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  • Writer's pictureAileen Miziolek

Five Tips for Improving Difficult Family Relationships

Family is the first social structure that we encounter in our lives and arguably the most critical to individual well-being. While we know that family relationships are important to nurture, it is not easy to lean into these relationships when tensions emerge. We often find that the disagreements we have within our families are, at their root, caused by the same issues over and over. That’s because families are so familiar with one another! Very often family members fall into communication patterns with one another that can keep them stuck, frustrated and even hopeless that the relationship can grow.

One way we can improve family relationships, is to increase our awareness of these patterns and adapt how we respond to relationship challenges. Remember, you can’t change other people’s responses, but you can control your own. Below are five tips that can help you improve family relationships that are challenging.

1. Instead of jumping to conclusions, get curious:

Making assumptions and jumping to conclusions can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts. Being curious means asking questions and seeking to understand before forming an opinion. It promotes empathy, active listening, and a deeper connection within the family.

2. Turn challenges into opportunities for learning together:

Whatever the challenge, over time it can be turned into an opportunity for learning. Open your mid to consider what learning can come from the present difficulty.

Beyond learning from challenges, seek out new experiences together. Learning as a family fosters a sense of shared growth and adventure. It encourages bonding, creates shared memories, and provides opportunities for collaboration and support.

3. Communication is key:

Open and effective communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. It involves not only speaking honestly but also listening attentively. Clear communication helps resolve issues, build trust, and strengthen family connections.

4. Accept the things you cannot change:

Acceptance is a valuable skill in family relationships. It means acknowledging that not everything can be controlled or changed in this moment. Knowing when the situation calls for us to stop pushing and simply surrender is critical. So often when we push another to solve a problem it creates a push back response. When we surrender, the other person can let go of defensiveness and use their energy instead to see and solve their own problem. Embracing this concept reduces frustration, resentment, and unnecessary conflicts, promoting peace within the family.

5. Sweeping things under the rug doesn't work:

While it’s sage advice to pick our battles, avoiding conflict and difficult conversations that continue to remerge allows issues to fester and grow. Fear of conflict weakens relationships and can leave us feeling that our family relationships are superficial and lack the depth required to support the many changes we face in our lives. Addressing concerns, conflicts, and struggles openly, even if it's uncomfortable, is essential for deepening relationships and maintaining a healthy family dynamic. Having the courage to bring challenges to the surface at an appropriate time and assuring our loved ones that it’s safe for them to do so as well, can lead to a greater sense of intimacy, trust, and resilience in our family relationships.

Improving family relationships is every family member’s responsibility. It only takes one person to respond differently to shift the dynamics of a relationship and since we know we can’t change the way other people respond, the only way to make a difference is to work on our own response. The good news is that relationship skills are teachable and learnable. These five tips emphasize empathy, communication, and a proactive attitude towards addressing issues, leading to happier and more harmonious family interactions.


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