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Considering Family Dynamics

Posted Dec 25 2009 8:26pm

After holiday time spent together, it might be good to learn something about what it takes to have healthy family dynamics. Put simply, every pair needs to connect. So if there are eight people around the table or spending a day together, each different pair needs to spend some time talking. Think back, did that happen? If you are welcoming a new in law to a group of four; all the energy and interaction can’t remain between the two newly weds. Each member in the original family of four needs to build the beginnings of their own relationship with the new member. So the mother-in-law should consider inviting him/her out for a meal, just the two of them, to get to know each other. Then the father-in-law and sibling should also find a way to have alone time, which will genuinely contribute vitality to the group dynamic. It is such a simple solution and yet I rarely see it put into practice. It’s as if it’s o.k to only know in-laws as they are connected through the original family member, which involves minimal effort and massive doses of superficiality.

Think how much more interesting it is to welcome someone new into the family and find out who they are and how they’re different? A different sense of humor, different religion, different accent, different traditions, and a refreshingly different point of view. Suspend judgements and be curious. Too many families seem to play defense and close ranks instead of being welcoming.

Another unhealthy dynamic is when each parent seems to favor a different child. I often see and hear about this situation. Then the original two partners are not connected to each other, and the siblings are not connected to each other. There is too much loss in the other dyads. This situation looks like this:

It is easy to remedy; each parent needs to spend time with the kid they are not aligned with and they need to spend time with each other, repairing their own relationship. Though this situation can be fixed, it often goes unnoticed as if it doesn’t matter. This is why it’s important that young couples with infants don’t neglect their own relationship, which is very common. Solve this by having a date night every other week.

I believe this diagram occurs more often in families that squelch disagreement. Disagreement is an important element in healthy families. Many families want their young adult children to think the same way they do and are really unprepared for the new perspectives new members bring. So each parent “chooses” the kid that is most like them. Young adults keep secrets and avoid disagreements because the older adults don’t like the differences, so “what they don’t know won’t hurt them”. Secrets and silence always adds to distance in relationships and your children will remain unknown to you. Is that what you really want?

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