[Update: You may notice that today’s topic is a little different than previously. I’m in the process of expanding, re-organizing, and re-vamping my programs, services, and website to better serve you, your family, and your communities.]
It can be hard when you are struggling with a personal or family problem and it feels like no matter what you do it’s not improving. You may have asked a friend or professional for advice, searched the internet, or tried a self-help program. Often the missing piece to solving those kind of challenges is using a family lens. By really understanding the problem within the context of the family, having a better understanding of the dynamics, the way each person is impacted, and how that relates to their response to the problem will help in finding the best solution.
When working with clients, I often ask questions about their family of origin, their life growing up, and other family experiences. The reason that I do this is because those stories and experiences often have an impact on their life today. By understanding those stories and recognizing patterns we are often able to uncover the root issue of challenges that they are facing and then begin to find solutions that fit those unique challenges.
For example, let’s say your teenager is struggling in school and you are constantly arguing with them about how to do better. Using a family lens allows us to look at the teenager within the context of the whole family. How long has this pattern of behavior been happening? What has the family’s response been? What else might be going on in the family that is preventing your child from sharing more about their situation at school? You may perceive it as negative when in reality they didn’t to burden you because they knew you recently started a new job and didn’t need the extra worry. In their mind, they were helping you. With the extra insight, we are able to create solutions to change that specific dynamic to build more open communication. With an increase in communication, you are then better able to address your child’s needs in school because you will have more details and awareness what’s going on in school.
This can work with your relationship with your partner as well. Let’s say you and your partner frequently argue about money. Maybe you have different ideas on spending and saving. Using a family lens, you can dig deeper to understand where both of your ideas around money came from growing up and how that may shape your relationship with money today. Revisiting the way money was talked about and used by your parents/caregivers and the meaning behind that may be exactly what you need to figure out how to resolve your money disagreements. Once you understand what the underlying issue is, you are able to find solutions that work.
The amazing thing about using a family lens is that it really allows you to dig deeper so that you can find lasting solutions and not just a quick band-aid approach. You can try it on your own too. The next time youu or someone in your family is experiencing a challenge or conflict, take a look at the situation from a more broad view using a family lens. Use that lens to dig deeper to really uncover the root of the challenge. Once you identify the root, you will see that solutions will come much easier. Go ahead, give it a try.
To using a family lens,