This combines with couples'
to cause low-nurturance
(dysfunctional) families. The end of this toxic cascade is - their kids
grow up psychologically wounded and unaware, and usually repat and spread this
lethal cycle. This
is passively condoned by our society, so far.
This nonprofit educational Web site exists to help visitors become
aware of this cycle and motivate them (you) to
for the sake of
living and unborn kids.
Q11) Who belongs
to a given family? What does belonging mean?
Most healthy people
to belong to a group of other people - i.e. to be
acknowledged, accepted, included, and valued by other members.
Belonging provides security, identity, and companionship in a stressful
welcome new biological, legal, and social members, unless they have serious
values conflicts (like bigotry) or toxic behaviors like addictions,
lawbreaking, or violence.
Low-nurturance family members are prone to
conflicts over membership. Reactive
who don't know how to communicate effectively can reject family members they
clash with or dislike - e.g. they can exclude them from gatherings, ignore
their needs and opinions, withhold support, and avoid interactions
Other family members can exclude themselves. Inclusion/exclusion disputes can cause
among other family members, stressing everyone - specially kids.
Family membership-conflicts are specially common in typical multi-home
divorcing families and
- partly because adults aren't clear on, or deny, their identity ("We are
not a stepfamily, and your ex mate and his relatives don't belong in
our family!") For more perspective,
What determines a family's identity, and why is it important?
Your identity is the set of traits and characteristics that make you
unique from all other people. Families have identities too, which set them
apart from other families. Family identities also help answer "Who am
I? and "Who are we?"
Traits that distinguish families include last names, the ethnicity of
ancestors ("My Mom's people came from Norway"), their degree of
wealth, their home and neighborhood, race, religious and
political preferences, the education level (blue or white collar) and
professions of their adults ("We're a family of military people"), and their
reputation and status in the community (e.g. prominent, troublemakers, drug
users, bigots, fundamentalists, friendly, quiet, pleasant, activists, etc.)
Family identities are important
affect how members feel about themselves
(pride, shame, guilt, anxiety, defensiveness...);
silently shape others' expectations, because of
stereotypes ("If they're Irish, they probably love a good time,
drink a lot, and are passionate.").
And family identities...
affect members' acceptance in their community,
may target or protect families from mass-marketing campaigns.
you define your family identity? Would other members agree? Do you know how your kids
feel about it? This is a good topic for a family meeting.
What is a family mission statement, and why is it important?
In the last 150 years, technology and the population explosion have made
U.S. family life much more complex and hard to manage. Signs of family
dysfunction are everywhere - divorce, crime, obesity,
depression, welfare, abortions, homelessness, gangs, addictions, suicide,
dropouts, runaways, etc.
Many organizations include a vision or mission statement in their literature. These are succinct descriptions of "what we stand for and
what we're trying to do." Well crafted, such statements provide inspiration and
guidance in resolving complex internal or external problems, like the U.S.
As the Information Age explodes and the world accelerates and shrinks, keeping
families focused on their purpose becomes harder and harder. One solution is
for family adults to evolve a thoughtful
to guide their members
through stressful times. Doing this requires adults to
take proactive interest in their family's operation and welfare.
In this Web
focuses on growing
on family mission statements, see this.
Q14) How do typical
families develop, and why do I need to know this?
All living things bloom, grow, age, and die (develop).
Families of all types go through a
developmental cycle. They begin, evolve through predictable stages, and
eventually die out or are replaced by the next generation. Some types of
family have unique developmental phases, but all families follow the same
basic course, starting with the union of two or more people and
As the environment shifts and families develop, the needs of their members
change. To maintain a high
family adults need to be aware of these changes in each member, and adapt
their rules and roles to fill new needs as they emerge. For example,
families with young kids have a different set of needs to fill than when the kids become teens or leave the
nest, or when the adults retire.
Expecting these developmental need-changes can help adults plan ahead
and minimize conflicts among their family members.
The key is
adults' wanting to make
of their family members' needs and dynamics a high-priority habit.
Is this true of the adults in your family mow? Are you teaching your young
people to be aware?
Q15) What are family
grief and anger policies?
