Millions of people in all parts of the world experience daily stresses and undergo severe crises. Families also experience stresses. The main reason why families face stresses and crises is because they fail to balance the demands placed upon them by the society and their capacity to meet those demands (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.378). Contrary to previous beliefs, stress by itself is not a negative phenomenon. Families that face positive changes can also experience a serious nervous shake, while trying to adjust to the new conditions of life and performance. Simultaneously, family members can reduce the impacts of even the most negative crisis or stress if they maintain a positive outlook, foster open communication and support, develop strong networks and ties with their relatives and friends, and constantly diversify their communication and problem solving strategies.
Our family experienced more than one difficulty and faced more than one crisis. However, in this paper, I would like to discuss a crisis that eventually resulted in broad positive changes for our family. Our family had to move to a new, more affluent neighborhood, because our father was offered an interesting business position. Our mother had to quit her job, and the children had to adjust themselves to living with new neighbors, friends, and peers. The situation was extremely problematic from the start, because not all members of our family wanted to move. Not everyone agreed with our father’s decision to accept the proposed job position, and not everyone was willing to support us in our movement to a better life. To a large extent, our family was left alone to cope with the problems life presented us with in the new neighborhood. It was a real family stress, “a state of tension that arises when demands test or tax a family’s capabilities. Situations that we think of as good, as well as those that we think of as bad, are all capable of creating stress in our families” (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.378). At that time, we did not realize that the change we were going through would turn into one of the greatest gifts we have ever received in our whole lives. We also knew that we had to pass the test to our family strength and cohesion, in order to get the desired result.
Looking back to our past experiences, it is interesting to see how creative we were in our desire to cope with one of the major (although positive) crises in our lives. The most creative and productive was our mother, who, despite her voluntary decision to quit the job and follow our father, was extremely optimistic about our future. Lamanna and Riedmann (2012) suggest that maintaining a positive outlook is one of the best ways to meet a family crisis constructively (p.392). In reality, some members of our family could be sad or angry, but none of us ever placed the blame for the change on our father. Actually, we never experienced any feeling of blame, no matter how difficult our relations could be. We met the crisis with the so-called ‘accepting’ attitude, and we were willing to turn the crisis into a source of personal and family benefits (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.392). One of the main factors of success was the remarkable closeness of our parents (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.392), as well as our mother’s miraculous intuition, since she was the only one after our father, who felt that the new crisis would give us more happiness in the future.
I must say that I never regarded our family as either spiritual or religious. Although Lamanna and Riedmann (2012) write that spirituality and spiritual values can provide real comfort during a family crisis, I do not think that spirituality or religion could help us to cope with the crisis (p.392). The fact is that our family, including our parents and children, was more practical and shrewd than spiritual or god-believing. We always relied on practical considerations, rather than an entity or power greater than ourselves (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.392). I am not saying that we are not religious but, in the face of a serious family crisis, we did not let our emotions conquer our minds. I am absolutely confident that not spirituality but reason was at the heart of our family successes. It is due to our reasonable attitudes that all family members slowly realized the benefits of our new social position.
Certainly, we would have never overcome the family crisis without open, supportive communication. Our parents never concealed that the change would be difficult and painful. We were aware of the difficulties waiting for us. Free-flowing communication was one of the major factors of stability in our family (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.393). Of particular importance was the fact that our father never lost the sense of humor, and we were allowed to communicate our concerns openly (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.393). With time, we arrived at the general conclusion that we had to be patient and adapt ourselves to the life in the new neighborhood. I must say that, before the change, I never thought about how adaptable our family could be. We never moved to any other place, and our lives were quite constant. The discussed crisis became a good test to our family adaptability, because the moment we moved to our new house we had to focus on our primary tasks, leaving no time for sufferings and whining (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.393).
One of the most problematic was gaining informal social support. Lamanna and Riedmann (2012) are correct, when they say that it is easier for families to cope with their crises, when family members do not feel alone (p.393). Unfortunately, the moment we left our home and moved to another place, we lost our connections and acquaintances. We were new to our neighbors, and many relatives did not understand our decision. This is why we felt like living in an emotional vacuum, and I could see how my parents suffered. We had no one to help us with an emergency, and we only had to rely on ourselves (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.393). That was also one of the most important sources of our family power and stability – we learned to go through a crisis cooperatively, but without external support. However, I can see that, after so many years, some of our family members still suffer the lack of informal support. Our parents still believe that everything could have been easier, had they retained their connections with the extended families, friends, and acquaintances.
Despite the difficulties with informal support, kin ties remained a significant element of our emotional survival (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.394). At that time, technologies were not as advanced as they are today, but we still managed to retain warm relationships with one another. Yet, maintaining warm relationships with the extended family members was not the same as getting any support from them. Our relationships were warm but distant. One of the biggest mistakes was that our mother romanticized our relations with the extended family members (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.394). Consequently, she grew extremely disappointed when she did not receive the desired emotional response or support from them. In the meantime, the richness of community resources fully compensated for the lack of appropriate extended families and friends’ support. A well-developed network of health, social, and community services facilitated our family’s integration into the new environment (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2012, p.394). We were able to develop new connections. We slowly realized that we had everything we need to continue our life in the new neighborhood. We suffered from the failure to preserve our positive relationships with other friends and acquaintances, but, supported by the rich community resources, we soon understood that we had to continue our lives.
A family crisis is always a serious test to any family’s stability and cohesion. Lamanna and Riedmann (2012) discuss the most important conditions for surviving a family crisis. Extended families’ support, informal communication and support, as well as spiritual values greatly contribute to and enhance families’ crisis-coping capabilities. However, from my experience, the most important is the quality of the relationships and attitudes within families. Our family experienced a positive recovery after the change in family patterns. Even without informal emotional support or religious commitments, families can easily go through a serious crisis if they are cohesive, adaptive, and positively oriented. Community resources play a huge role in the way families cope with their crises. Therefore, special attention needs to be paid to the development of various community resources for families in crisis