When starting a family, parents rarely think of the “skills” they have (or don’t have) and how they want to teach these to their children. Like any relationship, it takes work to have a happy and healthy family unit. Family Skills like communication, conflict resolution, and emotion management all play a pivotal role in the relationship of two or more people living together. What happens when a parent does not have or does not know how to model these skills? What happens when a child is resistant to engaging in these skills in healthy ways? Usually, it creates family conflict and stress.
Common family stressors include behavioral problems at home/school, poor decision-making (skipping school or sneaking out at night), family communication breakdowns (yelling), grief, and/or adjusting to life changes. When these issues are present, family skills tend to get thrown out the window in an effort to reestablish normalcy but that’s the time when the skills are most important!
Communication skills are the foundation of a family system. It’s important for family members to recognize when a communication breakdown is occurring and stop and listen to each other. (Communication is more about listening than speaking!) It can be helpful to recognize that each member has a different communication style and how one person feels heard and respected, the other may not. One member may be more analytical and prefer to only discuss the facts. While another may be more expressive and want to talk about perceptions, thoughts and feelings. It’s a great idea to ask your (child/parent) how he/she would like to be spoken to.
Another family skill that gets tested is anger or emotion management. This can be true of both youth and parents! Yet, often parents who get angry and yell expect their children to not express their anger at all. Yelling parents generally have yelling kids. Plus, unhealthy anger expression tends to be contagious so responding in such a fashion only ads fuel to the fire leading to hurt feelings and the original issue left unresolved. Breaking this pattern can be extremely challenging and must really start with the parents. A child is not going to learn how to manage his/her own anger if the skill is not being modeled by the parent(s). (Remember, children have underdeveloped brains and cannot be held to the same standard as an adult!)
Along with anger management, conflict resolution is a skill that all persons need, especially in a family. Not everyone is going to get along all the time and that’s ok! Healthy family functioning does not mean never having conflict. It’s about showing respect to each other’s viewpoints (by having an open dialog without judgment), understanding that the resolution is everyone’s responsibility (not just the youth’s problem or the parents’ problem), and following through with the agreed on resolution.
If your family is in need of some skills training or just a refresher, The Family Tree Program is here to help. Contact us at 888-837-0666. Or visit us at our Website. We have various service providing locations in Denton and Dallas Counties.
Sadaf Meckfessel, LPC is the Director of CCD’s Family Tree Program which provides family counseling at no cost to families.