Effective family relationships and functioning
“A family is who they say they are.” Wright and Leahey
Relationship problems in family is a serious stress among the members of that family. Relationship problems may exist in varying degrees between the husband and wife, parents and children or between the children. Family is the smallest representation of a community, nation and a culture. If the family is dysfunctional the end result will be a dysfunctional nation. When certain things are taken care of within a family these relationship problems can be avoided.
Stages of family development
The single young adult
This is a difficult stage because the young adults must decide what social standards from the family of origin will be preserved and what they will change for themselves to be incorporated in to a new family. Tasks of this stage include forming an identity separate from parents, establishing intimate peer relationships and advancing towards financial independence.
A new married couple
Marriage is a difficult transition because the each partner will have their own uniqueness and such a difference should be assembled together to form as a couple. The new couples must then renegotiate their relationships with their parents, siblings and peers. Tasks of this stage include establishing a new identity as a couple, realigning the relationships with members of the family and taking decisions about having children etc.
The family with young children
Adjustments in relationships should occur with the arrival of children. The entire family is affected and the realignment of relationship must occur. Tasks of this stage includes adjustments within the marital system to meet the responsibility associated with the parenthood while maintaining the integrity of the couple relationships, sharing the responsibility of child bearing equally and integrating the relationship with the other members of the family.
Family with adolescence
Both parents will be approaching the middle life while adolescence are undergoing biological, emotional and socio-cultural changes and all these factors demands the changes in family relationship patterns. Tasks of this stage includes redefining the level of dependence so that adolescence are provided with great autonomy while parents remain responsive towards the dependency needs of the adolescence. Problems related to middle age, work, couple relationships and aging parents also must be solved during this period.
The family launching grown children
This stage is characterised by intermittent entry and exit of family members. Children may leave home for further studies, work etc. while in-lows and children enter in to the family system. A great deal of relationship realignment is necessary at this time. Adult to adult relationship is important at this time and tasks associated with this stage include re-establishing the bond of the dynamic marital relationship, realigning the relationship to include the grandchildren and accepting the additional care taking responsibilities.
Family in later life
This stage begins with the retirement and last until the death of both spouses. Most adult in this stage still have a prominent part of the family system and many are able to offer support for their grown children. Tasks associated with this stage include accepting the physiologic changes associated the aging, changes in socio-economic status with the retirement, dealing with the death of the spouse and friends.
Major changes in family development
Divorce is a major change in the process of family development. Both the individuals must then go through the stages of grief and resolve effectively. Stages of family life cycle of divorce include deciding to divorce, planning the breakup of the system, separation and divorce. Tasks involve accepting one’s own part in the failure of marriage, working cooperatively on problems related to custody and visitation of the children and finances.
Divorce in a family with children is again a major issue in the development of the children. The custodial parent must then adjust to the functioning as a single leader as an ongoing family while working to build a new social network.
About three fourth of the people divorced will eventually remarry. Remarriage is also demands a major changes in family developmental process as well as in the individuals of the family. The custodial parent has to find a spouse who can adjust with the children and the new spouse has to adjust with the new system and the children and the children has to accept the new step-mother and adjust with the new family system.
Elements of effective family functioning
Functional communication patterns are those in which verbal and non-verbal messages are clear, direct and honest. All family members should be encouraged to express honest feelings and opinions and all family members should have equal participation in decisions that affect the family system. Each member must be active listener to others in the family system
2. Self concept reinforcement
Functional families strive to reinforce and strengthen each members self concept, with the positive results being that family members feel loved and valued.
3. Family member’s expectations
Expectations of family members from others in the family must be realistic with an understanding of the abilities and limitations of others. Expectations must also be flexible, allowing interruptions and changes occur without conflicts. Each member must be valued individually and comparison with other member should be avoided.
4. Handling differences
It is unrealistic to think that every member of a family should share the same attitudes, values and believes. These factors are unique in every individual in a family. Family members should understand that it is acceptable to disagree and deal with differences in an open non attacking manner.
5. Family interaction patterns
Each family member should share a common interaction pattern in a family. The interaction pattern must be accepted as a rule in the family and the interaction patterns must be workable, constructive and with a view to help and support other members.
6. Family climate
Family climate represents the emotional atmosphere within a family. The climate of the family is composed of a blend of the feelings and experiences that are the result of family member’s verbal and non-verbal sharing and interacting. A positive family climate is founded on trust and is reflected on openness, appropriate humour and laughter, expression of caring and mutual respect.
Major factors causing dysfunctional families
1.Making assumptions: A family member assumes that others will understand what is in his/her mind and no need to talk to them about it. This lack of communication causes dysfunctional family. The family member also assume what the other person is thinking or feeling without clarifying it.
2.Belittling feelings: This involves ignoring the feelings of others when it is expressed. This discourages the other member to express feelings honestly.
3.Failing to listen: One does not listen to what the other individual is saying.
4.Communicating indirectly: For example, if a child want a toy from a shop and he is afraid to ask to his father. So he approaches his mother and she talk about this to her husband.
5.Double-bind communication: It conveys a ‘damned if I do and damned if I don’t do’ message.
6.Expressing denigrating remarks: It involves Negative criticism.
7.Withholding supportive messages
8.Taking over: The responsibility of one member is taken over by other and not allowing him to develop a sense of responsibility.
9.Ignoring individuality: One family member fails to accept that the other member is a unique individual that he has his own decisions and freedom.
10.Demanding proof of love.
11.Attacking: A difference in opinion can deteriorate into a direct personal attack manifested by blaming another person, bringing up the past and making destructive comparisons etc.
13.Surrendering: A person who is surrendering in the face of disagreement does so at the expense of denying his or her needs.