All families deal with relationship difficulties, small or large, at various times throughout the family experience. Family problems come in all shapes and sizes, impacting family dynamics and shaping family relationships. The ways that family members cope with and solve issues provide a framework for family dynamics and set the tone for family life.
How to Solve Family Problems
- Create an Environment of Sharing
- Acknowledge the Problem
- Get to the Deeper Issue
- Focus on the Relationship – Let Go of Anger and Pride
- Get Professional Help
- Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Creating a family culture of openness and security, and taking the steps to resolve family issues, can improve relationships and maintain positive family dynamics.
Common Family Problems
Families face a variety of problems, both large and small. Family conflict and relationship problems can include arguments, miscommunication, and misunderstanding. They also can involve deeper issues such as substance abuse, financial instability, mental illness, grief, health problems, and divorce. Sometimes, these issues exist between only two family members, and other times they spread throughout the entire family, creating extended family issues. Some issues, like grief after the loss of a loved one, appear plainly on the surface, while others can be more subtle. Perhaps your child refuses to communicate with you, or your wife doesn’t seem to be a happily married woman.
Family issues often have underlying causes which are not always apparent.. And yet the impact of these root causes can spread throughout the family, creates conflict or emotional strain in several family relationships. Such conflict is especially impactful on a child’s life, creating emotional difficulties that are often carried from their childhood and adolescence into their adult lives and future family relationships.
Create an Environment of Sharing
Families are built on relationships, and relationships are strengthened through healthy communication. An environment of sharing creates the foundation for healthy communication. Family members need to feel safe to share their feelings and discuss their issues and emotions. As a family oriented parent, that means allowing your child to share their point of view without fear of judgment or punishment. Sometimes, a child just needs to feel certain that what they say will be taken seriously. A child who feels safe can talk about difficult or emotional subjects, such as mental health, self-identity, anxiety, or substance abuse. Children who feel safe and respected are much more likely to open up to a parent when struggling with a situation or trying to make a difficult decision. This is also true for other family relationships—not just between parent and child, but between siblings and within the marriage.
Ways to achieve an environment of sharing include:
- Listen. Really listen to the other person before providing advice or counsel. Sometimes, it is better to first ask if advice is welcome. If the answer is no, let it go and follow up later.
- Be willing to share your own feelings. Sometimes things seem obvious to us, but they may not be obvious to your child, spouse, or sibling. Sharing your own feelings without placing blame can bring up new points of view.
- Speak for yourself and avoid blame. When sharing your perspective, present it as just that - your perspective and not the facts.
- Recognize others’ experiences as valid. Telling others how they feel or should feel creates barriers and discourages sharing.
- Be human. Admitting you are wrong, or that you made a mistake, can help others feel more comfortable to admit their own mistakes.
- Model the behavior you want to see. We are all influenced by the people who surround us. Modeling healthy ways to express thoughts and emotions encourages others to do the same.
- Do things together. Families that spend time together engaged in positive activities achieve a sense of closeness that encourages open communication and sharing. Explore shared interests, sports, or service ideas for families. Activities that involve serving others and getting outside are especially fulfilling and often instigate future conversations and closer relationships.
Sharing openly among family members sets the stage for solving family problems and preventing future issues from arising.
Acknowledge the Family Problem
Sometimes family problems stem from something simple like a lack of closeness. Other times the problems involve something much more serious, like abuse. Acknowledging that a problem exists is the first step in doing something to fix the situation. Ignoring issues and pretending everything is fine are common unhealthy coping mechanisms for family members experiencing relationship conflict or emotionally difficult situations.
Lack of acknowledgment can exacerbate issues, fuel negative situations, and culminate in negative or damaging behavior, such as lashing out in anger, aggressive argument, substance abuse, or family violence. Acknowledging a problem as early as possible allows positive action to be taken toward fixing the situation, and may prevent unhealthy coping mechanisms that lead to negative situations.
