Myths about Family Life
- Good families do not have problems.
- If you are a good parent your child will not have problems.
- Raising children is easy. You should not feel stressed as a parent.
- Well-adjusted people balance parenting, work, and personal life with ease.
- Therapy is only for really troubled families.
These myths only make it harder for most families to seek the help they need.
The truth is, normal, healthy, well adjusted families often encounter problems.
Common Family Problems/Stresses
Facts about Family Life and Getting Help for your Family
- There are practical steps you can take to improve family life.
- Teenagers can and will talk with you.
- Your family members can help you solve problems.
How We Can Help: Our Approach to Family Problems
The Centers for Family Change takes a developmental approach to family life. We understand that families change over time. What once worked, as a way of organizing and running your family, may no longer work because of the changing needs and concerns of family members. Our therapists work with you and your family to:
- Develop better communication and better problem solving skills.
- Establish more effective discipline strategies.
- Resolve differences between family members.
- Adjust to changes in family membership (remarriage, divorce).
Our Approach is Practical, Problem Focused and Strengths Based
- We work with you to find practical solutions to problems.
- We focus on resolving problems while respecting your values/life style.
- We emphasize your strengths and build on them.
Promoting Healthy Communication
Healthy communication is vital in families. Without clear effective communication families would not function. Therefore, when there are problems with communication family life suffers. Communication problems commonly take several forms:
- Parents feel that their children are not listening, not heeding what they say.
- Children and teenagers fail to communicate with their parents.
- Parents are not able to talk with each other about parenting concerns.
- Family members are not able to work together, to solve problems
Communication can break down for many reasons:
- Differences in styles of communicating.
- Developmental changes (what worked at one point, with younger children, no longer works with older children or teens).
- New demands on family members (changes in work hours or career, increased involvement outside the home).
- Changes in the family constellation (addition of a family member, divorce, remarriage).
These changes are often compounded when family members become frustrated and angry, begin to blame each other, or withdraw/give up. Thus, what started out as a mild disruption in communication becomes an entrenched problem that worsens over time as family members become increasingly frustrated and stalemated.
How We Can Help
Our therapists are skilled in helping families resolve communication problems. We
can help you:
- Find more effective ways to communicate with your children/teenagers.
- Identify and overcome obstacles that are impeding communication.
- Become more effective problem solvers, work together as a team.
By working with your family we can help you identify obstacles hampering healthy and effective communication, develop ways to overcome/resolve/work through these obstacles, and establish new and more positive patterns of communication.
You are not alone if you are not sure how to discipline effectively, or if you feel you have tried all of the strategies on the market, and none have worked. Many parents find themselves questioning how to best handle discipline:
- What is the best way to respond to negative behavior?
- Is “spare the rod, spoil the child” a recipe for success or disaster?
- What punishments work?
- Is using rewards just another form of bribery?
We Can Help You Discipline More Effectively
Centers for Family Change therapists are skilled in working with a wide range of discipline problems including:
- Tantrums and aggressive behavior in young children.
- Defiance and refusal to follow rules in older children and adolescents.
- Anger management problems in children of all ages.
- Severe acting out and refusal to accept rules in adolescence.
Our therapists are skilled in working with families where discipline problems are occurring: We can:
- Help parents quickly re-assert their authority.
- Help parents identify and implement more effective discipline strategies.
- Help identify and resolve problems that underlie negative behaviors.
- Help children and adolescents learn to respectfully voice their feelings/concerns.
Our Philosophy and Approach to Discipline Problems
1. Children and Adolescents Need Discipline
We are firm believers that children and adolescents need discipline, need to follow rules laid out by parents and other adult authorities, and are not ready to run their own lives.
2. Parents Need to be in Charge
Families are not democracies. While parents clearly need to listen to and take into account their children's and adolescent’s needs, feelings and desires, parents need to be in charge of the family.
3. Effective Discipline Needs to be Done Calmly and Consistently
One of the greatest challenges for most parents is to react to negative behaviors in a calm, collected and consistent fashion. Discipline is far more effective if parents remain as calm as possible when disciplining their children.
4. There is More than One Approach to Effective Discipline
There is no one strategy that works for all children and adolescents. The child’s age, temperament, and experiences all dictate what types of strategies will be most effective.
5. Children and Adolescents Misbehave for Multiple Reasons
Children and adolescents defy their parents for a variety of reasons. Some children may have difficulties managing their behavior and emotions, while others are acting out underlying problems, while some may be reacting to stresses in their lives. To be effective, the sources of defiance and misbehavior need to be understood and addressed.
6. Discipline is More than Stopping Negative Behavior.
We believe that acting out, defiance, misbehavior not only needs to be stopped, but that children or adolescents need to learn more adaptive and respectful ways of voicing their concerns and feelings, and negotiating with their parents.
7. Effective Discipline does not occur in a Vacuum.
When parents disagree, fail to work together and do not support each other’s authority, problems are likely to occur. Thus, part of establishing effective discipline includes helping parents work together as a team to set and enforce rules.
