Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin
December 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink

By Lisa Merlo Booth

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to stay in the same family role we played when we were children.  Perhaps you were the peacemaker of the family and still find yourself trying to keep the peace among everyone.  Some people are the family scapegoat, forever seen as the troubled or irresponsible one.  Still others are the quiet ones, who just try to stay out of the line of fire.

Regardless of the role we played years ago or how much we’ve changed since then, our families have an uncanny ability to pull us back into our old roles and patterns like no one else in our lives.  We could have been working on ourselves for years and then — wham — we see our families and we’re right back to being that little girl or boy again.

Part of this phenomenon happens because, no matter how much we’ve changed, we tend to act the same as we always did when we get back to our old home turf.  It’s as though we become that young child again – the one who has to throw a tantrum to be heard or has to silence to feel safe or…

The reality, of course, is that this re-enactment truly is not the case.  We can choose to be different with our family, just as we can choose to be different with anybody else in our life.  All it takes is a conscious decision to not play by the old rules, good boundaries and healthy self-esteem (not an easy task, I realize).  We need to decide how and who we want to be in this world and then have the courage to be that person regardless of the audience.

In my own life, I am the youngest of five children.  Naturally, I was seen as the baby of the family.  I played that role well for many years, until I finally realized that it didn’t fit me anymore.  As I began to step up in my interactions with my family, I began to change that story.  I didn’t need to cower in the presence of my father or have everyone do things for me that I was able to do for myself.  I could share my opinions, set limits and speak honestly and confidently about what was going on for me.  As I began to step up, I started to break through the chains of my old family role.  Although, I’m sure there are times when my old role creeps back, it feels really good to not be acting like a nine-year old every time I go back home.

I constantly hear stories about raging fathers who are still hotheads in their 70s or mothers trying to micromanage their adult children.  Whatever the issue is with your parents or siblings, remember that you’re no longer that nine-year-old who had to just take it.  You are a grown adult who is responsible for taking care of yourself and your family—even if that means setting limits on your own parents.  Break the chains of your old family role and have the courage to have an adult relationship with your family.  Set limits when you have to, share your opinions when you choose to and make requests when you’d like to.  Take all of these actions with a centered, powerful strength that is always respectful.

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