At some point, most families are faced with a crisis -- be it a death, a crime, unemployment or addiction. In order to work through a crisis, a family must be willing to pull together, while still recognizing the individual needs of each family member.
Let yourself grieve the loss or hardship facing your family, and encourage other family members to do so, as well. A family crisis is a turning point, and an important part of the recovery process is acknowledging your feelings, accepting that it's OK to feel upset, hurt, sad, angry or disappointed. If you are struggling to come to terms with your emotions, consider visiting a therapist or professional family counselor.
Identify your support network. Friends, extended family, neighbors, colleagues and members of local support groups may be able to provide comfort and support. Resist the temptation to withdraw from others, even if your crisis is one that has you feeling ashamed. Remember that everyone goes through difficult times. Seek out people who are compassionate, loyal and nonjudgmental.
Familiarize yourself with the ways a crisis can affect a family. A family in crisis may lack cohesiveness and closeness, with individual members experiencing symptoms of stress such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite, depression and anxiety. A couple may experience a lack of quality time. Siblings may take their frustrations out on each other. Try to work together as a family to cope with the crisis, rather than placing blame advises psychologist Philip "Dr. Phil" McGraw in his website article "How Families Can Overcome Difficult Times." Give every family member the opportunity to talk out feelings. Praise the good in each other to boost self-esteem, while encouraging each other to stay optimistic and make new goals.
Be aware of how your children are feeling. Kids react to a crisis with feelings similar to those of adults, but are more likely to show them with actions, rather than words. How your child reacts to a crisis largely depends on her age, according to the New York State Education Department Crisis Counseling Guide. A toddler may be scared and clingy, experiencing problems sleeping, speaking, feeding or going to the toilet. A school-age child may become aggressive, confused or competitive, suffering from nightmares or headaches. A teenager may exhibit antisocial behavior, problems at school, lack of energy or feelings of guilt. To help your child cope, make sure to freely provide your attention, comfort and reassurance. Give your kids time to recover, but encourage them to get back into a normal routine by setting them tasks to give them control over their lives. Replace the memories of negative experiences with new, positive family activities.
- University of Delaware Cooperative Extension: Surviving a Family Crisis
- Dr. Phil: How Families Can Overcome Difficult Times
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension: How Strong Families Manage Stress and Crisis
- Save the Children: How to Help Children Cope with a Crisis
- New York State Education Department: Crisis Counseling Guide
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images