Family Therapy Can Address A Number Of Issues Related To Money
Families come to us for financial family therapy in order to deal with a handful of issues related to money. This can include making spending decisions about caring for parents as they age, deciding between spending more for higher quality care and more expensive medical equipment rather than saving for longer-term care or in an attempt to hold on to money that would be inherited, used to pay off debt, or preserve a family business or property. Another reason families seek family therapy is when a sibling, parent or child borrows money from a family member (or members), particularly when there is a sense of unfairness or feeling owed. Disputes over managing family investments or trusts, or a family business are also common, as are situations in which a member of the family feels wronged in regards to money, whether a parent didn’t pay for school or misspent an expected inheritance.
Having A Relative Abundance Doesn’t Mean There Aren’t Also Challenges Around Finances In Families
Particularly when a parent or parents grew up with less wealth than they have upon having and raising children, there is an expectation that abundance will produce an absence of conflicts, disappointments, and challenges with money. But that isn’t necessarily so. There are problems money can solve and problems money cannot. Families with a high income or wealth still often struggle with budgeting and with a sense of feeling financially secure. Take, for example, the frequent stories of lottery winners that experience financial stress.
Secondly, people can feel wronged or have disputes over a small amount of money or a large amount of money just the same. Feelings of entitlement, hurt, and mistreatment exist at all levels of wealth.
More Money Can Bring Concerns About Raising Children With Good Worth Ethics In Spite Of Wealth
One of the most common issues we hear from parents of children is concern if they will be able to raise their kids with a good worth ethic in spite of wealth. They want to find a balance between planning for a child’s security and wanting that child to learn good money management skills. Many families want their children to learn humility, budgeting, matters of moral development, understanding of the value of a dollar, the importance of life skills and relationships that money can’t buy, and the importance of understanding and making a difference for those who have less financially.
Addressing Changes In Financial Status In Family Therapy
Family therapy can also be a good place to address changes in financial status, whether a job loss, or career and economic growth that creates financial opportunity. Families are notorious among family therapists for not talking about things that are happening in plain sight. But, families don’t fail to talk about these things for trivial reasons. They’re often afraid, feel under-skilled at providing leadership, or don’t want to hurt one another’s feelings.
As family therapists, we are skilled at creating environments where people can talk about the hard stuff. Often a therapist can poke air holes in this environment, and help a family tolerate talking honestly about what’s happening. For example, a family therapist can find ways for families to hear and talk about the stress of a parent being laid off, and the resulting changes in what a family can and can’t afford.
From Making (And Sticking To) A Budget To Assessing Values, Financial Family Therapy Helps Families See Possibilities For Resolutions
Family therapy is an opportunity to bring family members together with guidance in how to hear from each other, resolve conflict, find creative ways of making decisions, and choose what issues to address versus those that need to be tabled. A family therapist isn’t a mediator (it isn’t their job to make decisions for a family), but family therapists are skilled at helping families see possibilities for resolutions that are often obscured.
Sometimes our work with families on financial issues can be as practical as helping families manage and stick to a family budget or assess values around money. We also help adults provide leadership around teaching compromise, allowing room for disappointments, and addressing perceived inequities.
Money Is Emotional And Often Relates To How Someone Was Raised
Money is an important feature for how we keep ourselves safe and exert influence over the world around us. It is a mistake to merely say money represents trust, security, power, and comfort. Money is these things.
For adults, dealing with money can have a lot to do with their histories and how they were raised. Was there a sense of inequity around money? Was it a source of arguments among parents? Were there changes in economic status (growth or loss)? Divorce, of course, often invites conflict around money, as well as changes in economic status, as can a loss of a parent. Some parents worry more about money, did a better or worse job managing debt, or had disagreements about investments or lifestyle. And so, even when these issues aren’t present per se, they influence how individuals experience these things emotionally. Family therapy can be a good place to explore the experiences that framed these values (and their emotional resonance) around money.
For Families With Kids Or Teens, We Help Children Manage Disappointment And Unfairness
There’s tremendous pressure, particularly for families that are economically secure, to create a life for children free of scarcity, free of opportunities that need to be declined, and free of wanting. This, of course, isn’t realistic. Trying to make it work interferes with young people’s (and the family as a whole’s) capacities to handle disappointment. Fairness, at least in the sense of quantitative parity, is impossible. Children have different needs. Even when money is abundant, time isn’t, and saying no is critical regardless.
In financial family therapy, we support adults to help children understand that fairness may not mean everyone getting “the same.” There are many parts of life that are disappointing, and money is an especially common place for challenges therein to present. However, this can also be a particularly useful opportunity to support young people’s development around handling disappointment.