Family

Early signs your family is falling apart (and what to do about it)

Posted August 1

It’s normal to have family and marriage problems, whether they're caused by differences in values or financial problems. Sometimes it seems easier to just avoid the problem all together and hope it goes away. However, ignoring the issues make things worse than they already are.

If you’re worried about your family, here are some tips on how to spot problems early —

Don’t ignore the signs

1. Family members are no longer present, physically and emotionally

When members of the family stop sharing things with each other, no matter how small, this is a red flag. They might be feeling isolated or judged, which could lead to people physically distancing themselves from the rest of the family. Before you know it, entire family relationships dissolve.

2. Sudden and frequent outbursts

When people feel emotionally trapped, they tend to have emotional outbursts. An outburst of sadness can leave a person feeling weak while an outburst of anger can lead to verbal and physical abuse if not handled properly. Both kinds of outbursts take a huge toll on the people around them.

3. Thinking about family induces negative feelings

If you (or your family) associates negative feelings while thinking about a spouse or sibling, that's a warning sign of a serious issue. It might be anger, fear, jealousy, embarrassment or insecurity — not qualities present in a happy family.

4. No one wants to compromise

All relationships are built on compromise. When people feel like they always have to win an argument, there is a problem.

Taking action

Use these signs to clue you in on any problems in your family, and take action as soon as possible. Prolonging family problems can make them harder to solve. Each family is unique, but finding a solution often has similar steps:

1. Acknowledge the problem with your family members

It sounds obvious, but it's vital. "Look for causes, not just symptoms. We need to identify the daily experiences in a child’s life that are sources of painful feelings." Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. points out.

Acknowledging the problem is the start of the solution. Acknowledging your part in the problem is also just as important. Figure out why and what the problems are in your family before moving on to a solution.

2. Tackling the issue at hand

Because there are many kinds of issues, a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist. However, there are some basic components to any solution — things like empathy, humility, gratitude and understanding come to mind. Approach your child's problem with yelling with patience. Figure out how you can deal with your child's anger. Maybe having one-on-one time with your child will cut down on their need to lash out.

If your family's issues stems from a difference in priorities, sit down and talk about understanding's everyone's expectations and schedules. If these issues are not dealt with immediately, this can lead to a person being overshadowed and feeling abandoned. Work to reconcile feelings and work towards a plan that benefits everyone.

3. Getting professional help

It might be embarrassing or even scary to ask for professional help, but "some more serious family problems ...[can] only be handled through therapy", according to writers at NoBulling.

Doing things alone can be potentially harmful due to high emotions. Getting unbiased outside assistance from an expert is probably just what you need. Choose a licensed professional who has many years of experience and a reputation for solving family problems. You’ll need to share intimate and emotional information, so make sure that all family members are comfortable with this person.

4. Create an open environment for sharing

Doing activities together forms and strengthens relationships. Plan on cooking and eating dinner together. You can also play, exercise, and pray together as a family. Regardless of the activity, what’s important is to create judgment-free and supportive space for your family.

When others are talking, remember to listen, be calm, and think about how the person feels as he or she is sharing.

5. Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Giving yourself some personal time to relax and take care of your needs, emotionally and physically, is also important. By taking care of yourself, you can approach family problems more calmly. Exercise and meditation are both great ways to take a step back and regain peace of mind.

Good families do have problems

It's a myth that good families don't have problems. Different personalities, whether you’re a parent or child, will always clash as people learn to live with one another. If you are prioritizing the ‘"good family image’"and ignoring issues, these little problems will slowly destroy your family, little by little.

But now that you know the signs and the basic steps, you can tackle these problems slowly and carefully, but head-on. Soon, your family will be stronger than ever.

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