Dear Counselor: Survive family encounters with these tips

<p>Kimberly Groll  |  File Photo</p>

Kimberly Groll  |  File Photo

When two people create a child with love in their hearts and hope in their future with planning for their new family, do they really know how this is going to turn out? What does family mean to you? Do you feel good living in the family you have right now? Is it fun and exciting to be a family member? Do you trust and love those who you are surrounded with in your family?

Many of us were reunited with our families during the holiday season. Some of us come from broken homes, and getting together with the family over the holidays may have caused heartache, hassle, headaches, or unwanted feelings and emotions.

So, what makes a good family? Let’s break it down to the four aspects of family life, which is the basic model used in forming families, according to Virginia Satir’s book “Peoplemaking”:

The feelings and ideas one has about him/herself (self worth).

The ways people work out to make meaning with one another (communication).

The rules people use for how they should feel and act, which eventually develop into a family system.

The way people relate to other people and institutions outside the family, which is the link to society.

It is believed these four factors had to be changed to relieve family pain. In families who were experiencing troubles with one another, the four factors were found to look like this:

Low self-worth.

Communication was indirect, vague and not really honest.

Rules were rigid, inhuman, nonnegotiable and everlasting.

The linking to society was fearful, placating and blaming.

In nurturing families the four factors were different and looked like this:

High self-worth.

Communication is direct, clear, specific and honest.

Rules are flexible, human, appropriate and subject to change.

The linking to society is open and hopeful.

Every person has a feeling of worth, positive or negative; the question is, which is it? Every person communicates; the question is, how and what happens as a result? Every person follows rules; the question is what kind, and how well do they work for them? Every person is linked to society; the question is, how and what are the results?

Each of the four factors forms the family. Traditionally, we look at family as the place where we could find love, understanding and support, even when all else failed; the place where we could be refreshed and “recharged” to cope more effectively with the world outside. However, for many troubled families, this is a myth.

Dear Counselor,

I dread Christmas! Getting together with my family is becoming more of a burden with each passing year. It seems like I just go through the motions with committing myself to being with family more out of obligation because they are my family then to really wanting to spend time with them. This is confusing for me, because deep down, I feel I should love my family and want to see them and spend time with them, and the other part of me feels like why do I do this year after year with no happiness. What I struggle with the most are my mixed feelings toward the family with feeling bad about not being able to feel good. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get through future holidays without feeling all these mixed emotions?



Dear Helen,

Many people experience stress around the holidays. It sounds like you are struggling with your emotions and feelings when you’re around family.

What is it about your family that makes you feel uneasy? Will you feel guilty if you do not host a Christmas for your family or attend a family event over the holidays? Do you feel as if your family members don’t appreciate you, or that you don’t appreciate them? What do the four aspects mentioned above look like in your family? Is there good communication among family? Are you surrounded by tension coming from other family members?

There are many dynamics we can address when trying to sort out your feelings and emotions. Without knowing your family history or any underlying issues that might be causing you to feel this way, it is difficult to get to the root of your feelings.

However, if the holidays cause you any type of discomfort and you are regretting your choices with being around your family, perhaps you can skip next Christmas with your family and see how you feel.

Perhaps you can plan a trip out of town, or spend your holiday the way you want to spend it rather than how you feel you should spend it.

The time away might give you time to reflect on your true feelings and come to terms with how you will handle future holidays.


Counselor Kimberly

With the holidays behind us, and a new year ahead of us, perhaps we can all take some time to reflect on how we want things to be better or different for us in 2014. Remember, we cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that has created the problem. We need to focus on what works rather than what doesn’t work. It is about looking for a solution rather than looking at something as a problem.

Kimberly Groll is the owner and president of Achieving Solutions Counseling Inc. Address problems to her at or 630-632-4060. The information contained in this column is strictly generic in nature and is intended to be informational only and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional intervention.