The Family Social System

“A family is far more than a collection of individuals sharing a specific physical and physiological space. While families occur in a diversity of forms and complexities, each may be considered a natural sustained social system—one that has evolved a set of rules, is replete with assigned and ascribed roles for its members, has an organized power structure, has developed intricate overt and covert forms of communication, and has elaborated ways of negotiating and problem solving that permit various tasks to be performed effectively” (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008).

Part of the process of living within our family social system, is to develop our own individual identities. To function successfully, members need to adapt to the changing needs and demands of one another, including changing and adjusting to expectations. What would a family be like with no structure, rules or expectations at all?. Sometimes, families become depleted as a result of resistance to change… implosion. Alternately, too many changes, both external and internal stressors, can lead to the family breaking apart… explosions.

Most, if not all, families cannot expect to avoid exposure to some stress, loss, or traumatic events at various points in their lives. Unfortunately, these challenges are not always handled the same way. Some families may have a difficult time managing. Nonetheless, managing and coping effectively as a family system is necessary and possible.

Family resilience, the ability to thrive and maintain stable psychological and physical functioning after aversive experiences, is essential for a family system to succeed in life. We should consider our level of family resilience in our homes. Consistent conflicts and energy depleting relationships will be an indication that the systems we have in place are no longer too effective and we require adjustments.

Some key family processes to attain family resilience are as follows:

  • Does your family have a consistent and positive belief system? Does your family view disruptions as milestones? Does your family resist assigning blame and focus on a crisis as a manageable resource?
  • Are you and your family members utilizing resources when confronted with stress? Are all members open to change and connecting with one another?
  • Are effective family communication and problem solving strategies set in place? Is mutual trust between all members secure? Are expressions from all members accepted and encouraged?

Some families can be (temporarily) shattered by crises. Feelings of hurt, hostility, and resentment may pile up and be unresolved. This makes it very difficult for a family to resort to their processes of family resilience. Family counselling is a good opportunity to address how a family is functioning. In a non-judgmental environment, all aspects of the family may be addressed and goals may be reestablished and achieved. Call us today to get your family through crisis.