Close familial ties promote improved health and well-being, as well as a decreased incidence of depression and illness throughout a person's life. However, getting along isn't always easy in many households. The interplay of various members lies at the heart of these complex processes. This article will examine the qualities of a functional family.
In a functional family, the parents work to create an environment where members feel safe and valued.
Clear boundaries are essential to creating a healthy family dynamic.
In a dysfunctional household, there is often a lack of cohesion, compassion, and boundaries, and family members are frequently critical of one another.
Enmeshment adds to family's dysfunction and may result in a loss of autonomy and independence, which can be destructive.
Functional family – what it is?
In a functional family, the parents try to create an environment where everyone feels safe and valued. A functioning family needs parents to establish and enforce rules but not be severely rigid with one member's behavior. Transgressions and inappropriate behaviors are carefully managed in a healthy family, and boundaries are explicit and consistent, all of which help minimize conflict. While this might sound easy, it can be difficult to accomplish.
Appropriate family boundaries
To establish boundaries, you must first understand your limits. This starts with having a strong sense of who you are and knowing your values — both are important when interacting with young children who are still learning about themselves and their needs. In addition, setting boundaries can bring out strong emotions, as the boundaries will be tested and pushed to the limit from time to time. This is why managing feelings of frustration and anger is essential.
Boundaries can be:
- Emotional. You're hurting my feelings;
- Physical. Don't slap your sister;
- Behavioral. Don't walk in without knocking.
Every family member must respect each other's right to:
- Privacy. Don't dare look at my diary;
- Property. Don't borrow my jeans;
- Opinions. In my opinion, the death penalty should be abolished;
- Values. We should show compassion to the homeless.
Dysfunctional family – how does it look?
Although most families strive for love and understanding, dysfunction is widespread, pernicious, and manifests in various ways. Family disputes, bitterness, and isolation can have long-term consequences. For example, when one member of a family struggles with an issue such as addiction, everyone is affected. In a dysfunctional household, there is often a lack of cohesion, compassion, and boundaries, and family members are frequently critical of one another.
Causes of a dysfunctional family
There are many different reasons why people fight. The problem could begin with something as simple as a constantly nasty parent. Another reason is bad communication. An unstable house is not a safe place for the people who live there. Untreated problems like domestic violence, drug use, neglect, or mental illnesses are common in dysfunctional homes.
Contribution of enmeshment
Enmeshment is a psychological term that describes a blurring of boundaries between family members. Enmeshment frequently adds to family dysfunction and may result in a loss of autonomy and independence, which can be destructive. Enmeshment can be damaging because it prevents children from establishing a sense of self, participating in peer interactions, learning to manage emotions, and individuating. Children from enmeshed homes may also have lower frustration tolerance and struggle to express themselves later in life.
Here are some examples of enmeshment:
- A mother who calls her daughter's ex-boyfriend demanding to know why they ended the relationship;
- A person who is unable to make simple decisions without contacting their parents;
- A parent treating a child as their "best friend";
- A parent disclosing secrets to a child;
- A parent who is emotionally dependent on their child when going through hard times;
- A parent telling one of their children that they are the favorite.
Qualities defining a functional family
Functional families encourage and provide:
- Respect. Respect is the essential glue that holds a family together. Everyone in the family must at least try to be considerate of each other. Kindness is the foundation that will hold the family together for the long term;
- A secure emotional environment. Everyone in the family must have a voice. They are free to express their ideas, beliefs, desires, dreams, and emotions without fear of being criticized, humiliated, ridiculed, or discarded;
- There are distinct boundaries within the family. Parents treat their roles with maturity and seriousness. Parents are responsible for leading, training, and educating their children;
- Children are shielded from conflict between their parents. The parents never make insulting or derogatory comments about one another, particularly in front of the children;
- There is free communication among all members of the family. Communication is not mediated by a single individual. Children are encouraged and allowed to respectfully speak for themselves;
- Conflict is permitted. A family that is functioning well will still have conflict. Sometimes regrettable comments are made. However, no harm is done if we can say sorry for what we did and quickly ask for and accept forgiveness. This goes for the parents, too. You may even become closer as a result;
- Allow for healthy emotional expression. Communicate anger while maintaining composure. Teach kids how to react with sensitivity and understanding. Of course, parents must also demonstrate this behavior;
- Encourage the growth of family members. Personal differences are valued and even encouraged. This permits children to become independent when the time is right and return to the protection of the family when they need care. The grownups in the family must also be permitted to develop. For example, a mother may opt to go back to school, while a father may decide to switch careers and begin a new venture. These changes need to be thought through in terms of how they will affect each family member, how they can adapt, and maybe even how they can be negotiated. If everyone is treated with respect, though, everyone can win;
- Parents participate in co-parenting. A functional family is one in which the adults are at the heart, in command, and are all pulling in the same direction. This provides the children with a very safe setting. In a healthy family, divorced or married parents share responsibilities. Children want reassurance that grownups are in charge, even if they don't appreciate it at the time;
- Eat together. Even if it's challenging in today's world, studies have shown that eating meals as a family, even in front of the TV, improves communication.
It is important to keep in mind that functional families are not just "made that way." Instead, they are created by family members who continue to love, care for, and be kind to each other.
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- Journal of Adolescence. Parent and adolescent perceptions of family functioning: a comparison of clinic and non-clinic families.
- The Journal of Family Psychology. Family Cohesion and Enmeshment Moderate Associations between Maternal Relationship Instability and Children’s Externalizing Problems.