A broken family is a family unit that is split or separated due to many possible reasons. This split or separation can be temporary or lifelong. A broken family happens when family relationships are divided by situations that may or may not be within their control. This breakdown of family relationships can happen due to differing beliefs, domestic violence, stubborn grudges, disrespect, divorce, financial struggles or illness.
7 Things to Help Fix a Broken Family
- Individual and Family Therapy
- Daily Structure
- Family Time
- Time and Patience
- Support Outside of the Family Unit
Whatever the cause of the broken family, each situation is unique. Sometimes, a broken family situation is more easily repaired. An apology, therapy, or time apart is all that is needed. Other times, a broken family may not be something that can be returned to its original form. Parents should always make considerations for the welfare of the children, as a child’s life is often largely impacted by the situation.
No matter the reason, there are steps that parents and children can take to help mend their family relationships. Even if family relationships are changed permanently, there is always hope for healing and moving forward in whatever the new family dynamics have become, such as a single parent household.
The advice below can help assist each individual in a broken family to move forward beyond the situation. Whatever situation caused the broken family, working to move past the event is the most beneficial step for everyone involved. In this way, the term broken family is a misnomer since healing and moving forward and creating new family identity is always possible.
Individual and Family Therapy
From the moment that a family is broken, a family therapist can help everyone involved. The sooner the underlying issues are addressed, the easier it will be to find resolution and prevent problems that may arise down the road.
A difficult family situation can be hard on every single person in the family, especially a child. It can be very difficult for children to express their thoughts and feelings, such as anger, conflict, fear, and confusion. A professionally trained family therapist has experience dealing with this type of situation and knows how to help the child or adult who may be struggling to cope with an issue.
A licensed family therapist can also teach coping skills to assist with a family member’s mental health. These coping skills can help everyone deal with the stress of daily life and keep those factors from further worsening the already difficult family situation. Each family member will handle their problems differently. Family members should be patient with each other as they make life changes and seek to strengthen their family relationships.
Sometimes, family therapy can be a good method to reduce family problems. Other times, it’s better for individual family members to meet with the therapist in order to communicate difficult thoughts and feelings that have come about from a broken family situation.
Create a safe environment so family members feel free to openly express their thoughts and feelings. This helps provide an opportunity to mend strained relationships. Set aside time each week to allow family members to express their thoughts and emotions about daily life and their personal struggles.
Encourage each family member to express his or her thoughts about how you can strengthen your family. These open communication sessions should be about sharing feelings, not blaming others. And it’s also okay if someone in the family doesn’t want to share their thoughts or feelings. Forcing an unwilling person to share will only undermine the purpose of the conversation in the first place by leading family members to feel unsafe. Instead, try to encourage family members to express their emotions without overly pressuring them. Do this by reassuring them that their opinion matters and will not be put down, dismissed or made fun of.
Scheduling this time as part of regular family life can be helpful. When one person is taking a turn speaking, the other family members should not interrupt. Avoid using electronic devices during this time and try to prevent distractions from hindering the conversation.
Although your first attempt may actually flop and feel like a failure, don’t give up. Trying again shows your family that you are committed to improving. Yes, it will take time and patience, but open discussion can offer valuable insights for everyone involved.
In additions, it’s a good way for adults to become aware of any serious issues that may need to be addressed more thoughtfully, and if necessary, with professional support. Proper communication can offer insight into the family dynamics and family structure and allow for better understanding and compassion towards each other.
During difficult life events, sometimes the only thing that we can rely on is the structure and routine of each day. These daily habits and activities can provide structure and a foundation for family relationships during times of change.
For the mental health of younger children, the routine of going to school or daycare, and having a consistent dinner time and bedtime can provide comforting stability to their ever-changing and insecure world. These predictable events allow a child to have something they can count on when they need it. Whether it is spending time at a grandparents’ house every Saturday night or taking regular trips to the park, a routine provides comfort and security to a child in need.
While a daily structure is important, you don’t need to become a slave to the routine itself. Parents and caregivers should pay close attention to how each family member is feeling about the daily routine.
Through therapy, open communication, and structure, family relationships can be improved. Another helpful way to improve family relationships is to spend some quality time together. Some examples include watching a movie together, playing a board game, preparing a meal together or taking an evening walk around the block.
