Why does the scent of a pine tree make me smile? Probably because it is my first memory as a small child as I was fascinated by the glow from our Christmas tree. It was the start of many joyous family traditions. The wonderful memories created by traditions help to define us. But, the interesting part now as I grow older is how the family dynamics started to change when we become adults and created families of our own.
When people from different backgrounds come together and start their own households, each individual comes with their own baggage, their own traditions. This plays a huge part in the family dynamics which can be explosive and humorous at the same time.
Many factors effect the core of a family unit. They include the nature of the parents relationship or maybe a mix of different family members living under the same roof. In addition the family is effected by many external factors such as a death, a sickness, trauma, mental illness, alcoholism, homelessness or unemployment. The number of children in the family and the personality of each member plays a role combined with parental love, concern and strict or lax discipline.
All families have their ups and downs as we take on different roles, especially as we age. The quirks, personalities, love or rejection of extended family add color to the mix. In this often confusing world, the goal of the family is to instill an environment that is safe and reliable with a belief system that families are supposed to strengthen one another.
My husband and I both come from large families. The family dynamics are polar opposites. One family is very accepting of one another never raising their voices while the other family is more judgmental with their own way of seeing. Our differences are what define who we are, our lack of acceptance is what causes division.
I like to think that a Family is not about last names or blood but defined by commitment and love. Taking it a step further, it is about showing up when the need is great. It may mean being the bigger person where you choose love even when you may not like each other.
What holds a family together when communication breaks down? I believe the bond of love, hopefully, is instilled in us as young children which helps to define our roles in family situations. We may joke about family disharmony caused by the wise cracking in-law, the bully uncle, the absent Mom, the work alcoholic Dad, that one aunt that steals the show, or the big brother or big sister syndrome that knows it all. Getting to know all the personalities at various family events creates the opportunity to really get to know one another and identify the ever changing roles we play in creating harmony in our family unit.
What would you consider as your role in family dynamics? Everyone needs a peacemaker, that one person that can see both sides and settle somewhere in the middle. In every case you need a caregiver, an unselfish but necessary part of just plain getting older. An organizer who helps to make things run smoothly is a plus. In the soup mix is various finger pointers or scapegoats that must not deter your efforts to solve problems. Worker bees who do not mind getting their hands dirty provide the muscle to get things done. Fact finders can help with decision making by gathering information on services or resources along with financial help.
One family was having a hard time dealing with their older Mom’s health issues and were stymied as to what to do. The decision was made by the immediate family to allow the relatives that live close to make all the final decisions. One person was the go-to-guy for everything. One person was put in charge of keeping everyone informed. Another stepped up to the plate to gather information and help with financial needs. On the day of the big move into assistant living, everyone showed up fulfilling their roles in providing a safe and loving environment for their loved one.
I have found that tough family conversations especially in a crisis may take every ounce of your self control and even creativity. Our roles within the family dynamics may change as we navigate the good times and bad times as we age. The important thing is communication is open-ended and must not be taken personally. You may have to continually ask yourself – “What is important here?”
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