Family Life Cycle

Life comes in ups and downs.  There are natural stressful events we have to find ways to cope with, such as growing up, marriage, having a child, looking after an elderly parent, or the death of a loved one.  Some of us have to live with parents who have suffered various problems and debilitating illnesses earlier in their lives. Then there are social events for example wars and economic crises that we must survive.  The way we respond to such stressors and adapt to these conditions is challenging and sometimes problematic.

Couples Living Together

Marriage is commonly believed to be a union of two individuals.  However it is more to do with the union of two families.  Deciding to marry, planning, coping with the wishes of our respective families and adjusting to being a married couple can be a huge hurdle, that some do not survive.

family and marriage therapy

Will These People Require Couple Therapy?

One of the most common pressures on the couples relationship in Turkey is the pressure from in-laws.  In-laws might need financial assistance; they may also be overinvolved, expecting visits every weekend.  A couple might need their parents’help either financially or with child care and as a consequence the boundaries between the couple and the extended family may  become less clear.  This is especially true when three generations, or more of a family live under one roof.

Problems often come down to what people say to each other and how they say it.

There are couples who share their thoughts and emotions with each other openly.  They can solve their differences with discussion.  There are others, however, who find it difficult to be open for various reasons. One of them might have a medical or psychological problem, or could feel overwhelmed by the demands of a carreer or their working hours.

When people are unable to express their wishes and needs openly, especially in close relationships such as a long standing marriage, certain problems such as sexual difficulties, violent arguments and psychosomatic symptoms can occur.

People sometimes display symptoms of  physical illnesses. Head aches, stomach pains, asthma, skin problems can be due to emotional triggers are common.  These are called psychosomatic conditions.  They are like the tip of an iceberg indicating that coping resources are exhausted and help is needed.  When these are not attended to they may develop into more serious physical complications, seriously affecting the individual’s and family’s quality of life.

The nature of a couples’ discord might be due to the amount of time they spend together and what they do in their free time. How they deal with their respective parentsis important as is how they manage their finances.  Do they share the household chores, if this is within the cultural norm? Many can’t decide when and to have a child or more children?  You can probably add to this list?

When each partner wholly believes their way of seeing things is the right way, and the other’s is wrong, they may end up feeling totally locked in an impasse.  In such situations couple therapy may help to view each other’s perspective from a  different angle, to activate resources to overcome such hurdles.  The problem solving ability of the couple will improve, as a result, enabling them to approach more effectively life’s challenges in the future.

Help For Parents

Deciding on having a child can be a problem for some couples.  Some are aware that life will never be the same again after having a child and would like to delay it for as long as possible.  Some who have suffered in childhood due to a lack of satisfactory role models from their own parents worry about their abilities to be a parent.

Pregnancy and Childbirth

Post Natal Support Needed!

Sometimes the arrival of children into the family can have unexpected consequences.  The couple has to find resources to look after the tiny being.  The role extended family members acquire may not always be what one or both partners need.  There are fathers who find it hard to share their wives with their child they get jealous.  Unable to bond with their baby, they may start arguments, to gain attention;  they may withdraw to their computer; or  spend too much time with their friends, or at work, becoming emotionally unavailable. Sometimes father’s lack of support can trigger intense anxieties in the new mother about her appearance, her career and her ability to look after the baby properly.  Some mothers experience depression following a birth, because they are overwhelmed by all the phyisological and psychological changes the arrival of the new member of the family member entails.

Caring For Children

One of the most common types of difficulty that bring families to therapy are children’s behavioral problems.  These problems may vary from being overly active, to aggressive behaviour, from stealing and lying, from tics to fears, from sexual to psychosomatic illnesses from bedwetting and soiling to sibling wars.  Coping with serious illnesses and disabilities is also a major area most families need support with, either from friends and other family members, or trained professionals.

Often families don’t realise they can be helped to overcome these problems.  Others worry about the stigma attached to seeing a specialist is so great that they delay asking for help too long.  Maybe they worry about being judged or criticised.  Unfortunately such delays only cause more suffering in the family!

Another approach some families adopt is to blame a child, or another family member for all their  problems.  The child, for example, is treated as a scapegoatç  The child in return display a series of emotional and bahavioral difficulties, which confirm to the family they were right to label the child as the source of their psychological pain.  This is a cycle that must be interrupted and might need the input of a family counselor. Such a healing professional can skillfully help family members to own their part in supporting the child’s behaviour, even when they intend the opposite.  This helps children to act normally and not sacrifice their futures because of how they are perceived as singly handedly causing every problem now.

There are situations where a strong and intelligent child becomes like a partner to a parent weakened by illness, disabilities, or the effect of some personal crisis.  This can impair the child’s natural development.  It might damage her or his realtionship with brothers and sisters as well as with the other parent.

In the early years of education difficulties can arise due to the separation of the child from the family for at least part of the day. Issues of getting along with friends and teachers may come up.  Of course homework and underachievement due to lack of motivation or difficulties about learning and studying are very common issues that families struggle with.  Although there are psychological counsellors in many schools they have to serve a very large number of students and they may not be trained to help families.

Counseling Children and Adolescents

The passage from childhood to adulthood is like a ritual where the roles need to adjust, responsibilities are redistributed. The adolescent and the family often benefit from a family therapist clarifying these roles and responsibilities, especially when they are tangled up by parents’ fears and expectations.  These frequently have their origins in parents life experiences; so they must be addressed, expressed and understood today rather than assuming that the world has not moved on since the parents were children.

The financial pressure on a family increases as children grow older. This is due to the demands of education and also, in some societies, artificial pressures caused by the fashion industry.

How the family earn and spend money becomes the source of problems in many families.  There are times socially prescribed financial pressures can be debilitating for parents, and can cloud the whole atmosphere of the family.  Children may demand branded goods in order to be ‘cool’, when other mass produced clothing would just as well do the job.  Expensive extracurricular activities such as horse riding and other sports can also put pressure on the family, especially if the family purse is limited.  Career choices of family members will be affected by how these issues are tackled.

Grandparents Grandchildren !!

When children form their own families the role of the parents will have to change once again.  At the couple stage we discussed how as grand parents, in-laws will have to find ways to be involved without taking over. So they let the young family benefit from the older generation’s experiences while at the same time providing space for them to form their own values and boundaries.

Raising Grandchildren, Grand Parents Rights

Do Grandparents Have Rights?

When the young couple give birth they may vacillate between wanting help versus protecting their independence; so the fine adjustments of being a grandparent might also provide some challenges.

Caring For Elderly Parents

Although growing old can be a beautiful experience it can turn into a stressful time if the old person cannot accomodate to losing some of their independence.  There are times when an elderly parent becomes more of a problem as they struggle to avoid being a burden on their children.  This is the stage when one loses one’s partner and has to learn to live without them. It’s not an easy time. Managing an aging body and mind by keeping active both personally and within the community will be a way to share the years’ wisdom and to feel fulfilled.

Marriage and Family Counseling

These are some of the common human dilemmas we come accross in the life of a family.  Family therapy is an approach that may be used to tackle any relationship or psychological problem and it has been used effectively with such difficulties for more than half a century.  There are many different methods and techniques all of which may be harnessed by a skilled, trained family counselor.

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About the Author

Irem Bray is an experienced Consulting Psychologist and Family Therapist. She specialises in training family therapists and offering help to individuals, couples, families, and family business owners. Contact her at http://irembray.com

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