, make mistakes, mess up – and this brings insecurity
This phase is extremely hard for parents, who having given years of their lives, now are second fiddle!
It is important not to take this personally. Your child is not doing this purposefully, in fact, the process can be really scary for them.
If you have given them a fairly solid start, you will gain a new form of relationship over time – and adults to adult version, which will (in the end) be worth it.
Better Family Relationships – The impact of adult relationship struggles on children
Sadly relationships between adults are not always easy, and do not always work out.
At times this leads to a number of unhelpful situations for the child.
An unknown, or ‘weird vibe’ in the home. Things feel different without them understanding why
Raised voices, disagreements and for some, full blown arguments happing around them.
Questions around security, whether things are going to stay the same
A feeling that they need to be on ‘a side’ causing distress and sometimes trauma for the child
It’s important to remember that our children watch us to learn how to manage life as they become adults. What they see in our relationships, is likely to become present in theirs.
- Applying patience to issues rather than getting in conflict
- Using tolerance and kindness in the face of annoyance
- Demonstrating good communication skills and not ‘flinging mud’
Children are at their best when they feel safe and secure. If your relationship is having some struggles, or you are considering breaking up, take some time to think about how you can help your child through this difficult time.
You can find some great advice on the Family Lives site.
Through all of these issues, the key element is staying deeply connected with your child. Or, if this connection is not strong, building on your relationship.
Connecting deeply means making a mindful decision to focus a period of time purely on your child, and this will be a combination of:
Time spent reflecting on ‘how’ you can connect more deeply…
Time spent mindfully with your child, focusing only on them.
It’s important to remember some golden rules:
- 5 mindful minutes is better than 60 distracted ones
- Make some family activities non-negotiable
- Having a shared goal is the fastest way to connection
Family relationships can be the source of immense happiness, or immense distress. Which you experience can be a direct result of the effort you put into actually creating the space for a good relationship to happen.
For those who want to improve their family relationships, it is beneficial to work with a family coach. One who knows how to find balance, create connection and manage emotional situations. Learning strategies which are already known to be effective, is an easier journey than learning from all your own mistakes, and can speed up your progress.
Whatever your relationships are like, it is important to remember that they can get better, and be a source of great happiness for you, and your child.