Family can be defined in many ways. It can be large or small, it can be people related biologically or people who chose to become a family with no shared DNA. No matter how family is defined, each family has a dance. The dance is the way a family interacts and communicates with each other. This dance can be beautiful and encourage each individual in the family system to flow through life. However, at times, this dance can get clumsy or out of touch with each person’s needs. Often, it is both beautiful and clumsy at the same time, which is what makes families so dynamic. When the clumsy or outdated moves become more prominent some new choreography may be needed to create an increase in communication, understanding, and acceptance within the family.
How do you know your family’s dance is out of sync?
Sometimes, this can be as simple as noticing that people are holding back. Someone may not feel heard by others. Maybe arguments and defenses cause family members to feel hurt? Often, the same dance has been performed for so long that families do not even realize it is not working anymore. Transitions happen such as adding children to the family, children growing up and needing new things, and dances must change and grow with them. If even one member feels off the beat in the dance, it is a good time to consider if the dance is ready for something new.
What questions to explore with your family?
- What is working in your family’s communication already?
- What are everyone’s unique needs and how can the family support these?
- Are assumptions being made instead of listening to what is said?
- How does each member give communication and receive it? For example, words, tone, touch, etc.
Now, how do you actually change/update your family dance?
Patience is key when trying something new. Not only with the other members of your family, but with yourself. It is easy to become frustrated when old patterns sneak back in and it feels like change is impossible. However, if you are accepting of yourself and others when mistakes or set backs happen, it is easier to try again.
Also, remember that you must practice a routine to get it down. No one learns new choreography (even on Broadway) and has it down after reviewing the moves once. Even the professionals mix up the moves at times, but they just keep at it. Families must do the same and practice the new moves. These could include listening even when you feel like you have the “right answer”, noticing how your words impact the person you are talking with, or pushing yourself by trying to communicate better through touch because you know that your family member needs that. When missteps happen or someone forgets and starts doing the old dance, instead of letting that come between you, join together, and encourage each other to practice the new dance.
Often, families can choreograph their dance together but sometimes they may need help. Family Therapy can provide a space for discovery of new moves. A therapist, like a seasoned choreographer, would be able to help integrate each family members styles into a beautiful dance that is ever-evolving. If your family is interested in exploring your dance and figuring out some new moves, please contact me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.