Sometimes we avoid discussing problems because our past efforts to do so only seemed to make things worse. As a result, we believe that avoiding is better than continuing to fight. In truth, avoiding instead of fighting just leads to other side effects in families. Feeling stuck is often a sign that involving a third party is needed, such as a good marriage and family therapist.
Get to the Deeper Family Issue
After acknowledging that a problem exists, steps can be taken to identify the source of the problem and improve the situation. Most family problems are merely symptoms on the surface of a deeper-rooted cause. Knowing the cause paves the way for greater empathy among family members and illuminates situations that require change. Here are some examples of family problems and their deeper issues:
Conflict between siblings – The majority of families will experience some sibling conflict between children at various times. But if that conflict extends beyond the occasional bickering to consistent emotional arguing or angry or hurtful behavior, then a deeper issue is likely the cause. That deeper issue could involve jealousy or feelings of inadequacy, where one child feels overshadowed by the other. One child could be putting pressure on the other to keep a secret from their parents (such as breaking a rule or lying). The cause could also be external, affecting one child who in turn uses their sibling as a dump truck for unloading their stress, frustration, or anger.
Alcohol abuse or other substance abuse – Family members who abuse alcohol or other substances are often using the activity as an escape mechanism. They could be escaping from a difficult emotional situation, such as grief over the loss of a loved one, financial instability, marriage conflict, or divorce. Or, they could be escaping from physical pain from illness or other health problems. Professional help from a therapist or support group can help to break down the deeper issues that lead people to substance abuse and start them on the road to recovery.
Stress and anxiety in children – These are common effects of a variety of deeper issues. Often, anxiety is triggered by an event or a difficult situation. The stress that stems from it leads to further anxiety, creating a cyclical pattern. The root of the anxiety could be a social issue at school or concern for a friend. It could relate to feeling overwhelmed in school or struggling with an undiagnosed learning disorder. Children often perceive more than they let on and could be reacting to a passing comment from a parent, such as “Our budget is tight this month.” Talking with your child and maintaining trust through open communication encourages children to reveal the source of their anxiety.
Sometimes, identifying the deeper issue and bringing it out in the open is all it takes to resolve a problem. Other times, merely identifying the root cause is just the beginning of the long road to resolution. This important and necessary step will help to develop a plan for resolving issues and encourage understanding within family relationships.
Focus on the Family Relationship – Let Go of Anger and Pride
Anger and pride are the enemies of healthy family relationships. They feed negative emotions, hamper empathy and understanding, and thwart positive and open communication. Holding on to these feelings blocks the path to conflict resolution. Anger and pride are divisive to family relationships and damaging to individual mental health. They are fuel for the cyclical patterns of stress, anxiety, and depression. Despite knowing this, however, letting go of such emotions can be difficult – and sometimes painful. The fear of pain, vulnerability, or failure are often what keeps a person from improving their family relationships and focusing on the importance of family.
One of the best ways to move beyond that fear is to focus on the relationship. Prioritize the goal—a healthier, happier relationship—over the fear of being hurt or the fear of failure. When family problems exist, a person has usually been hurt already, which makes the fear of being hurt again even greater. But while that risk of further hurt is real, the potential for healing and resolution is also real. Focusing on that potential, and letting go of those negative emotions, opens the door to healthier communication, relationship healing, and better mental health.
Get Professional Family Help
Getting professional help is one of the best ways to handle family problems. Some situations, such as those involving abuse, dangerous behavior, or domestic violence, require immediate professional help and formal family assessment. In other situations, such as ongoing disagreements over a certain topic or lack of closeness within a marriage, brief therapy help can provide the catalyst you need to get unstuck and achieve the fulfilling relationship that you each desire.
Many people hold back from seeking professional help because of fears or misunderstandings. Here are some facts about therapy that help to debunk some of these common myths and misconceptions:
Therapy is for everyone - A common misconception about therapy is that it is reserved for people with mental illness, individuals with an emotional disorder, or people who are too weak to handle their own problems. This could not be further from the truth. As humans, we need other humans to work through issues with us. Therapy provides a safe, confidential environment to do just that.
