Developing family relationships can be a challenge for any family, whether it is a blended family with step-parents, a single parent family, an extended family, or a so-called “normal family” with two parents and one or more children. What is insidious about difficulties with family relationships is that family members often feel that it should be easy to have a functional family life, when in reality, it very rarely is. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to building family relationships.
Every Family Member Is a Different Person
While it is nice to think of a family as a single unit, the reality is that every family member is a different person with their own unique thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams and fears. It’s natural for parents to assume that their children will have desires in line with their own; when that doesn’t happen, the parents often feel betrayed. Similarly, children may grow up assuming it is their parents’ duty to nurture and support them; if the children’s needs come into conflict with the parents’ wants, they too may feel betrayed. It’s important for each family member to recognize every other member’s autonomy. That doesn’t mean let your kids do whatever they want, or accept it when parents shirk their responsibilities. It simply means that everyone should respect each other as people.
Each Family Member May Have Their Own Issues
None of us can be the perfect parent or child. Unfortunately, some people may have internal issues that are so strong that they interfere with their ability to be part of a supportive family unit. Parents may be narcissistic, insecure or insensitive. Children may be manipulative, apathetic or lazy. Each family member should do the best they can, but recognize that they are limited by what their fellow family members are capable of, and not blame themselves for what they cannot change.
Family Is Forever
Remember that you will probably have your family members with you for your entire life, or a good portion of it. Do your best to be a supportive member of the family, but recognize your limitations and the limitations of fellow family members.