Are you a Dysfunctional family?
In the era of digital everything and expat jobs, do you have a dysfunctional family? On the surface does everything seem calm? Is your family the type that is evolving in the new age? Or are you all falling apart?
Possibly you’re like us, who have been separated as a classical family unit for the last seven years since my dad took a job in Malaga and now in India. Dysfunctional families are ones that don’t adapt to their environment and the new norm that descends on them as circumstances start to change.
So are we messed up?
Maybe? Maybe not. Read on. I have a feeling you might learn something about yourself.
The interactions we have as a family have slowly diminished. The once fun-filled evenings of playing board games and watching movies are now quieter with everyone more likely to be preoccupied with personal agendas. Don’t get me wrong this can be viewed as an excellent self-discovery period and shows you if you can survive without the safety net. It forces you to grow up fast and start living life now rather than planning for the future, which has been the case with my family. The downside is that when you return to the family environment. You don’t always revert to how things were. Everyone seems to think they have all progressed in their life, while the others haven’t. This has happened to us a number of times and led to confrontation and adjustment. Nowadays, we discuss the situation openly which is vital as these discussions give us a sense of connection. In turn, this reduces the impact of change which used to plague us when we come together after a significant time apart.
Keep in touch daily on an individual basis and weekly as a group!
What I have recognised is that the individual that leaves is not the same when they come back, nor are the people who are left behind. It’s important to realise that both parties are ‘leaving’ and going to change, and will have to get to know each other again. However, dysfunctional families tend not to be so forgiving, and the change is seen to be like an alien has arrived back into their life. When in fact it’s just the same person with new experiences and stories from the journey that they have been on.
Be more interested than Interesting!
Have you heard the phrase out of sight out of mind? Well at the peak of our dysfunctionality it was a bit like that. I think a better way of putting it is that we took our relationships for granted. Like any short term relation, it continually has to be worked on, just because they are family does not mean that they are an exception. This aside, our dysfunctionality, and the fact that we don’t see each other for extended periods, has made the heart grow stronger. When we are together, we have some great highs and some intense lows. In those moments, I have found myself looking at other families that I have met in my life and thought, “why can’t I be like them?”. However, I am also fully aware that what I see in other families may not be the reality. It is so easy to forget to cherish moments with the people around us, taking them for granted instead.
We as a family are still learning to embrace our dysfunctionality because ultimately we aren’t like others, we have a relationship that spans three time zones. Our lack of being ‘normal’ has allowed us to be able to live in between countries. For the full benefits, we have had to remember that we must not live in the past of what our family was. Instead, we look to the future of what we can be, continually reminding ourselves that we have to adjust individually. To align with each other rather than be anchored in traditional family values which are challenged daily in this very different, digital, modern world of ours.
I may not have all the answers right now but I can give you some tips:
Engage in constant dialogue
Address bumps in the road
Talk about life changes
Accept different perspectives
Ask one another tough, direct questions
Plan activities for when you are together again
Offer supportive words
Take time for yourself to have something to talk about
Be a shoulder to lean on