Sometimes a life crisis (medical, financial, or a family member’s divorce) can be dealt with more easily than an ongoing unhealthy family dynamic. If you are dealing with unhealthy family issues that are ongoing, see my article entitled How To Cope With Family Drama Without Falling Apart.
A life crisis often leads to family drama. Effective communication can make the difference between healthy or challenging family relationships, as well as managing family drama and scary situations. Every traumatic event has effective communication skills that work and help you focus on the issue at hand.
Below are various types of situations that all involve the potential for drama.
Medical Life Crisis
A medical crisis can be very scary to deal with, especially when the outcome is not initially known. “Just staying calm” is easier said than done. The family dynamics will most likely play out in this situation. But try to stay focused on what the issue is in the moment and the necessary facts.
First, determine if the crisis is minor, serious, or life-threatening. What is the primary goal of the conversation or situation? What needs to happen to know that? Next, identify what you need to do at the moment, in the next few days, and down the line.
Do not let a particularly upset family member try to manage the situation. Have someone stay with that person, while someone else who is experienced or at least comfortable in dealing with the medical staff takes over to deal with the crisis. Have the upset family member try to stay calm, and focus on the issue at hand. One person does not need to manage everything.
Medical issues can be frightening for the patient, but also family members. Once you have overcome the initial crisis, develop an ongoing method of family members getting updates. Appoint someone as the primary contact for all information going out to family members.
Keeping people posted on what is going on from time to time will often lessen the frantic phone calls and possible disagreements between family members. There will be less confusion if communication is clear and organized, and family members are aware of how they will know of any medical progress.
Remember, not everyone handles medical issues the same way. Some family members will be more upset than others. Others may choose to be active and helpful instead. That some relatives appear calm in no way means they are not deeply worried as well. Allow for differences in how family members are dealing with this crisis.
Financial Life Crisis
If you are experiencing a financial crisis, again, try to determine the most critical issues in the current moment. Then you can focus on the next few days, and down the line.
For example, someone may need to contact the financial institution, determine whether a loan is necessary, or whatever the situation may involve. Look at the options that might be available.
Then develop your plan of action as calmly and action-oriented as possible. Stay focused on the facts and a plan. Determine if you need to do things differently in the future. Do you know how to recognize an effective strategy?
You may find you need to consult with a financial advisor, lawyer, or other specialists. If so, how do you find these people?
We all make mistakes in life. What is most important is that you figure out what went wrong or didn’t work and determine what will prevent this from occurring again in the future.
Relationship Life Crisis
Identify the life crisis at hand. Has it been an ongoing drama with the people involved, or is it something new and unexpected that has occurred? For example, the teen daughter is pregnant and has just told one or both parents.
Pick a time to discuss the matter when emotions are not skyrocketing out of control. Try to discuss issues when each person can think through the situation without panic or hysteria. High emotions are not the time to talk it over.
If one person is not willing to put off the talk, then try to set some boundaries on how to talk it through in a productive manner. Effective communication means no shouting and for each person to try to hear the other.
If the person who wants the talk is not willing to stick to the boundaries, then it is crucial to stop the discussion and let the more upset person know you are not ready to talk when they are in such an emotional state.
An example of a reasonable boundary might be that there is a time limit for the talk, and each person talks for no more than 3 minutes, and the other person listens. Then switch, and the listener can speak.
Try to understand the perspective of the other person. Important: Listening does not mean agreeing necessarily. It means hearing the other person and trying to understand their point of view and how they feel. Check things out with each other to make sure you both hear and understand the other person correctly.
If it is necessary to postpone the talk due to high emotional energy, each person can use this time to write down the issues at hand that each that you both want to discuss. Stay away from judging, name-calling, and ultimatums. They rarely work. Then pick a time agreed upon by both people to talk it through.
If you find that you keep having the same conversations repeatedly, it is often beneficial to see a psychotherapist who can help both of you thoroughly discuss the issues and how each of you feels. And you will likely find a resolution to what is not working for you.
Discussing Divorce as an Option
The possibility of divorce is gut-wrenching on different levels. It is scary even to contemplate the possibility of this life crisis. It is often an expensive process. And most of all, it brings up a lot of emotions.
Some questions to consider before you dive into a divorce (not a complete list):
- Why do you feel this is the best option for you right now?
- Have you tried other avenues, such as counseling sessions, to see what issues can improve? Remember, your schooling usually did not teach you relationship skills, so how will you know what it takes for a relationship to succeed?
- Do you still love this person you are divorcing?
- What are the plans that will support the children emotionally?
- Do you genuinely believe you have done the best you can do in this marriage? If not, why not?
- Are you and your mate open to counseling before you fully decide and take action?
- If you have endured physical abuse, what help do you have available to support you? Is each person in their counseling for this matter?
If a divorce is your direction, I strongly recommend two things:
- Seek guidance from a child therapist regarding dealing with your children.
- Use mediation rather than heading to court for divorce proceedings. It is way too costly, and can quickly become a battle between the two lawyers, literally at your cost, financially and emotionally.
Life can be beautiful, challenging, fulfilling, exciting, fearful, and a variety of other adjectives too long to mention. Don’t be afraid to seek guidance when life gives you challenging situations. And above all, get some emotional support from friends and a professional guide.