Professional help is available for all types of issues, whether large or small, and in a variety of formats. Family therapy, marriage counseling, support groups, and individual sessions with a therapist are just a few examples. There is also a variety of specialties, including psychology, psychiatry, religious counseling, and much more. At the end of the day, therapy is merely a safe space to work through your family problems with the support of a trained professional.
Therapy is worth your time - Another common misconception is that therapy is a waste of time or money. You could talk to anyone, so why talk to a therapist? Therapists have special expertise gained through extensive professional training. They will not only help you talk about your family issues but will help you to develop strategies for resolving difficult situations. A family therapist can also discuss various types of issues you may be dealing with, and different options for resolution or treatment, such as new scientific approaches to treating a specific issues.
Therapy is safe - One myth about therapy is that there are risks. The risk of being judged (by the therapist or by friends and family) or the risk of being medicated. On the contrary, therapy provides a safe and confidential space to explore all options for healing. Often, professional counseling is all that is needed or desired for family conflict resolution.
Professional help can provide growth and healing for a parent, child, or an entire family, improving family dynamics and emotional health. It can provide mediation and conflict resolution within a marriage, between siblings, or any type of family relationship. Think about the type of support (such as family therapy, religious counseling, or psychiatry) that feels right for your family and seek it out.
It is true that the quality of the professional you work with can make a big difference in the outcome of your therapy. For this reason, it’s often best to seek a referral from a trusted friend or family member. If that feels uncomfortable, consider asking for a referral from your family doctor. If you’ve had a negative experience in the past, consider giving it another try, this time with a trusted referral.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself and maintaining your mental health is essential when attempting to solve family issues. Maintaining positive, healthy family dynamics starts with a healthy self. Being in a healthy mental space allows you to let go of negative emotions. This, in turn, paves the way for safe and open communication between family members and helps the entire family focus on relationships.
Not only does this place you in the right frame of mind to address family conflict, but it models a healthy example for your children to do the same. It is integral to maintaining a strong family structure that provides a sense of stability and security for children. For a parent, maintaining your mental health can provide you with the strength and perspective needed to maintain the necessary qualities of a good father and mother, such as understanding and empathy.
Taking care of yourself is often easier said than done, especially while feelings of stress, anxiety, or emotional dissatisfaction prevail. Finding a healthy outlet to decompress and let go of stress and other negative emotions can help to maintain a healthy state of mind. Choose a regular time in your schedule just for maintaining you. This could include a daily exercise routine, a therapeutic hobby (such as gardening or journaling), or a weekly therapy session. Taking care of yourself leaves you open to model healthy behavior for your children and to focus on family relationships.
Impact of Family Problems
When not addressed, family problems can have serious impacts on individual family members. Issues such as increased levels of stress and anxiety, emotional difficulties and disorders (such as depression), substance abuse, and addiction, are all likely to surface. Sometimes, these impacts carry on throughout a child’s life. Family problems can especially impact children, who are often capable of perceiving much more than one might think. Children may also perceive a problem, but not be able to fully understand it. Such misunderstandings can lead to greater issues, further affecting family dynamics and individual emotions. Where family issues exist, acknowledge the problem, and take the steps to resolution.
Solving Family Problems
Families experience a wide range of issues, some small and some large. These issues typically involve strain or conflict within family relationships. They can have lasting impacts on individual family members, especially children. Taking steps to address family issues, and seeking resolution among family relationships can ease emotions, promote mental health, and maintain a positive family culture. A family culture quiz by Kinmundo is an easy way for families to evaluate and improve the culture within their family.
A positive family culture requires a structure built on family values that maintains a safe environment for sharing. Open communication in an environment safe from fears of judgment provides a model of stability and security for family members to acknowledge and address important issues with understanding and empathy. Creating such a culture is paramount to solving family issues when they arise.
A family that feels open and safe to share emotions, acknowledge issues, and seek help when needed can maintain positive relationships and mental health. When family members are prepared to resolve family conflict, they can reduce the lasting impacts of difficult situations and fix relationships that may seem broken.