When we think of family therapy, we generally think of therapy sessions with parents and their young children. But family therapy with your adult kids is often not thought of as necessary. After all, everyone is an adult now and should be able to sort things out. The main point is that as the children grow into adult kids, many parents do not know how to transition and change their relationships with their adult kids from them being no longer minors to adulthood – what I call it is adult to adult.
When parents don’t know how to do that, it impacts their communication and overall the quality of their relationships. It is hard for many parents to accept the fact that their son or daughter is no longer a child, they have to get into touch with some internal feelings of loss or change.
Many of us are still battling with issues and challenges from our childhood. We hold onto these emotions, and they land up dictating how we interact, not only with each other but with friends, colleagues, and partners.
Unresolved issues and emotions never go away unless dealt with openly and honestly. Resentment, perceived slights, and pain can cause families to become totally disconnected and drift apart. This often results in what should be a happy time, ending up in conflict. Everyone is caught up in their own anger, pain, and resentment which prevents them from seeing the pain of others.
Family therapy provides a safe place for each family member to communicate their experiences and reality. It provides a space where everyone is heard. Open and honest communication is always the foundation of any successful therapy session.
When emotions are running high, families can battle to communicate effectively. Most often everyone is trying to be heard and as opposed to listening to each other, they are thinking of their responses. It is very difficult for families that are caught up in emotions to successfully listen to each other.
A qualified family therapist is able to ask the right questions, mediate and ensure everyone is heard.
What are we trying to resolve?
A first session will generally involve discussions around why everyone has been asked to participate in family therapy. What are the current goals or issues as their adult kids are in their twenties or thirties with or without significant relationships? What has brought you all together in these therapy sessions? It is important to identify where the focus needs to be or what you as a family need to resolve. Sometimes. Parents and adult kids may be having dual relationships, such as business relationships etc.
You may be surprised to learn that you may all have very different ideas as to what the problem or issues are. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and you may need to redefine the purpose or focus of your sessions. A family therapist is perfectly positioned to help your family come up with an agreed focus or goal.
How to move forward
As we said, communication is key and whenever dealing with emotions, it is important to establish guidelines as to how your family will work together during the sessions. Another key factor is that the family needs to agree on which issues are going to be addressed. As we all know families are complex and there can be a multitude of issues and challenges, but they can’t all be resolved at once.
It is key for the family to reach an agreement on which issues will be resolved first and to not get side-tracked with other issues. A therapist is able to keep the family focused as a whole and able to help individuals not get side-tracked.
Supporting your family
A family therapist is there to provide that much-needed support your family needs as a whole as well as individually. It is important to remember that a family therapist is on the family’s side, not on any specific individual’s side.
You may find yourself in the position of realizing your family needs therapy but are unsure how to get everyone else on board. A therapist will be able to provide you with guidance on enlisting everyone’s support.
Each member of the family needs to be comfortable with the therapist and feel supported. It is also imperative that each family member wants to be part of the therapy session and is willing to participate. A therapist is there to enable a family to be honest about what is happening, this can often be challenging, especially when a family is facing a crisis or a major change.
Every family is unique and has its own complexities. Therapists help families understand and navigate the dynamics within their family unit. These family dynamics can impact the way in which family members individually and as a whole react to various events from life-changing to simple daily tasks.
Your family doesn’t need to be going through a crisis or major event to benefit from family therapy. Every family goes through different stages and at times communication breaks down and they lose their connection. Their interactions become destructive. Family therapy will help your family get back on track, and learn to communicate effectively and not destructively. It often boils down to family members not feeling heard or valued.
Choosing the right family therapist
Choosing a family therapist that is right for your family can be a challenge. Here are a few things you may want to consider.
- What are your therapist’s qualifications and specialty?
- Does your therapist have experience treating families with your or similar challenges?
- How does your family feel about the sessions? Are you feeling supported and heard?
- Are all family members happy and comfortable with your therapist?
- Is your therapist part of your health insurance network?
- Is your therapist’s location convenient for your family?
If at any time during your family therapy sessions, you find it is not working for you. It is important to immediately discuss this with your therapist before just giving up. There is always a solution even if it means working with a different therapist.
Pay attention to the comfort level aside from the therapist’s experience regarding having done family therapy with difficult issues with adult kids. Listening and validating are not enough. A good family therapist has to know and be very comfortable playing the role of a facilitator of the discussion and not take sides or stay quiet. She or he has to know how to be able to hold an objective space for each person so that each person’s voice, needs, and goals are stated. This may be difficult for some therapists. Be sure to ask the therapist if they have ever done family therapy with adult kids and ask them specific questions. Do not assume that they have experience in this area.
Working together with a family therapist can bring about meaningful change, a family that is supported and has a safe space to communicate openly and honestly will be able to grow from strength to strength.
A family is a unit, it is a whole, and no matter how broken, can always be fixed with the right help. Remember that even the strongest families come across times where they need help, and a sign of a strong family is one that is able to acknowledge that they aren’t managing on their own. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you believe in your family and know that you are able to get through whatever challenges you are facing with a bit of help.
Jousline Savra is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based out of Roswell, GA, and is ready to start the journey of healing with you. She provides therapy for parents and their adult children with unresolved painful issues and discusses sensitive issues.
It’s time to get on a new path with your adult children. It’s worth it. Live, love, and relate more fully with each other. Please don’t put this off anymore. Call Jousline Savra to set up an appointment for your family.