Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Posts Tagged ‘how to talk about family difficulties’

How to Disclose Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on February 23, 2011

A few of my readers have asked me to address this topic. In my book, the first chapter is devoted to three estranged families. The other families have repaired relationships, but they went through some period of difficulties.

It’s helpful to talk with a therapist or join a parent support group to talk about your experiences and your feelings, and they can further guide you about discussing the issue with family and friends.

Before you talk with friends and family about your situation, consider the reasons for disclosing any information, and that will help you determine what you want to say and which people you trust, which people you should avoid.

What would be the reasons to talk about your family? For me, it was helpful emotionally to lead an honest and open life rather than to keep my pain hidden. I’m careful about details to protect some family privacy, and I’m very careful about what I let the gossips hear.

I learned that when I shared selective information honestly, I received help and support and kindness during this challenging time. If you live in a small town or have a certain network of friends and family, they may have observed your problems and may have been concerned about your family.

The most important lesson for me was that I could be honest, protect details, receive support and learn that I was not alone. That’s a big thing, knowing you’re not alone. It’s helpful no matter what you’re going through in life.

If you decide to talk with others about your family matters, be prepared for a wide range of responses. Some people will be sympathetic and share their own stories. Others will want to be your therapist/coach. We all dread those who may judge you harshly, even though your situation may be extreme and may include violence in your family. The truth is, it’s hard to know how some people will react, but for the most part, you know your family and friends.

The chosen confidants would be people you know are supportive, good listeners, and respectful people. They have to be people you can trust.

The people to avoid are fairly easy to pick: the ones who are usually judgmental, gossipy and/or critical. You know who that is, I’m sure.

Because this is information you’re volunteering, you can also pick the time and place in which to share. It should be private – don’t put yourself in a position where people can eavesdrop. Pick a day that doesn’t have significance for you or the other person: holidays, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries are not times to talk about these matters. If you find you’re not ready to share yet, don’t do it. This is your information, your pain, and you are not obligated to share anything.

You should be comfortable and ready to share, and that means being prepared for questions. Some people have a lot of questions, others just listen. For those who have questions, consider what kinds of questions they may ask so you’re ready to respond. It’s helpful to provide some resources such as books or websites. This helps demonstrate you’re not alone and gives others additional insights.

If they ask what they can do to help, let them know. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk with, someone to say “I understand” or “Do you want to talk about it?” or someone who will say “I’m thinking about you.”

If you’ve been in a difficult family situation and decided to share this with others, what was your experience? What worked well, what would you change if you could?

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