Every semester, I ask my counselling students to reflect on how their family has influenced their development. On average, one out of every three has stories of family strife.
Some come from families where there is parent-child conflict. Others experience sibling rivalry. Parental favouritism may come into play too. Conflicts and disunity may also cross generations and families, for instance, when illegitimate offspring are ill-treated by children from the legal marriage.
Marital strife may cause children to suffer; for example, when parents get so caught up in their fighting that they neglect their children. The children may even get dragged in as pawns in parental conflict.
The hurt from social and emotional turmoil in family life can go deep with pervasive effects. How do we prevent and resolve family conflict and disunity?
While it may not be possible for parents to love every child equally, it is nevertheless important to love each one of them unconditionally, regardless of their ability. Parents, remember that your love and care prepare your children for the future. Your love will be reciprocated when they start caring for you later in life.
Another principle is to forgive and, more importantly, to let go of your anger. This could happen even before the offender acknowledges their fault. By taking the initiative to let go of your anger, you make moving on with your life no longer dependent on what the other does. One tip is to stop ruminating on the hurt. Instead, focus your thoughts on more positive and productive things.
In circumstances when someone continues to hurt you deliberately, confront and/or stay away from the person. Why continue to let yourself be hurt, which might jeopardise future reconciliation efforts?
An example is the case of a young lady who confronted her teenage step-brother for molesting her while he thought she was asleep. The parents’ initial response was to play down the incident as boyish mischief by their son. This deepened the daughter’s hurt and anger. She decided to move out and seek counselling.
Family counselling sessions were then convened where the offending youth could apologise and share how he would make amends. The parents had an opportunity to respond in a more supportive manner.
Dealing with the hurtful encounter with openness paved the way to a more cohesive family unit.
Benny Bong –
has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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