Understanding Family Resilience
At some point, every family will encounter a crisis. Major events like job loss, the death of a loved one, and terminal illness create challenges for parents and children alike. To weather these storms, families must have a certain level of resilience: the capacity to withstand adversity and thrive afterward. While this type of mental toughness was originally seen as an individual trait, researchers have begun to explore the concept of family resilience.
What is Family Resilience?
Family systems therapists have long acknowledged the impact of adversity on the family unit. A crisis doesn’t just affect one member of the family; it creates ripples that touch each person in the household. Family resilience researchers believe that this same principle can be reversed. Put simply, the way each loved one responds can make a key difference in the outcome of a crisis. If everyone pitches in, the fallout from health problems, unemployment, or caregiving can be mitigated.
Adversities Faced by Families
The average family must overcome multiple persistent challenges, which are often related and ongoing. Common issues include:
- Caring for an aging or injured loved one
- Divorce, parental remarriage, and stepfamily formation
- One member being diagnosed with a serious illness or disability
- Financial strain and unemployment
- Natural disasters
- LGBTQ+ stigma
- Military families: deployment and relocation
- Sudden medical crisis (heart attack)
- Complex or multigenerational trauma
- Death of a parent or child
What Makes a Family Resilient?
Psychologists have begun to evaluate the ways in which parents, children, grandparents, and other members of the family can support one another when times are tough. They have identified three domains of family functioning.
Shared Belief Systems
Families must be able to make meaning out of their adversity, normalize feelings of distress, and foster a positive outlook for the future. If a family can cultivate optimism during a period of challenge, they are more likely to grow together after their trial has concluded.
A crisis requires both flexibility and organization. The household dynamic may change during this period, and that’s okay. Someone—not necessarily a parent—must step up and provide leadership to loved ones during this time. They will offer guidance and protection to others, then divide the work of mobilizing extended family and accessing institutional resources.
Communication and Problem-Solving Processes
The priorities for families in this area include clarity (direct, concise communication), open and emotional sharing (both painful feelings and positive interactions), and collaborative problem-solving (working together to make decisions).
How to Build Family Resilience
Fortunately, family resilience isn’t an inherited set of traits. It’s something you and your loved ones can develop over time. If your family is dealing with a challenge like substance use disorder, mental illness, or the issues listed above, R&A Therapeutic Partners can help. Ray Estefania and Ana Moreno offer concierge crisis and case management services. They help people get the clinical and psychological support they need to stay healthy and find happiness.
- Behavioral and mental health management
- Referrals to medical, psychiatric, educational, social, and benefit services
- Crisis stabilization and prevention
- Stress management for family members
- Finding and maintaining supportive housing
- Problem-solving assistance
- Coordination of ongoing services
Contact the R&A Therapeutic Partners office to learn more about R&A’s concierge-level crisis and case management services.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.