What do you do if you experience a broken family dynamic? Families change over time and this becomes more apparent during the holiday season where we often find ourselves spending more time with our families than we usually do. These days, so many families are under pressure. Compared with a couple of generations ago, children are in school for longer hours and may do more extracurricular activities, both parents might work outside the home, and there are more distractions taking away from family time, such as smartphones, screens and the internet.
Are times more stressful now for families? The answer seems to be yes. A study commissioned by health retailer Holland & Barrett revealed 68% of those questioned believe, “today’s generation are forced to endure more hardship than young people 40 years ago,” according to the Daily Mail. “Despite the consumer revolution in personal technology, comparatively bigger salaries and better working conditions, [families] say they face a more significant range of threats to happiness and contentment.”
What is adding to modern family stress, according to the family dynamic study?
- Both parents working full time
- More pressure and stress of exams for increasingly younger children
- The breakdown of close family ties, with divorce and separation
- Money worries
- The difficulty of purchasing a home, or keeping up with mortgage payments
- Increasing instability in the jobs sector
- Drifting from having close relationships with neighbours and community
- The busy, fast pace of life
4 reasons why the family dynamic might change
Families change as they age and grow
As children grow older and reach adolescence, things changed in the home. The relationships with parents also go through changes. For example, one week the kids “want to spend time with their Mum” and the next week they “want to spend time with Dad.”
John Toussaint in Australia has written a great deal about the role of fathers when it comes to raising a family. He goes so far as to say that mothers might feel “left out” sometimes, but that this family dynamic can definitely go both ways, where the father feels like an outsider when the kids run to their mother.
Toussaint says, “According to a study published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information in the United States, family instability may cause children to ‘fare worse developmentally’. This only reinforces what we already know: that the experiences in the family have long-lasting effects on the people that make up the unit, particularly the children.”
Children change a great deal in just a few short years: their personalities and sense of self might alter dramatically. How can parents expect to keep up with that when they’re so busy too? Toussaint offers some ways to improve communication to combat the breakdown in family dynamics.
Relationship changes due to outside influences
A broken family dynamic might be due to many things. Family dynamics can change due to outside influences, for example. A big life change for the kids can be more disruptive for them than for you. Perhaps you had a house move for a career change; this will affect how the family operates for a while. Kids might be in different schools, or further away from support networks like grandparents.
There are many ways you can reconnect with your family if things have started breaking down. Spending quality time as a family is one of the simplest ways to start. What you do together doesn’t need to be costly, or even very time-consuming – quality counts for a lot. This can be something as simple as getting exercise together, going out for a picnic together, going to the park, or even having a movie night or reading together.
If you’re worried that the kids will reject your suggestions, then ask them to decide what you do. Remind them of some of the best family activities you used to do not that long ago. It might have been a time when you were all much closer, and the kids felt they could depend on you.
Not enough one on one time
Other ways to reconnect as a family might include one-to-one time. This could be parent-on-parent or time for one parent to spend with one child, fostering those individual relationships and giving them strength. “Family time creates warm memories for parents and children alike,” points out Deanna Sletten.
“Children with happy family memories are more likely to create a loving environment for their own children when they grow up. Learning to work and play as a family unit is one of the best lessons children can be taught so they can develop into competent adults and parents.”
Find an activity you can both share. Why not start something new that neither of you ever tried before? This might be the perfect opportunity for a conversation to start between you as well. Sometimes we all need to just put our feelings out there. It’s not always easy for the closest people in our lives to realise what is going on.
A broken family dynamic can be healed over time
Easing tensions at home and reducing friction usually takes time and patience. Sometimes you have to accept the responses and reactions you get at first until those uncomfortable feelings are all out. How do you stay close with your family? Try to tackle these important relationships over the holiday season and keep the momentum up throughout the year.