These shared moments and family traditions work to develop the bonds between parents and children, as well as the relationships between brother and sister. This special family time can allow a child to see that life can include happy moments despite the current family struggles. Time together also helps define a set of family values that help promote a better state of mental health in the family. It helps remind family members of the importance of being a family.
During these moments together, relationships can be mended. As the family enjoys a movie, board game or family meal, people can begin to forgive, and family bonds can be reformed.
It’s also true that family time can trigger conflict in families that are trying to heal. For that reason, it’s tempting to simply avoid each other. While some time apart may be needed, forming a pattern of isolation in families will only make things worse in the long run. If you are worried “family time” will basically become a “family fight,” consider doing an activity that has low potential for conflict, such as a movie instead of a board game, or a sporting event instead of an escape room experience. In addition, you might start out with short activities, or even activities that only includes the more challenging child, and then work to include all family members as it makes sense to do so.
Time and Patience
It can take time to process and resolve family issues. Negative thoughts and emotions experienced in childhood can impact a child’s life for a long time, even as they age and get married. There are often feelings of confusion and feelings of doubt.
Each family member needs time and patience to learn how to adapt to a new situation. The process of healing emotionally and growing can be frustrating and difficult to handle. While going through this process, children and parents may feel as though they will never recover. Some of them may even feel like certain family relationships will remain broken forever. It’s important to remember that these things can get better with time.
Life is challenging even for a family that isn't separated or divorced. When serious problems tear a family apart, the issues of daily life become so much more difficult. This can create insecurities and other negative thoughts and feelings. Patience and love during these moments is necessary for healing to begin.
Support Outside of the Family Unit
It’s important to have a support system outside the family. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, and church leaders can help provide support. An objective perspective can go a long way toward helping resolve family problems. Having a community that’s able to offer support can help make daily life less stressful and reduce emotional problems.
Assistance from the community is extremely valuable. Some ways that friends and others in the community can help is to take a child to school while mom heads off to work, play a game with the children when dad is sick, or offer some one-on-one time with a teenager who needs to talk but doesn’t want to talk to his parents.
The cause of a breakdown in the family structure can have an impact on when and how forgiveness is offered. Each parent and child will process the situation differently and come to forgive at different times. It is important that this forgiveness isn’t forced before someone is emotionally ready.
In time, a parent, son, or daughter will hopefully be able to offer forgiveness. A licensed family therapist can help everyone see other points of view which can help this process along.
The person or people seeking forgiveness may have feelings of guilt, embarrassment, anger, or conflict. A trained therapist can help them come to terms with these feelings. Each family member needs to take time to process their conflicting emotions in their own time and way. Trying to hurry the process along will usually only prolong it.
How to Cope with a Broken Family
Asking questions of other family members can help you to gain insight into why this family situation may have occurred. Family members should try to consider all questions asked and be as open and honest as possible when answering. This honest sharing of feelings will help every family member have a better understanding of each other.
Maintaining structure in the daily routines of family life (such as school, work, and playtime) can help every family member cope more effectively during times of change.
There are several ways a broken family can affect a child’s development. A broken family can create difficulties in school, friendships, sleep patterns, and eating habits. Depending on the age of the child, unresolved issues can lead to drug and alcohol use and even criminal behavior.
How Can Broken Families Be Prevented?
One of the best ways to help prevent a broken family situation is to have open communication from the start. This creates a place where thoughts and emotions can be expressed in a non-threatening way. Expressing individual perspectives allows everyone to know where the others stand as it pertains to problems that arise in a family unit. Evaluate your family communication type by taking the family culture assessment developed by Kinmundo.com therapists and researchers. The foundation of your family culture is the ideal place to start evaluating the needs of your family and start the family improvement process.
Additionally, problems and threats can be addressed before they become severe and cause significant rifts in family relationships. This doesn’t guarantee that a family will never struggle, but it does provide a way to prevent many of the issues that lead to a broken family.
Being respectful, understanding, and forgiving also go a long way to help prevent a broken family.
Can a Broken Family Be Fixed?
While a broken family is a very difficult situation, there is hope. Stay focused on the importance of family and encourage family members to focus on being loving, respectful, and honest with each other. Even if a family can’t be restored to its original structure—which is almost always the case for divorced families—each individual in the family can feel loved and believe life will get better.
Family struggles can often help family members grow closer. When everyone works together to overcome challenges, family bonds can be strengthened, and forgiveness can be freely given and received.