I am disturbed by the focus of today's column but I think we have to address it head on. It sounds as though family problems are a given, they have always been there and they will continue to follow us no matter where we go. And, unfortunately, this is very true. Let me first emphasize that we get many wonderful gifts, positive qualities and enviable attributes from our family. Some families have more and share more positives than others. But, none of us leave our family of origin, no matter how hard our parents worked to do a good job, without some baggage and issues to deal with in our adult lives. That is sad; but it seems to be a given. My intent in today’s column is to first, recognize and acknowledge the existence of all the positives that we received. They support us and help us thrive. But, so much of my work and focus as a family consultant, is on how to deal with, change and improve those traits that aren’t working…and the sooner the better. So please don’t lose focus on the many positives as we examine how to improve what doesn’t work.
Several weeks ago, I talked about how we all start off with a family backpack (February 5th) filled with issues that we did not choose, that were more or less given to us by our parents to deal with, struggle with and, maybe, with some good fortune, be able to heal and resolve. What a way to run a universe! I have often asked the question, " God, what were you thinking?”
Many of us start off with parents who have a pretty good assortment of flaws - for example, a dad who didn’t communicate well with his wife and continued that distant relationship with his kids (meanwhile, the children are thinking that those interactional behaviors…long silences and cold stares…were normal communication patterns…or a dad, who was a workaholic, whose work ethic was a supposed to be emulated by his children, even though - the long hours and time away from family relationships - will be a breeding ground for a son/daughter to follow. There is the dad who drinks too much…bullies…cheats on his wife…and lies when confronted with any of these faults. Let’s look at some moms who accepted “less-than” rolls to their husbands - your daughters were watching and learning how to deal with men in the future. Moms, who because of distant husbands, were drawn to becoming overly-involved in the emotional and relationship lives of their children…and found it very difficult to let them go emotionally for fear of the empty nest. I could go on. You also know many sad stories all too well. What’s the solution?
Preventive Education. Since we all come with backpacks, it would make great sense to have a strong, preventive, educational program on how to build relationships in the family. It is where we first learn how to relate, communicate, share, have a voice and get along. Did you, or anyone you know, have the chance early on to take a course that taught you how to be in a relationship, give you some grounding into how to select a mate, figure out if you are repeating patterns and choices that led your parents’ and/or relatives on a negative path? Did anyone tell you how to grow and strengthen your relationship through the first 3 to 5 years of marriage where the satisfaction rates decline every year, even more so if you choose to have children? How well are you prepared for the period of transition from “Being in Love” to “Being in Life?” Being a successful couple requires some really hard work. Were you prepared? Were you guided on how to raise kids and how to return to becoming a couple again when you successfully launch them from your home into their world?
NO! That’s the aggravating and frustrating answer. We have to do better. Family educators have known some answers and better solutions for years, but unfortunately, in the past, you had to go into therapy to find and get the solutions. But, only after the problem had surfaced. What a backwards approach. Get into trouble first, then get the education. We know that problems have to surface - let’s treat them preventively. Let’s say, “We will all have family relationship problems because we all were issued a backpack at birth. It is normal, predictable and understandable to have family issues so let’s go get some education and guidance. So, you are asking, what is Tom going to do to help change this process?
Starting in June, you will begin to see notices in the Laconia Sun on how to enroll in a course called, Invest in Your Family’s Well-Being. It will be done in a Zoom classroom format; it will be for free; each meeting will run for about an hour. You will be able to ask questions and there will be a discussion format. If you want to get a jump on this exciting opportunity, email me at changeuprogram.com. Share your thoughts with me; help plan the program.
So, what are you going to do right now to improve your family’s well-being? You don’t have to choose my path. But, please, make a commitment to do something new today to start the process. I like the quote from JD Houston, “If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done."
God hasn’t answered my question from paragraph two, but I’d be happy to share some of my thoughts with you if you choose to continue that discussion at www.familyconsultationservices.com/articles.
Tom Power is a family relationship consultant and the author of “Family Matters: A Layperson’s Guide to Family Functioning.” You can check out his website at www.familyconsultationservices.com or email questions to changeUprogram@gmail.com.