Table of Contents
Family Affairs © Martyn Carruthers
Do you have trouble “getting along” with your family?
Do you want to manage your emotions and solve relationship issues?
Where are you now?
We are often asked to mediate family conflicts and end quarrels between relatives. To offer this service yourself, you would need good systemic diagnosis skills, solid coaching or counseling skills, quality communication skills … and experience.
Individual coaching is good preparation for the more complex couple counseling – and coaching couples is good preparation for the more demanding family coaching.
If you weren’t born with huge experience and calm authority,
Family Coaching & Family Context
A human system is made up of individual people, bonded together by
emotions and rules, with goals that individuals cannot accomplish alone.
Most family systems are groups of biologically related people who
can maintain stability and cohesion by predictable behavior.
Relationships problems occur in a context and the context is always part of a problem. Of all the hurts a family can inflict on each other, few are so hard to remedy as those caused by a shared desire for stability. See Family Systems Theory for more.
For example, if a sick child motivates family members to avoid conflict until the child’s health improves – then that child’s sickness may be part of that family’s way to maintain stability, and may be duplicated through the generations. We sometimes call this family karma. The momentum of family habits and traditions can be very strong.
After diagnosis, our first step is usually to help families solve whatever stops them solving their own problems. Individual coaching for troubled children (or for one parent) is unlikely to change family dynamics. Our couple counseling helps partners resolve partnership conflicts and our family coaching focuses on healthy parenting.
Where do changes start?
We usually meet one or both parents for individual meetings. Occasionally, this triggers whole family changes. For example if a family victim ceases being a victim – other family members may quickly change their behavior.
Then, we invite the parents for couple counseling, to help the parents resolve their conflicts with each other. (Objections often arise when the parents were raised in families in which interpersonal conflicts were secret and could not be discussed).
Shhh! Don’t tell. It’s our secret.
Family secrets threaten families. The threat is that revealing family secrets might anger, depress or alienate family members. Family secrets often include or imply threats, e.g. “If you tell, BAD THINGS will happen“.
Hidden debts, abuse, lost lovers, mental illness and addictions may be burned into a family’s emotional reality. Family histories may be edited and changed, with evasion and dishonesty being normal. Children of such families often learn that some problems should not to be named, let alone discussed.
Sometimes, “Don’t tell your Mom” attempts to hide emotional incest. Sometimes, “Don’t tell your Dad” tries to conceal parental alienation. While the initial exposure of family secrets can trigger negative emotions, it is usually healthier for a family to expose their secrets and discuss them.
I always felt burdened by family secrets. When I was 17 I started digging into them. I discovered that my sister is not my sister and that my cousin is my sister, but I don’t know whether to tell them. My father begged me, “Please don’t”. Australia
Note: During our online sessions he decided to tell his father that if his sister or
Some children are raised by fathers who wrongly believe that they are the children’s genetic fathers. The mothers often carry the burden of such secrets, fearing the consequences of exposure. This, like other family secrets, can create unhealthy bonds and suffering. (In this case, mothers may bond to or reject their special children – especially if a child resembles a past lover.)
While shared secrets can cement special friends … for every pair of special friends, there are people who feel left out, rejected and lonely. Shared secrets are a part of many relationships, but some secrets cause lasting suffering. We often help people resolve the consequences of family secrets.
Systemic Family Coaching & Counseling
People with secrets and hidden agendas may wonder how much of their personal truths they’re willing to share. Even if they recognize our skill and experience – they may be scared that our coaching or counseling will expose something that they prefer to keep hidden. What resources do they need to cope with exposure?
People who don’t trust us may not talk about their problems. They will more likely hide their negative emotions and relationship problems.
Wishes & Demands
We distinguish between wishes and demands. Wishes are what people hope for – yet are not essential to staying together. Demands are usually requirements for a relationship to continue. Many people have difficulty communicating their demands.
- Demands are not negotiable
- Demands are behavioral events, not personal traits
- Demands can be met or not. There is rarely much room for doubt
- Demands have power; they are core to who you are and what you want
Questions for Family Meetings
Family members are often most alive and involved when they are solving family problems … or when they are fighting.
A common family concern is the debt of children to their parents. Children cannot repay their parents for their lives – they may try to, but they can’t. We perceive that any debt owed to the parents can be collected by their own children, who in turn pass this bond to the next generation.
Individual Coaching within Family Coaching
Our family coaching includes resolving individual and relationship problems. Resolving the consequences of a suicide, for example, may be a family issue, while helping a couple solve relationship conflicts is more often private.
Contact us to resolve negative emotions and family problems.