What is family dysfunction?

It’s important to understand the nature and consequence of dysfunctional families. By doing so, we can gain greater insight into behaviors and responses and recognize that hard-wiring of the past has much to do with the behavioral roadblocks and obstacles one faces in the present.

Dysfunctional families are created by control, abuse, violence, unpredictability, fear, poor communication, neglect, lack of emotional support, addictions, and the list goes on and on. The results of dysfunctional homes can be seen in the behaviors and attitudes of children and adults; everything from psychological conditions, addictions, difficulty forming relationships, anger, poor performance in school and work, irresponsible behavior, isolationism, and other self-damaging behaviors. And we cannot assume or generalize that people having these behaviors must be from dysfunctional families, but these are a few of the many behaviors we see coming out of troubled homes.

With individuals from histories such as these, there is nothing as effective as a friend and helping hand; someone who will be present in the long-term and move them in a more positive direction.

Your mentee wants to be heard. Dale Carnegie was quoted saying, “The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the things he treasures most.” Most likely your mentee isn’t inclined at the onset to talk about what they treasure most, usually they are feeling swallowed up in survival, but many will want to talk about their life’s journey, how they suffered and what they have gone through. They want someone to listen and walk in their shoes for a moment. Others may not want that communication, being too painful to open up and share things, but be willing to be a listening ear. As Mr. Carnegie said, this communication is the royal road to one’s heart; care about what they say. Usually, at least in the beginning, they aren’t asking for opinion or advice, but they want to share their burdens with others and it is healing for some to do so.

As you come to recognize the dysfunction they come from, make it your goal to help the individual look inward for solutions. Once they are empowered by what they can create, do, and become, they will be able to own their future choices and responses to life challenges.

Try to roll with the punches, give them space, let your mentee figure out what they are comfortable with. They will ebb and flow in their friendship towards you. The connection may be strong and then go to nothing, give the relationship time to develop. Check in, be available, but don’t ask for more than they are willing to give.

Often times emotions can run strong and something hurtful might be said. Many times this can be a product of your mentee struggling to believe that someone cares, that there are good people that are forgiving, kind, and truly concerned. They may test the strength of your friendship. Do not take offense, give them time to work through emotions, help them know that you are there for them; that knowledge alone will bring stability and assurance.