Healthy Coping Strategies for Family Systems

In our third and final post in this series about family systems, we look at steps we can take when dealing with a closed family system and/or fostering an open one. The first step begins through understanding and acceptance that the relationships we have are not always the ones we want. I often refer to our propensity towards eternal hope, and we can often stay stuck in a place of wishing that our familial relationships were easier/better/kinder, etc.

Understanding that sometimes we have to manage our familial relationships, gives us the permission to put some much needed steps into place:

  1. Boundaries. Boundaries are an important part of a healthy family system. Giving people their space for privacy, trying to understand their position in times of conflict, aiming for balance in terms of time spent together, the expectation of good manners and kind behaviour towards each other, rules for repair.
  2. Take space when you need to. If you are trying to work with a closed family system, there will be times when you will need to distance yourself from the chaos of it. And that is okay. Communication is key in letting family members know that space is important right now as some much needed processing needs to take place. In a open system, members tend to be able to find some balance between time spent together and time spent apart to best maximize both the individual and the group.
  3. Use your voice. One of the ways we focus on good communication in families is to be able to tell others how something makes us feel. There are times that we can overlook a slight or a jab, and other times we can’t. Very often, we will sacrifice our own needs or wants in order to not create conflict. Beginning to recognize what can’t be overlooked is an important step in telling a loved one that their behaviour hurt you in some way. Being able to say something calmly, focused on fact and feeling, short and sweet, will allow you to feel as though you said what needed to be said regardless of the outcome.

Relationships can be tough. They also require work. But they are also the most rewarding and fulfilling social connection that we have; working towards the health of a relationship becomes our number one goal in living a life that is focused on meaning, love and overall contentedness.

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