Family Dynamics

Template Graphic

Inthis Section

Family Dynamics

Living with others takes patience, humor and a genuine respect. Most people know they can trust and count on their family members, even if you irritate each other from time to time. The long-term relationships family members have provide a level of sustained support that is undeniably strong. These relationships can be nurtured so that they withstand squabbling and sibling rivalry.

Getting Along With Your Siblings

Many siblings grow up to be close friends, although it might take years and a lot of maturing. You can help strengthen your relationship with these steps:

Take a minute. Before you react to something your sibling has said or done, take a deep breath and think about the situation. Maybe you’re angry at your sibling or frustrated by a bigger underlying issue.

Try to talk it out. This might be hard because your sibling might be at a different maturity level than you, but it’s worth a shot. Your sibling might not react the way that you’d like, but there are a lot of benefits to discussing the issue. Be sure to come at the conversation from an angle that won’t put him or her on the defensive.

Try to use “I” phrases... to describe how you feel. For example, “I feel frustrated that when you…” instead of laying blame.

Avoid getting physical. It can be tempting to resort to violence if you’re feeling frustrated or if your sibling becomes violent with you, but it is never an acceptable way to deal with feelings.

Value your differences. Valuing your siblings for their different qualities can help put your relationship in a new light. Try not to compare yourself to your siblings. Realize that you’re very different people with different talents, interests and abilities... ideas and opinions.

Be supportive of your siblings. We often work on our relationships with friends, schoolmates, and co-workers, but take the relationships we have with our siblings for granted. These relationships need work, too, and small, random acts of kindness and support can go a long way.

Getting Along With Your Parents

Don’t get along with your parents or guardians? Do you argue often and feel that they don’t understand you? Are you asking yourself, “Why don’t they see things the way I do?”

Families sometimes disagree with each other and the occasional tension or argument is part of family life. However, ongoing arguments and tension can be stressful and overwhelming. Some people lose their temper and become intentionally hurtful, aggressive or even violent. But there are ways to defuse the conflict and help bring about a peaceful result. Here are a few things you can do:

Talk it out.

  • Talk to someone outside the situation, like a counselor, friend, brother or sister, or teacher.
  • Talking it out with your parents or guardians, could ease the situation. It can also be a great way of sorting through issues and coming to an arrangement that works for all of you.

Count to 10 before responding. It might sound silly, but walking away and counting to 10 can be a good way to cool off anger and avoid a response that could make the situation worse.

Get some space. It can be good to get some space from the situation and avoid more arguments. This might include exercising or chilling out with your friends.

Agreeing to disagree. If you can’t compromise, you might have to ‘agree to disagree’. Remember that you can have your own opinions, based on your own experience, beliefs and values. Whether you accept your parents’ or guardians’ views is up to you.

Getting Along With Your Children

Childhood and adolescence are a time of life when your body, mind, emotions and tastes are changing rapidly. It’s amazing to watch a young person grow and change so fast, but it also brings its challenges. Young people often feel misunderstood. The adults around them, who often want to share advice, also feel like they just aren’t “getting through” to the young person. Although you may not always see eye to eye with your children, there are some ways to strengthen your relationship.

Pay attention. Being present for kids helps build trust and illustrates that you value them. Turning off the television and putting away phones provides space for that quality time. Listen, listen, listen as they talk, and don’t be tempted to comment on everything.

Be positive. As parents, we want to teach and correct our children to help them as they grow. However, this can turn into constant correction if you don’t balance it with plenty of acknowledgement and praise for what your child is doing well. Some studies say it takes five positive comments to outweigh the impact of one negative comment. Try tracking the negative to positive/neutral comments you make to your children. What’s your ratio?

Be consistent. Dealing with situations in a consistent manner is important for kids. It shows them what to expect and provides a comforting stability during a tumultuous time. This means be consistent from situation to situation and from child to child.

Laugh. Humor is a powerful tool in the parenting toolbelt. Use it to defuse a heated conversation, as a stress reliever, or to connect with your child through telling jokes. Everyone feels better – and more closely connected – after they’ve shared a good laugh.

Leaning on your family

When you go through a tough time, talking to someone who is willing to listen really makes a difference. Sometimes the best people to talk to may be your own family, whether it’s a parent, uncle, auntie, cousin or grandparent. It is natural to feel like you don’t want to let them down with your personal problems, but in most families, they only care about you.

In some families it may not be okay to talk about your problems, or you may have some problems that you would not want to discuss with your family members. This is also true for adults who may be tempted to share their problems with their children. In almost all cases, it is better to find another trusted adult for guidance.

If you feel like you can’t talk to anyone in your family you can always talk to a teacher, mental health professional or even a friend. If you are in a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can call the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 for someone to talk to 24/7.

Acknowledgement: Portions of this fact sheet were originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.

Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth