All families go through times where problems crop up and have an effect on the familial unit.
This is a normal part of life and can be used to teach everyone, especially the children, the value of good communication, resilience, and problem-resolution techniques.
Let’s see how you can best meet family problems head-on and learn how to expertly navigate these critical waters, coming out on top with a strengthened sense of family ties.
Problem: The family members are dispersed, living far from each other
When you first envisioned how your family would look, you may have imagined a closeness both physical and emotional. But your real family looks nothing like that now.
Maybe you are part of the military, with changes of the station every 18 months that take you far away from your parents and friends.
Maybe you or your spouse’s job has you experiencing transfers all over the country which means you don’t see your parents often and their contact with the grandchildren is only virtual.
To help with this problem, take full advantage of the internet and its capacity to keep you all linked and updated on the family’s daily activities.
It isn’t as good as living in the same town as the grandparents and other members of your extended family, but it is a good way to feel like you are present in each other’s lives.
Set up weekly Skype sessions so the children can share with their grandparents and have a sense of their voices and personalities, so when you do connect in real life, there is already a baseline relationship in place.
Share your photos through Facebook, Flickr, or another social media platform. Plan family reunions on a yearly basis so that you always have that connection to look forward to.
Problem: With extended family around you have no breathing space
While you appreciate having babysitters available at a moment’s notice, you are less fond of your extended family always knowing your business, dropping by without notice, or assuming that you want them hanging around your house all weekend long.
This is a great moment to learn boundary-establishing techniques.
Pick a neutral moment to open the discussion (don’t wait until you are fed up with seeing your brother-in-law sitting on your sofa for 12 hours straight, binge watching Game of Thrones) and come from a place of kindness. “You know we love you and we love how involved you are with the kids, but we need some only-us family time right now.
So let’s sit down and talk about ways we can still enjoy your visits, but which also let our family just be together, the four [or however many there are in your immediate family] of us.”
Problem: Trying to find a perfect balance between your professional life and your home life
This is a classic, 21st-century challenge, now that most of us are two-income families. A demanding job and a busy home life lead us to feel like we are always short-changing either our employer or our family. This creates a stressful situation which can negatively affect our household.
Take a step back and see what you can do to help ease the pressure at home.
Make sure everyone (not just you!) is involved in the household chores, from the smallest child (who can certainly tidy up his toys at the end of each day) to the oldest (who can help with laundry, dinner preparation and post-meal cleanup).
Once the chores are done, carve out some time each evening for togetherness—even just watching a family-friendly show on the TV counts—so that your time as a unit is not one of just doing chores, but a moment of quality.
Be sure to make the evening meal a priority—dinner is an important time for your family to bond, so don’t waste that by having everyone eating in front of their computers in their own rooms.
Problem: One of your children is special needs, and your other children aren’t getting enough attention
With a special needs child in the family, it is normal that much of the parental attention be focused on supporting this child.
But often what happens is the other children suffer from a reduced amount of parental focus. This can lead to them acting out or trying to make themselves as small and invisible as possible. Neither of those behaviors is ideal. You feel guilty about the entire situation.
This is a particularly tough challenge for families but fortunately, there are some good solutions. Find a local support group for parents in similar situations, where you can hear how other parents are managing.
Make friendships within the group which will allow you to “swap” services such as child-minding, so that you can have some moments with your non-special needs children so they do not feel neglected.
Be open with your other children that their brother/sister needs a bit more of your attention but that they are very much present for you.
Make it a point to spend quality time with your other children when you can, even if it means having your spouse be with the special needs child while you take the others to the park, the movies, or just play a board game with them.