For more information please see our articles on discipline:
Strategies for Managing Defiant Behavior
7 Principles of Effective Discipline
Parenting Challenging Children
The old cliché is that children “do not come with a manual.” Children of all ages present different concerns for parents. Parents of younger children may struggle with helping their children follow basic routines while parents of teenagers may wonder how to help their adolescents understand the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. Moreover, some children struggle with challenges and problems ranging from weaker intellectual and learning abilities, to poor social skills.
Thus, there are situations when, as parents, you want to be able to talk over your concerns in a non-judgmental supportive setting. Centers for Family Change therapists can provide you with an opportunity to address your concerns about your child. Moreover, we can offer you sound and practical advice on ways to help your child.
Temperament and other Challenges
One of the most compelling areas of psychological research is that on temperament. Dating back to the 1950s psychologists and other researchers have consistently found that children are born with different temperaments. Some children are by nature easy going, out going and affectionate. Other children have more difficult temperaments: are quick to anger, slow to warm up to new situations, have difficulties with flexibility and change.
Our therapists can help you better understand your child’s temperament and find more effective ways to work with your child. While all of us have certain temperaments we also can learn to stretch ourselves, be more flexible. Thus, the shy or introverted child can learn to be more sociable, while the more emotional child can be helped to develop better self-control. Moreover, we can help you as parents find strategies that “fit” better with your child’s temperament, thus reducing conflict and stress within the home.
Finally, many children have areas of weakness, some of these being quite significant. We can help you cope with your child’s weakness and help you find ways to help your child compensate for and cope with the challenges he/she faces.
Divorce Adjustment and Blended Families
Divorce, Single Parent Families, Blended Families
With the divorce rate still hovering at 50% many children will experience a divorce, live with a single parent, experience their parents' re-marriage and become part of a blended family.
These family changes are often distressing and stressful for all family members. Research has consistently shown that children whose families undergo a divorce are at greater risk for a variety of problems ranging from behavioral, to emotional to school related problems. Moreover, parents going through a divorce often experience much stress and are not always at their best in responding to their child’s needs.
At the Centers for Family Change we work children, adolescents, and families who are coping with, going through, or who have gone through a divorce. We also work with blended families to help all family members adjust to the changes that are involved when a new family is formed.
Our Approach to Helping Families with Divorce and Blended Family Concerns
- Solution focused/non-judgmental
- Inclusive and family focused
Our therapists see their job as helping you cope with the challenges in your life. We are not interested in judging or blaming people. We focus on helping you solve the challenges divorce and re-marriage pose for you and your children.
It is our belief that parents can most effectively help their children cope with the challenges of divorce and the formation of new families if they are working together and supporting each other, as parents.
Time may not heal all wounds, but the passage of time does allow people to move on. Thus, we take a developmental approach in the sense that we view divorce as a process with different stages or phases. Similarly, we also believe that this principle applies when it comes to adjusting to a new or blended family.
Finally, we believe that people can, will and do survive divorces, and move on to make good lives from themselves and their children. Our goal is to help you and your children cope with, adjust to, and grow from the changes in your lives.
A few caveats about working with divorced and blended families
Working with divorcing, divorced and blended families is often complicated because there are many adults who have a stake in the process. In order to increase the likelihood that therapy will be helpful, Centers for Family Change therapists adhere to the principles/guidelines listed below:
1. Involving both parents in the treatment process
Whenever we are working with children whose parents have divorced we strongly recommend that both parents be involved in therapy. Some parents may be initially put off by this idea because of the history of conflicts and tensions with former spouses. However, we believe that involving both parents in the treatment process is critical:
- Children are attached to both parents
- Both parents are an important influence on their children
- Parenting is always more effective when parents work together
We understand that some parents may not want to be in sessions with their former spouse. In these instances we will meet with each parent separately while working towards the goal of more collaborative parenting.
2. Parental consent to treatment
It is our policy that both parents need to consent to the treatment of their children and adolescents. If parents do not agree that treatment is needed or appropriate, it is our policy to decline to provide therapy in these instances. We certainly do not want to stop children from receiving needed treatment. However, if parents do not agree to therapy for their children it is our experience that therapy can turn into a battle ground and treatment may become another stress rather than a source of help. Therefore, we must insist that both parents consent to therapy for children in situations where parents are divorcing or are divorced.
3. Ongoing custody battles and other litigation
When parents are in the middle of a divorce, particularly if there is an ongoing custody battle or other major disagreements about parenting, or if there is other litigation ongoing that involves custody, visitation or other parenting issues, therapy may not be viable. Therapy is a collaborative problem solving effort while the legal proceedings are adversarial. In these instances it may be best to defer therapy until legal issues are resolved. We reserve the right to decline to provide services or end services if we believe that legal conflicts are compromising or impairing our ability to provide therapy.
In addition, the Centers for Family Change therapists provide therapy services. We do not provide evaluative services. Therefore, as per our service agreement, we do not and will not take positions on custody, visitation, or other legal issues.
4. Issues with Blended Families
Working with blended families is often rewarding and productive as therapists can help new families establish themselves and become a resource for all family members. However, working with blended families requires much flexibility as former spouses are involved in parenting, in a way that traditional nuclear families never experience. Therefore, when working with blended families we may wish to meet with various family members (and even former spouses and their new spouses) in order to most effectively help you assist your children.
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