Traditionally the family is a positive and safe environment, but sometimes families face challenges and conflict

Girl sitting on floor in bathroom

Traditionally we look upon the family as a positive and safe environment for children and adults alike. It’s the place where we can exchange love and find understanding and support, even when everyone else may let us down. The family is seen as the place where we get nurtured, refreshed and recharged to cope more effectively with school, college or work.

However the above view only describes the very positive side of family experiences and relationships. On the negative end, we see family conflict - troubled parents and children who seem to exchange more hate than love, and appear to be stuck in continuing blaming verbal attacks or the silence and withdrawal of family members. There is little evidence of friendship at the negative end of family experiences, and family members will frequently feel helpless, hopeless and lonely.

Parents and children in these families will often feel physically sick with headaches, stomach pain or aches in the back and shoulders. Many will also respond emotionally to these negative family experiences with anxiety symptoms, low mood and possibly also thoughts of self-harm.

Coping with family problems

  • Speak about your feelings with a friend or someone you trust: If something doesn’t feel right for you, then it probably isn’t and it is good to talk with others to think of ways of coping or moving forward.
  • Ask yourself the following questions: Does it feel good to live in your family right now? Do you feel you are living with friends, people you like and trust and who like and trust you? Is it fun and exciting to be a member of your family?
  • If you answer ‘yes’ to those questions, you live in a nurturing family.
  • If you answer ‘no’ or ‘not often’, you probably live in a family that is more or less troubled and may benefit from some help.
  • Practical self-help: People who like reading self-help books could look for ‘Peoplemaking’ by Virginia Satir, who was a world pioneer in the practice of family therapy. The book contains a lot of practical examples on how to improve self-esteem, talking and listening in families.
  • Professional support: Your family may benefit from professional help to try and move forward with family life in a positive way. This may be informal or informal.

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  • Skype or Facetime: encourages communication through video link when far away from family members

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