No two families are alike, but the fact that every family experiences conflict in some capacity is undeniable. Even those with the closest bonds and strong emotional IQs are not exempt.
Family issues can strain relationships, so handling them tactfully and being intentional is essential.
According to the American Psychological Association, part of the strive for happiness involves a keen knowledge of coping with trouble.
Before jumping straight into the resolution process, it is important to know and understand the small details that make up family problems on a larger scale.
Common causes of family problems
Each incident may be isolated, and there are some common family problems that yours may never encounter.
However, understanding the following will help you become more well-rounded in terms of your capacity to identify triggers or red flags and help you mold into an existing family structure outside your own, say through marriage, for example.
1. Financial troubles
Money is the root of quite many scenarios in life. It can be a source of stress, opportunity, comfort, or pain. Money will likely fill each of those roles throughout your life in some way, shape, or form.
When money problems become family problems, however, that can create new challenges.
When two people get married, they choose how to handle money and their finances. They can combine them, keep them separate, or a combination of the two.
However, if one or both parties are not transparent, money can cause fights.
If each spouse has their own credit card, for example, and one is maxing it out and not paying it down, this can cause strife. Not only has this spouse withheld pertinent information, but they have potentially damaged marital financial health as well.
You can see where this can be problematic
In another example, in families where adult children are unable to self-start, it can cause a burden and subsequent trouble.
If this manifests itself in the parents continuing to fund their child, that will take its toll, specifically if one parent does not agree with this plan.
2. Too much distance
When logistics are not on your side, family relationships can suffer. Putting many miles in between loved ones requires heightened attention towards nurturing the relationship in non-physical ways.
Additionally, there will be missed events, holidays spent apart, and major life moments that people are excluded from because of distance. All these examples, although they are expected, can wear down bonds over time.
There can also be a distance between family members who are not physically away from each other, which can also cause family problems.
Distance is created when people allow life, time, and the unimportant details of their daily grind to pull them away from their family members.
Emotional space can be more challenging to navigate in some cases than physical space because the feelings are slowly built up over time, and it can be easy for them to go unnoticed from day to day.
One of the biggest choices you will make as an individual is if children fit into your life.
Whether you do this alone or within a partner, the decision is significant. And no matter how much thought you put into it, adding kids into your life can come with many unpredictable elements.
Family members are sure to give unsolicited opinions and advice, which can be unsavory to receive.
Throughout various stages of life, children will also put an unintentional strain on your relationship with your partner and your relationship with yourself. Having children can be a great source of conflict when a parent feels they have lost their own identity due to growing their family.
Additionally, it can be problematic when two partners forget about each other because they have been devoted and focused solely on their child/children.
One of the biggest ways family issues can arise is through dishonesty.
Unfortunately, since family networks can extend into so many branches, this is more common than you may think. When an untruth is discovered, the person at the root of the lie has not only been deceitful, they have reframed how their extended family views them and their character.
Dishonesty can occur in the form of an outward lie, withholding information, or a white lie that the teller assumes will be insignificant to those who receive it.
Usually, your inner circle of the family will be your most significant support. If you choose to compromise that blind trust by being dishonest, you should expect a collapse in the structure for an extended period while everyone sorts out their emotions.
Moving is one of the most stressful things that an individual can do, and when this event involves family, that certainty is even more evident. Some examples of how moving can lead to family problems are:
- Having to move away from familiarity into an unknown situation
- Moving in with a significant other for the first time
- Leaving the nest to go away to college
- Having to move back in with family as an adult amid personal problems like divorce, job loss, etc.
In each of these examples, the opportunity for trouble exists because moving comes with expectations, which can contribute to family issues when left unmet, or even worse, unspoken.
How to deal with common family problems
As with everything, there are many ways, both healthy and unhealthy, to tackle family issues head-on.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, identifying the root causes of problems is a logical first step in ensuring mental health is a priority during periods of conflict resolution.
1. Remain calm
Almost nothing can be accomplished in an impactful and healthy way if emotions are running high. Be aware of your thoughts, words, and actions, and approach resolution with as much calm as possible.
2. Be objective
Allowing yourself to spiral out of control and make an isolated issue into something bigger than it needs to be will also heighten conflict. Stick to the issue at hand and be intentional in your plan to navigate your challenges.
3. Be an active listener
This means not interrupting the other person during conversations, no matter how tough they are. Being an active listener also means that your ears are open for the sake of truly hearing what the other person is saying, not waiting impatiently until it is your turn to share your side.
4. Use mirror style communication
Clarity is essential when dealing with common family problems because when the dust settles, you likely still want the relationship to be salvageable.
This communication style works in this way; when one person is done speaking, the other person mirrors how they heard what was said.
- “I want to downsize our home to work on our financial problems.”
- ‘What I hear you say is that you think a more modest dwelling will allow us to get our money back on track.”
5. Do not hold back
It is important to lay down all your cards on the table. This is especially true in situations like family therapy.
Being truthful but tactful while receiving professional help allows the therapist to do their job in the most appropriate way possible because they are working with all the information available.
Holding back for the sake of someone else’s feelings can hurt their feelings in the long run when what has been left in the dark comes to light.
6. Establish boundaries
Sometimes, to deal with family issues, you must establish boundaries. Even if this is not your desire, it may be your necessity.
In an example like addiction, for instance, your love may not lead you to create a boundary with an afflicted family member, but your desire for them to work through their troubles should override that and help you gain comfort establishing and maintaining boundaries.
Family issues are part of having a family relationship, and they cannot be avoided. However, they can be dealt with more gracefully if you, as an individual, work on your emotional and interpersonal skills.
If you cannot achieve peace on your own, you will have a battle trying to do so with others.
Being someone who respects differences, knows how to establish and manage expectations, and regularly checks in with loved ones will have a better shot at being a positive example when the time comes to handle strife within the system.