A policy is
a set of beliefs, values, and rules that governs personal or group
behaviors. Because all families
minor to major
across the years, the family leaders' attitudes and practices about
bonding and mourning form an unspoken "grief policy." If the
adults are (a)
and (b) informed on healthy-grief
grief policy will consistently promote healthy mourning in all their members and
supporters. This creates a
home and family, and raises the family's nurturance level.
If family leaders are
and unaware of
grief basics (the norm), they
risk living from a policy that hinders or
mourning in some or all members. They also risk modeling and teaching
unhealthy grieving policies to their descendents.
Incomplete grief seems to be a major
(dysfunctional) families. It promotes personal
problems like obesity,
and promotes premature death.
in this Web site
focuses on "good-grief" basics,
freeing up incomplete grief, and helping
adults evolve pro-grief homes and families.
Does your family have a
healthy grieving policy? Note that "no policy" is a policy! For
perspective, see this sample policy.
families and other groups form policies on how members are "supposed to"
feel and express
anger and frustration. Key parts of such policies are (a) whether
family members differentiate anger from
and (b) whether anger and frustration are seen as useful (pointing to
unfilled needs) or "negative" (harmful and disruptive).
Other important policy "planks" are (c)
how adults and kids are "supposed to"
respond to angry and frustrated people -
empathically, defensively, combatively, manipulatively, submissively,
scornfully, etc.; and (d) whether family members see anger as a healthy part of
the normal grieving process or not.
your adults and kids aware of your family
If so, are they using it
constructively? Does it promote or diminish
Q17) What is
"Therapy" is a medical term denoting intentional effort to improve some
aspect of personal or group health and functioning. So "family therapy" is
skilled interventions aiming to (a) diagnose hindrances to a family-system's
functioning well, and to (b) promote safe changes that will permanently
reduce the hindrances and restore the family's harmony.
In other words, family therapy aims to
identify which family-member
are not being met well enough;
what practical options exist for meeting
those needs better, to all members' satisfaction.
Family systems therapy seeks these goals by using systems theory
- i.e. studying the dynamics
between family members + the family's
+ the rules, roles, and boundaries that affect members' perceptions and
behaviors. "Treatment" usually involves (a) assessing and educating all
family members on
and (b) inviting several or all members to change, not just one.
Family-systems therapy with typical divorcing and stepfamily systems
requires special knowledge and training to be effective.
This is the polar opposite of individual therapy, which looks only at one
person's unmet needs. An important exception is
This skillfully applies family-system principles to a person's
unique group of
to identify and correct problems among them.
Family counseling usually does not use system theory.
education, and is often more superficial than true therapy. It still can be
very effective in improving family relationships and functioning in some
situations. The line between professional counseling and therapy can be
vague and debatable.
items about counseling and therapy for more perspective.
How does family therapy relate to couples counseling?
Significant relationship problems between mates affect
other family members - specially minor kids. Where those effects compound
the couples' problems, family therapy is best. Veteran family therapists can
help couples resolve their problems with or without involving other family
Marital therapists have special knowledge of common
problems, and solutions that some other therapists (e.g. Licensed
Professional Counselors - LPCs) lack. Veteran clinicians with a "LMFT" credential
(Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) should be adept at both.
Many churches and agencies offer "couples counseling." This
usually won't use family systems knowledge and techniques, and is apt to be
superficial - specially if it's provided by lay married couples
without clinical training.
counseling by an ordained cleric will provide religious and/or spiritual
help to troubled couples and families, but may lack the power and depth of
qualified family-systems therapy. Many pastoral counselors are also trained and experienced at
marital and family
therapy - so ask!
Reality: committed mates are a two-person system, so a "problem" in
one mate (like addiction, obesity, depression, "mood-disorders," and
paranoias, always involves the other mate, and may well
involve other family members too. The point:
counselor or therapist with systemic training and experience is more apt to
yield good outcomes than those without!
Stepfamily therapy is much more
complex, and requires special knowledge. See
This article provides brief, experience-based answers to questions
all adults should ponder about their families. This Q&A article is part of
self-improvement Lesson 5 - evolve a high-nurturance ("functional") family, and
break the [wounds + unawareness] cycle. It is one of
in this Web site.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
Prior page /
Lesson 5 /