Anita has recently been under tremendous pressure from her family to get married. Her engagement has been fixed with a guy who she is not sure about. She doesn't feel connected to him but no matter how hard she tries, her father brings back the focus to the social image, prestige, and traditions of arranged marriage running in the family. Her mother has never been one to form or give her personal opinion and defers to her father, encourages Anita to do the same. For them, the image of a perfect, respectable family overshadows personal choice, freedom, and happiness. Talking to her elder brother who has been married for 5 years now, makes her even more despondent as he says " Our families trade individuality for respect. I have made my peace with it. You will too..eventually"

"I wish I can just run away from this house"

"I cannot stand it anymore"

Anita wakes up each day with these same thoughts along with her mother's criticizing, nagging voice. Every afternoon at 4 pm her mother calls her in college to know when she would be coming back. She feels suffocated in those four walls. Her father's indifference welcomes her each time she steps foot inside her house. She shares a formal cordial relationship with her father. His presence or absence doesn't make much of a difference. Her coaching classes are the only respite from all this.

A family is like a system where each member is an important part of this system. Each family has its own unique style of communication, bonding, and behavior towards each other. Conflict can take place when family members have different views or beliefs that don't go along and the consensus seems difficult. Sometimes conflict can occur when people misunderstand each other and jump to the wrong conclusion. conflicts that are not resolved peacefully can lead to arguments and resentment.

It is normal to disagree with each other from time to time. Occasional conflict is part of family life. However, ongoing conflict can be stressful and damaging to relationships. Some people find it difficult to manage their feelings and become intentionally hurtful, aggressive or even violent.

Structure of Family

Commonly seen categorization of families is the Nuclear VS Joint families. They differ in the rules, norms, autonomy with the members and patterns of communication.

Nuclear Family Joint Family
Stronger parent-child relationship since parents are major sources of socialization for children Greater socialization providing base for learning good social skills.
Reduced pressure for conformity with social norms. Hold stronger cultural and religious significance leading to pressure for conformity.
Psychological Development of children in a nuclear family is more through parental love and sibling bonding. The psychological development of children in a joint family is through affectionate bond between two generations also.
With less number of family members, the structure of the family is quite simple. A large number of family members make the structure quite complex.

Sources Of Conflicts In The Family

According to Coser 1956 family conflict is a "struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power, and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure or eliminate the rival." Many things can contribute to conflict in the family. Some of these are discussed below.

  • Financial instability:

    Lack of financial resources is one of the biggest reasons for many conflicts in the family. This can be a direct source of fights, arguments; it can even lead to abuse and violence in families.

  • Sibling Rivalry:

    This refers to a form of jealousy, feeling of competition and enmity in young children for their siblings. Sibling rivalry emerges after the birth of a second child and parents unintentionally lead to deferred treatment of their children. This may later affect their future work and romantic relationships if the needs of the child are not adequately met.

  • Parenting:

    In the context of parenting, both the parents and other family members (in the case of the joint family) may have differing views which can lead to a clash of opinions. One parent might take a strict approach to teach discipline to children which may not be liked by other parents.

  • Generational gap:

    Many differences amongst the family members are also a result of the generational gap which is accelerated these days by technological advancement, differences in education level, culture, and globalization.

  • Faulty Communication Pattern:

    Any conflict or dysfunctionality in the family indicates a problem in the parts/subsystems. Problems in the family system as discussed are majorly due to the communication patterns amongst the members.

  • Overload of responsibilities on any family member:

    When a particular family member is taking a lot of responsibilities and doing a lot of things for the family, the person shall feel burned out. Usually, women of the family who are taking care of the house, as well as working individuals, would feel a mental overload and frustrated with their lives leading to conflicts.

What To Expect From Family Counseling

  • History Taking:

    In initial sessions, there is the formation of rapport with the client as this is the base of a therapeutic relationship between the counselor and client. This includes listening to your concern in detail, providing an environment where you can freely share the challenges you are facing in dealing with your family. The therapist helps you understand how the process of counseling can help you deal with these issues.

  • Establishing Goals:

    After sharing your concern your counselor shall be discussing the goals that are to be formulated for the therapy to overcome your concerns. Groundwork on what are the factors that keep the problem going in the family is done by the therapist and accordingly, the goals are set. This can include working on communication patterns, boundaries setting and parenting style.

  • Facilitating Change:

    As the goals are set, the therapist will guide you with several activities that resonate with your therapy goals. These activities are based on evidence-based psychological interventions. In family conflicts, this can include activities that can help the client express his or her views with other family members, including the use of family photos to bring back the connection and bond amongst various family members, and many similar things.

  • Addressing The Consequences Of Changes In The Family:

    The counselor also helps the client deal with disturbance on the equilibrium in the family due to interventions in the form of therapy. These help clients start to cope with the physical and emotional consequences of changes.

  • Follow Up:

    Follow up sessions to understand how each session's goals have impacted me and how well you are dealing with your concerns. How can you combat any other similar concern in the family? How to effectively use intervention techniques in other problems.

What Are The Things Family Counseling Help Us Understand?

  • Understanding Communication patterns:

    Consensual type of communication pattern in the family allows open communication and conversations. It, however, expects conformity from the members. Parents are the final decision maker but open conversations help contribute to other member's perspectives.

    The pluralistic type of approach in families is open towards conversations and interactions. They do not function to attain conformity. All members are considered equal, they have equal say and disagreements are not criticized. Children from such families are confident and independent to make decisions.

    Families having a protective approach are not open to conversations and interactions. They do not function to attain conformity. All members are considered equal, they have equal say and disagreements are not criticized. Children from such families are confident and independent to make decisions.

    Some Families function in a way that is neither conversation oriented nor conformity. Family members are distant and disengaged. There are not many discussions in the family, members are free to do what they like. Children do not learn the value of actual conversation in such families. They are called Laissez- Faire families.

  • Understanding Boundaries amongst Family members:

    It is important to have healthy boundaries in the family. There should be space for each family member to express and communicate on his or her likes and dislikes. The families where the boundaries are enmeshed meaning too much interference of other family members in one's life disturbs the equilibrium.

    Some members like the parents might also exert pressure and control on children's lives including major decision making for them. Such are the signs of unhealthy boundaries.

  • Peer Pressure:

    Some teens give into peer pressure to gain a sense of belongingness - They want to be liked and appreciated and be part of the group. Secondly Fear of standing out - they worry that others might make fun of them if they don't go along with the group. Another reason can be experimenting -they are curious to try something new that others are doing.

  • Marital Adjustment of Women with In-laws:

    A lot of time married women have a hard time adjusting with her mother-in-law and matrimonial family. This may add up to affect couple dynamics as well. They have a pressure to live up to the expectations as well as at times adapt to the change of cultural values such as lifestyle, eating habits, added roles & responsibilities. Counseling helps them with constructive communication techniques and maintaining healthy boundaries relationship therapy techniques.

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