A sad pair of green lungs is comforted by a pink pair of lungs and an orange pair of lungs

Family Dynamics

Families have many dynamics. There is a dynamic between the parents and children. The children in a family have their own dynamic. And the parents have their own dynamic, too.

Family dynamics change and evolve over time. For example, the dynamic between a newborn baby and their parent is different from a teenager and their parent. The newborn relies on their parent for all their needs to be met. Without a parent, or caregiver, the baby couldn’t survive. Teenagers are different, thought. Teenagers still rely on their parent to meet their needs, but they have more independence.

As people in the family grow up the dynamic can shift. Another way the family dynamic can shift is due to illness. This dynamic shift can be fast or slow depending on the illness. But it can cause stress like any other shift in the family.

Changing dynamics

My family had a shift in dynamics several years ago. For many years I was a healthy, independent adult. I was living with my parents as I finished graduate school and was looking for a new job. And I had just started dating the man who would become my husband. It was at this time that my health changed dramatically. This is what caused a big shift in our family dynamic.

There can be a lot of stress when the family dynamic changes. People may not know their role. While others may not know how to support someone during that time.

Support when family dynamics change

I felt very lost for a while when my family’s dynamic changed as I got sicker. It was still safe and I knew I was loved, but I didn’t feel like I knew my role. No longer was I independent and on the go. Now I was homebound, very sick, and unable to care for myself some days. My independence melted away as I became more dependent on my family to help me with basic needs like eating and washing.

One of the things my family did during this time was offer their support in many ways. Let’s go over a few examples together, and allow me to explain how my family used these to help us during the dynamic shift.

  • Create a safe emotional space. My parents and my husband, whom I was dating at the time, did a great job of making sure that my emotions felt safe with them. They never shamed me for how I felt. And they were all very sensitive and respectful of my needs.
  • Talk it out. We had so many conversations as the family dynamic shifted. My family frequently talked to me and my parents to see how I was doing. They asked how I felt about my illness progressing, provided laughs, and just listened when I needed to talk.
  • Form a plan together. We always tried to have a plan, but especially around holidays. I had to miss a couple of celebrations due to illness, so we formed a plan. This plan was to make sure I didn’t feel left out, but also made sure the children in my family still had a magical holiday.
  • Be flexible. I’m not the best at being flexible and going with the flow. But that is one skill we all had to learn and grow with as the family dynamic shift happened due to my health. We tried to have more than one plan for something to account for as many things as possible.

Communication is key

It is hard when a family dynamic changes. Changes can happen due to age, job loss, new family members, illness, and so many other reasons. Talking with your family and maintain open lines of communication is vital for things to go as smoothly as possible.

Remember that change is hard. And figuring out a new role in your family can be hard, too. Be patient and understanding as everyone adjusts. Eventually, the new family dynamic will feel more comfortable and less stressful. Be sure to give it time.

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