Every family encounters a situation where the actions or inaction of a particular family member has a negative effect on the rest of the group. These issues are difficult to resolve because families are a fragile and complex unit.
Because of the complexity, people have to be sensitive and compassionate when dealing with family issues. The family has to come together, discuss the issues and come up with a solution that takes into account the needs of the family member at the center of the issue and the needs of the rest of the family. Otherwise, missteps can result in the division of the family unit and years of emotional bitterness.
Stage 1: Group
Creating a group
Make sure to involve everyone who is suitable and capable of offering help. Otherwise, the group will run the risk of leaving resources on the table and exclude family members who have a vested interest in the process and outcome.
It is best to avoid the following people when forming a group:
- Estranged relatives
- People who are immersed in family politics
- Aggressive personality types
- People with personal agendas
It is important to make certain commitments during the planning process.
- To avoid passing judgment on the person in question
- To be compassionate during every step of the process
- To avoid personal agendas
Stage 2: Questions
The group has to answer some key questions before any planning can take place.
- Why have we gathered?
- How is this issue affecting the group?
- How has this issue manifested itself?
- Why do people want to see this issue confronted and resolved?
- What are people’s intentions?
- What are we hoping to achieve by working together?
- What do you consider a successful outcome?
It takes time and compromise, but everyone needs to enter the process with the same objectives.
Stage 3: The Planning Sessions
Indeed, three factors decide when, and if a plan will be implemented, including a timeline, milestones to measure progress and a regular inventory of resources.
Having a person agree to the solution and then not being able to deliver on the promises of support and resources, will result in a loss of trust and a fracturing of family unity.
Other issues to consider when developing a plan:
· Location for meeting with the family member
· Individual commitments
· Communication between group members
· Available Resources
Stage 4: The Agenda
The Agenda will guide the group during their meeting with the relative.
- Statement of Love and Support
- The intention of the meeting
- Plan of Action
- Possibility of Failure
It is a systematic run down of everything that the group has discussed and agreed upon. Also, leave enough room on the agenda to make notes and make changes to agenda items during the confrontation.
Stage 5: The meeting
Opening Statement of Love and Support
Begin the conversation with a statement that demonstrates the group’s commitment to helping the person in question
Intention of the Meeting
Ask for everyone’s cooperation and make it clear that everyone has a right to be heard without interruption. Also, remind everyone of the importance of the meeting and how it is in everyone’s best interest to act in a polite and considerate manner.
Review the agenda at the start of the meeting and summarize the process, debate and hard work that led everyone to this meeting.
List solutions and review the proposed timelines for these solutions. Permit extended pauses between points to allow for positive and negative feedback and commit to addressing them during the meeting.
Discussion and debate will reveal new information and the group has to adapt to any drastic revelations. Nevertheless, the process from beginning to end has to be democratic, so that everyone adheres to the decisions made by the group.
Also, allow the relative to contribute their own resources, including supportive friends, medical or work support.
Be Supportive without Surrendering
Be attentive to any aggression or negativity on either side and do not let the group splinter. A loss of unity will allow the relative to question the groups commitment and the validly of their concerns.
In periods of heightened tension, the more self aware, mindful and respected people in the group have to step forward to manage the situation.
Take breaks and regroup. Everyone involved will need to be reassured of the purpose of the meeting.
Every family and situation is unique, so even the best intentions and hard work might end in failure. In extreme cases, the group might decide to ostracize the individual, use medical intervention or take legal action.
Once the group has reached a consensus, an amended Master Agenda will act as a contract between everyone involved.
Every individual will commit him or herself to the agreement and guarantee they will do their part to fulfill the contract.
Taking on family issues is no different from any other complex problem that a community might face. The group must find a common ground and draw on each other’s strength to find solutions. Ultimately, committing themselves to a common purpose.
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