Families come in all shapes and sizes. Your family might consist of your parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, spouse, and children. Although the concept of family means something different to everyone, for many people, family is a valuable source of love and support.
While family relationships play a prominent role in our lives, they can also be significant sources of stress and pain. Because they mean so much to us, relationships with family members are difficult to navigate, especially in the face of conflict.
How common are family issues?
Because family issues vary widely and are deeply personal, it’s difficult to determine how common they are.
However, evidence suggests family conflict is relatively common. For example, one study by the National Institutes of Health on the tension between parents and adult children found that 94% of participants reported at least some tension in their relationships.
Family conflict also tends to arise surrounding the balance between parenting and professional pursuits. According to a June 2019 manuscript, in nuclear families where both parents are working full time outside of the home, each parent feels concerned that they don’t spend enough time with their children or spouse.
Types of Family Issues
Elena Marta and Sara Alfieri define family conflict as “active opposition between family members”. Because of the deeply personal nature of family relationships, family problems can take a wide variety of forms, including physical, financial, and psychological.
Family conflicts may involve different combinations of family members, ranging from disputes between parents and conflicts between parents and children to arguing between siblings. Some of the most common forms of family conflict include:
- Parent/child conflict: Because parents play a significant role in our development, the conflict between parents and children tends to be emotional and deeply rooted. Parent/child conflict can negatively affect the well-being of children, according to a manuscript published in the Journal of Family Issues.
- Sibling conflict: Competition, comparison, and other factors can lead to conflict among siblings, especially during childhood and adolescence.
- Conflict surrounding culture, religion, or lifestyle: Families, especially nuclear families, often have set ideas about the lifestyles members should pursue, especially when religion or culture plays a significant role in the family’s life. When one member rebels against these traditions, conflict can arise.
- Communication issues: You might not feel heard or feel like other family members misunderstand you. Disputes about chores, yelling, keeping secrets, and giving the silent treatment are examples of poor communication in relationships.
- Caregiver stress: According to a manuscript published in the Journal of Family Issues, taking care of children, elderly parents, and family members with health conditions can lead to caregiver stress and relationship strains.
- Violence, abuse, neglect, and gaslighting: When issues turn into emotional or physical violence, manipulation, or intimidation, the relationship can be considered abusive. If you’re experiencing abuse, it’s essential to seek help immediately.
Family Issues and Mental Health
Family problems are unique for every household, and individuals vary widely in their emotional and psychological responses to interpersonal conflict. Some of the most common mental health symptoms of family issues include:
- Anxiety or worry: You might feel overwhelmed with thoughts and concerns about relationships and struggle to focus on other things.
- Sadness or depression: Feelings of disconnection and conflict with family members can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
- Chronic stress: You might feel fatigued or experience physical symptoms of stress such as muscle tension, headaches, and digestive issues. Over time, chronic stress can lead to serious physical health problems, such as heart disease. Additionally, parental stress can worsen mental health outcomes among youth and adolescents.
- Conflicts with other loved ones: If a relationship is causing you stress, you might find that issues also come up with other loved ones. For example, conflict with a sibling might make you more irritable or sensitive in your relationship with your spouse.
- Low self-esteem: Feeling insecure in a relationship can lead to doubts about yourself and your worth.
What should you do if you’re experiencing family issues?
Whether you’re facing sibling conflict or disputes over household chores, help is available. Regardless of the stress, conflict, or danger you’re experiencing in relationships, it’s essential to seek help as soon as possible to take care of your mental health and the well-being of the children in your household. Some valuable resources include:
- Therapy: Working with a mental health professional can help you address your family issues and foster better family relationships. You might choose to work with a therapist on your own, or you might attend couples’ therapy or family therapy.
- Social support: When family relationships feel stressful, it can help to reach out to other friends and loved ones in your life. Your loved ones can help you understand your family issues from a fresh perspective and help reduce the pressure of stressful family relationships by reminding you that other people love and support you.
- Mindfulness practices and meditation: Setting aside a few minutes each day for quiet reflection can help you gain a new perspective on your family problems and help you approach them calmly. Mindfulness can also help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression that family problems may contribute to, according to a free PMC article published by the National Institutes of Health (PMID citation: 23592556).
- Hotlines and safety resources: If you’re experiencing abuse in a relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If children or adolescents may be in danger, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or need immediate mental health support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Therapy for Family Issues
Therapists utilize multiple approaches when treating family problems. While some approaches involve just one person attending individual therapy sessions, others might require two or more family members to participate. With the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, many mental health professionals have turned to teletherapy.
Some common types of therapy used to treat family problems include:
- Structural family therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Whether you’re interested in individual sessions or group sessions with your family members, reach out to a mental health professional through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a family therapist you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements.
One of the qualified therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you foster better communication skills, navigate challenges in your family life, and improve your family relationships.