Show 29 – Family Systems: the ever-changing yet stable contexts in which we live

Aired: Sunday, May 16, 2010 8 to 9 AM Eastern on 93.3 FM in Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Sharon Lewis joins me to talk about Family Systems–the contexts in which we live and the ever-changing conditions in our families that affect us and our relationships.

One-size-fits-all parenting advice is annoying and often doesn’t work because it doesn’t reflect the rich environments of each family. Often, we get tripped up with what ‘should’ happen. We get stuck thinking that “only if…” someone did or said something in a certain way, then everything would be better.

When we look at Family Systems, we see that each individual contributes to the functioning of the whole family. Each person is a voice for the system and yet the system rarely looks exactly like one person expects it to look. What’s trying to happen may not align with what you think should happen.

If we’re caught up worried about doing something exactly right; then we’re not really present and responsive to what’s going on in the moment.

We’re going to attempt to talk about these abstract concepts in a clear and concrete way with a game and a few examples.

For example:

The problem: The kids won’t go to bed on time and everyone is tired.

Each person says, “I think we should do go to bed by 9 pm on a school night.” and “I want to choose when I go to bed. I’m not tired at that time. My favourite TV show doesn’t end until 10 pm.”

The Facts (What does each person have in mind? What do we notice is happening?): The daughter is sleeping from 11 pm to 6 am most nights. Dad thinks kids should be in bed by a certain time. Mom wants to encourage choices. The family functions better when everyone is well-rested. Both parents wants to grow kids who are autonomous who know what they want and find ways to support themselves. Family is most rested with 8 hours of sleep per night.

Guiding mechanisms of the family: rest, getting along with each other, having the energy to function during the day, choices, raising autonomous human beings

Guiding questions: What actions would honour what’s important to all of us? What are we willing to do now given the facts? Did we miss any important information?

What do I stand for? What do we stand for? What do we want to create? What’s important to us? What are we envisioning?

Families are like a song: each member is an instrument and each of our values is like a note. Together we harmonize or not. When we do not harmonize, there is often a voice that’s missing, or one speaking so loudly we cannot hear the rest of the tune. Maybe we can’t hear a thing. Harmony is when every person has a voice and is given the stage to be heard.

About Wendy McDonnell

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