What to Do When You Have Family Issues

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

Every family should expect conflict once in a while. It’s normal, and to be expected for every family to feel the stress of living with each other.

Family conflict doesn’t have to mean your family is falling apart. Disagreements are going to happen, and it’s not an indicator of a lack of love. Resolving familial issues in a constructive and healthy manner is a great way to show love to your family members.

What Are Family Issues?

The specifics of family issues are often sticky and difficult situations. They can feel hard to think about, let alone discuss openly with family members. However, not every source of conflict is unique or even negative. 

Conflict From Stages of Growth

Some conflict comes from regular and even good parts of life. Married couples often go through a gauntlet of conflict within their first year of marriage. This does not imply a problem with their relationship; rather, it's that there's simply a lot of change to get used to.

Common growing pains that create conflict within a family can include:

  • Moving
  • Adjusting to married life
  • Having a baby
  • A child starting school
  • A child going through puberty

Growing pains and the conflict that they can cause often hurt. It takes time to get used to your family’s new station or your new responsibilities. Acknowledge the fact that situations are hard and work with your family to create clear expectations.

common growing pains that create conflict within a family can include: moving, adjusting to a married life, having a baby, a child starting school, a child going through puberty

Conflict From Change in Situation

Some family issues come from changes in living situations. These situations are common to families but can cause long-term familial stress.

These issues can include: 

  • Separation or Divorce
  • Increased time apart
  • Sudden financial turmoil
  • Death of a family member
  • Long or short-term illness

These can change family dynamics and change the way the family operates. These situations are hard for families to work through, and require clear communication and care.

Conflict From Abuse

Substance abuse wreaks havoc on families. Whether it be a parent or a child, the effects of substance abuse disorder can be felt by all family members. Alcoholism is also closely related to domestic abuse. This topic is a hard one and can sometimes require police intervention. 

If your family is suffering from abuse of any kind SAMHSA’s National Healthline can be reached at 1(800) 662-4357. Help is available, speak with someone today.

What to Do if You are Experiencing Family Issues

  • Agree to meet
  • Acknowledge the issue
  • Listen to one another
  • Resist escalating and pointing fingers
  • Work together to find a solution

Facing familial conflict is not easy. It will be uncomfortable and it may take time to resolve.

Agree to Meet

The first step in resolving conflict is agreeing to meet. Gathering everyone to voluntarily discuss issues will help create a safe space where everyone knows they are there to help each other.

Depending on the situation you may want to schedule a time when everyone can be present to discuss the conflict. You may be able to get together right way, but make sure everyone is in a headspace where they can talk and listen.

Acknowledge the Issue

Talking around the issues and using generalities isn’t enough. Acknowledge the issue for what it is. This gives people the opportunity to feel heard. It’s not helpful to ignore the complaints someone has because you aren’t comfortable with them.

Saying what is wrong will often make the issue feel present and real. Listening to how you’ve hurt a loved one is not easy. However, it’s an important step, and acknowledging the pain of the situation will make those hurt feel heard.

Defining the issue is not always easy. Give family members the space to talk until they are better able to define how they are feeling. 

Listen To One Another

For conflict to be resolved, people need to be able to share their feelings. Give everyone a moment to talk and give them the space to air their grievances. 

This isn’t the time to offer suggestions or for you to defend yourself. However, this is the time to acknowledge felt pain and how people have been hurt. A simple and honest “I’m sorry” goes a long way.  

Don’t interrupt people, this will only escalate the situation. Communication should be open and family members should feel safe to express themselves.

a man discussing family issues with a counselor

Resist Escalating and Pointing Fingers

Resist the urge to heap blame on others. If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, you may need to bite your tongue until it’s your turn to speak. Even then, resist the urge to let your emotions propel you to blame others or say something you shouldn’t. Take a few breaths or ask for a break if you have to.

Work Together to Find a Solution

Families must find solutions to their issues as a team. Even if you see a clear solution to the problem, pose it as a question and let the group discuss it.

Everyone’s feelings and thoughts should be considered. Find what needs to change to stop the situation from happening again. It might require an apology from someone and a plan to change their behavior.

Sometimes we aren’t aware of the ways we hurt others, and we need to hear it from someone else. If this is the case, acknowledge how you’ve hurt them and discuss how you will do better going forward. Chances are, you never intended to hurt them, and you don’t want to hurt them again. 

The same might be true for someone who has hurt you. They might not be aware of how you feel. 

Conflict Resolution With an Unresponsive Family Member

Not everyone in your family will be open to discussing and working through family issues. You can only do so much. 

Narcissistic family members are very hard to help. If you find yourself in a situation of conflict with a narcissistic family member it may be time to seek professional help.

Seek Professional Help

Some family issues may be too hard to resolve on your own. Seeking help for your family is an honorable thing to do and it shows your family that you’re willing to work through these issues.

Family issues can cause depression and anxiety in the people involved. Working through these issues may require a mental health professional’s help—for individuals and the family unit.

Family Therapy

Going to family or couples therapy is a great way to deal with family issues. The goal of family and marriage counseling is to:

  • Improve communication
  • Solve family issues
  • Offer ways to improve the functionality of the home

A family therapist will work with your family to make sure everyone is heard and that the presenting complaint has improved. Therapists and professionals know some situations require a high level of care. Many issues are solved most effectively in the context of the family or relationship dynamic.

a happy family with a man, woman, and toddler.

Individual Therapy

Even if you and your loved ones attend family or couples counseling, it never hurts to work through some things on your own. Whether or not your family is willing to work through family issues, it’s normal to feel stressed about them. Taking care of your mental health is paramount for helping your family.  

Your family may not be willing to attend family counseling, but you may feel overwhelmed by the situation. Going to individual therapy can help you better manage stress as you live through familial issues.

Take care of yourself by requesting a consultation at Inner Balance Counseling and see if we can help.

Moving Forward

The time after discussing conflict can be awkward. People might feel like they’re walking on eggshells or like they’re unable to get back to normal living. The ripples and wounds of family conflict can last for a long time. 

Family members might be tender after conflict, but over time, things will begin to improve. Keep an open line of communication so conflict will be more easily resolved in the future.

It’s not a bad idea to seek counseling after these events. Family issues can be a source of trauma and living through them isn’t easy. Trauma therapy can help you unpack and process these events healthily.

Find Help At Inner Balance

Inner Balance Counseling offers several therapy modalities including:

Whether you’re looking for help while in the throes of family conflict, after family conflict, or just in general, Inner Balance can help you start feeling better. We understand that asking for help is hard, and that’s why we want to make it easy for you. Reach out, show up, and feel better.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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