Accept Your Family With The Help Of Online Counseling

Updated September 20, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Family relationships are not always in alignment with a person's preferences. Accepting family members can sometimes be difficult, and a lack of acceptance can significantly impact family cohesion. Cohesion is the opposite of conflict. It is marked by strong emotional bonds driven by feelings of caring, affection, and support. When one family member struggles to accept another, cohesion will likely decrease, and conflict will increase, significantly disrupting the entire family unit.

Even if a lack of acceptance isn't apparent to other family members, it can still create a burden that makes healthy, positive interactions with family more difficult. Someone who wants to accept their family but struggles to do so may feel as though the burden is insurmountable, but there are options. There are simple ways to begin increasing acceptance today, and if the problem is too challenging to tackle alone, a therapist can help.

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Struggling To Accept Your Family?

Common Reasons For A Lack Of Acceptance

A lack of acceptance is often either the cause of - or results from - family conflict. Conflict pushes family members apart, and unresolved conflict often occurs when one or more family members cannot accept the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors of another. Some conflicts are normal and are present in every family, but prolonged or severe conflicts can significantly impact family cohesion. Conflict and a lack of acceptance can sometimes lead to estrangement, where a family member cuts ties completely, often permanently.

Communication also plays a significant role in accepting other family members. Strong communication is an essential part of a family with strong connections, and communication skills like perspective-taking, reframing, and active listening are all helpful when learning to accept another person. Poor communication can have the opposite effect, and lacking communication makes family conflict much more difficult to resolve.

Here are a few more common reasons why family conflict occurs:

Financial Difficulties

Family members can encounter financial concerns in several ways. Two spouses may disagree over how money should be spent, or increased stress from financial burdens may impact their relationship. Adult siblings might argue over an inheritance or how aging parents' finances should be handled. Setting boundaries when money is involved can be challenging, and resentment may quickly develop if family members disagree about vital financial issues.

Caregiving Responsibilities

It may be difficult to accept changes in family roles or responsibilities when one or more family members must act as a caregiver to another family member. Aging parents, childbirth, illness, and injury can drastically redefine the roles played by certain family members. Caregiving responsibilities have been shown to substantially increase stress among family members, even when a change in role is expected, such as the birth of a child.

Changes In Family Dynamics

Family dynamics change over time, most commonly through romantic relationships. It can sometimes be difficult to accept a family member's spouse or partner, and it can be challenging to accept the loss of a family member, such as through death or divorce. Lack of cohesion between new and old family members is one significant reason family members become estranged, and conflict is likely to present if a family member isn't wholly accepted.

Political And Religious Differences

Personal views, like a person's religious preferences and political leanings, are often deeply held beliefs that carry a substantial emotional weight. Accepting family members with differing opinions can be challenging, especially if they directly conflict with your own. Reducing political and religious conflict is often achieved through finding and accepting common ground, but some conflicts, such as those rooted in hate, may not be resolved without one party changing fundamental components of their beliefs.  

Unresolved Conflict

Events that occurred in the past can impact present family functioning if left unresolved, even if those events happened in childhood. Adult siblings, for example, may hold resentment or anger towards each other that is ultimately based on unresolved conflict or arguments that took place during their adolescence. As in all interpersonal relationships, unresolved conflict between family members can lead to resentment and bitterness if the underlying issues are not addressed.

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Improving Communication To Increase Acceptance

Conflict is normal in family interactions, but there is a significant difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict. Acceptance plays a large role in reducing conflict, and acceptance of another family member begins with understanding their perspective. Understanding is most often achieved through verbal communication, and research shows that families with strong communication skills have lower conflict and higher cohesion.

If you're interested in improving your communication skills, try these basic steps:

Improve Your Listening Skills

Acceptance, understanding, and communication all begin with good listening skills. Listening well means listening actively by bringing all your attention to the conversation. Face the person you are speaking to and make eye contact. Allow them to finish speaking their thoughts before responding. Assuming you know what the person is going to say and interrupting them reduces the effectiveness of your communication.

Once the person has stopped speaking, clarify that you understand what they have said. Asking questions confirming your perspective, like "I think you feel hurt by our argument; is that true?" helps ensure you and the other person are on the same page. You should also observe the other person's body language and confirm that you perceive their nonverbal cues accurately.

Improve Your Talking Skills

Listening is one of the most important components of good communication. Helping a family member to feel heard is an important part of accepting them. How you choose your words when it is time for others to listen to you is also important. You may already be proficient at speaking calmly, but even calm conversations can be harmful or quickly degrade into emotional displays if everyone involved does not feel respected.

Don't focus on blame or accusations when communicating to reduce conflict or increase acceptance. You can make this easier by avoiding "you" statements and sticking to "I" statements. "I" statements – like "I feel," "I think," or "I want" – keep the focus on you and feel less accusatory to the other party. You should also try to keep the focus on your feelings rather than the specifics of a problem. Don't assume other family members know how their actions are affecting you; use feeling words like "sad" or "angry" to communicate exactly what emotions you are experiencing.

Emotional Intelligence And Family Cohesion

"Emotional intelligence" (EQ) describes a person's ability to be aware of their own actions, accept others, and remain attuned to other family members. Families with high-EQ members have lower levels of conflict and significantly higher levels of cohesion compared to low-EQ families.  

Here are some common ways to improve emotional intelligence in yourself and your family:

  • Prioritize your health and well-being. Before discussing serious topics with other family members, make sure your mental and physical well-being is taken care of. It can be easy to become overwhelmed and begin behaving in a manner that does not communicate acceptance.
  • Model emotional choice. In high-EQ families, all emotions are allowed, but not all behaviors. Practice communicating your feelings in a healthy way to avoid the harmful impacts of emotional outbursts.
  • Take responsibility for your nonverbal communication. Posture, tone of voice, and facial expressions are all important parts of communication. If your words say one thing, but your face says another, you are likely not communicating openly and honestly.
  • Acknowledge your errors openly. Showing that you don't judge yourself when you make a mistake helps other family members know that you will also accept their mistakes.

How Can Online Therapy Help?

Reducing family conflict, improving cohesion, and increasing acceptance can be challenging to do on your own, but a therapist can help. You can take several approaches to therapy depending on your role within the family and your individual needs. You may benefit from attending family therapy with other family members and working together with them to increase acceptance. Family therapy is routinely administered remotely, significantly reducing the barriers to access that are common in traditional therapy.  

You may also consider attending therapy individually to work on your own emotional intelligence, communication skills, or any other concern that may impact your ability to accept family members. An online therapist uses the same evidence-based techniques as traditional therapists, like acceptance and commitment therapy, and outcomes are promising. Although you will participate in online therapy from your home, evidence indicates it is just as effective as if you had visited with a therapist in an office setting.  

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Struggling To Accept Your Family?

Takeaway

Accepting family members often comes with challenges that can significantly impact a family's ability to function together peacefully and healthily. A lack of acceptance increases conflict and decreases cohesion. In some cases, it can lead to estrangement or other severe negative consequences. Increasing cohesion and reducing conflict requires healthy, empathetic communication. If you're wondering how to be more accepting of your family, improving communication skills and working on your emotional intelligence is likely a good place to start.

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