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Evansville, Indiana
September 26, 1997     The Message
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September 26, 1997
 

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26,1997 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 11 mily members in crisis By FATHER DAVID K. O'ROURKE, OP Catholic News Service What can you do when there is trouble in the family the trouble gets so bad that the family members about it? That fairly common situation is one of the toughest families can face. It is particularly difficult when they're in trouble, the first place most turn for help is to the family. If the people they turn to for help are the ones they're having with, then they're in a real bind. One great family strength is the ability to come times of crisis. Every day I see ordinary faro- mustering the ability to handle unexpected crises, and death to troubles with the law to dis- emotional illnesses. Families are our basic structure for dealing with trou- ble from the outside. But when the trouble is inside the the ability to muster needed strengths often is d. In such situations I believe some help from outside to get the family's wheels turning again. illustrate with a situation I encountered a few ars ago, which I'll disguise enough to preserve con- couple's teen-age son, Gary, was picked up by the The family was a well-functioning, productive generally happy group. But Gary was 15 and was :the rules as far as he could, blaming his parents just about everything and making life for them and two brothers very difficult. The parents were divided on how to handle the sit- The mother, always wanting to be reasonable, permissive. The father was a disciplinar- willing to go head to head with his inde- son. Gary was spotted drinking at a school dance. The were called, and Gary and two of his buddies juvenile hall. The father blamed the mother for being too pennis- mother blamed him for being a hard nose; the blamed Gary for making trouble for everyone. Gary alternated between being terrified at, and by, all the commotion he ,had caused. What happened was that the family s usual ability to collapsed. They couldn't bring their strengths to the situation because they were fighting with other. This is where I came in. A third party, by doing actu- I with each other "Gary was 15 and was pushing the rules as far as he could, blaming his parents for everything," explains Dominican Father David K. O'Rourke to whom the family turned for mediation of their problem. He adds, "A third party, by doing actual- ly very little, can be very helpful." -- CNS photo by Joel M. Lavallee ally very little, can be very helpful. The order of busi- ness is simple. . , First, get everyone's fingers off the panic button. Set a calmer tone, and reassure them that the family is going to survive. Second, help the mother and father articulate what they already know: that they are frustrated, angry and disappointed both with Gary's thoughtlessness and their own inability to stay calm. Then help them agree on a way to handle Gary and his brothers. Finally, the family will have to clear things up with the school, the police and the juvenile court -- often an easier task than most parents fear. The point is that with minimal outside help -- one hour for calming down, one hour for putting their heads together  they got their usual strengths going again. But Without that help I do not know what might have happened. Ordinary trouble within a marriage and a family can become long-lasting and seri- ous. But it need not. The rule is simple. When the family system stops working, get help. And if you're a friend looking in, su&gestt.they get.help ....... .,.'.., :: " i. ,,,, :,,.., Fat00 O'ao.rke ,, St. ,V,,,g'd,,Z.,, : Berkeley, Calif., and is a free-lance writer. Continued from page 8 families of origin have influenced us, often .in subtle, unconscious ways. We may have to take a seus look at how we learned to communicate in our childhood homes. If it wasn't healthy and nurturing communica- tion, it may be time to learn a better way. Finally, of course, forgiveness is everything at home. Laugh and forgive, and let it go, just as God does with us. As believers,, we are expected to do no less. Judy Esway is the author of "Real LifeReal Spirituality (for Busy People Who Want to PrayL" Twen-Third Pub- lications. , 0 in the marketplace ,What step have you taken that improved communication at home? Because we're newly married, we merged our finances and needed to improve COmmunication about how much we were spending. What I did was post our due or upcoming and what paycheck they needed to come out of on calendar wall in our music room. That way we both know how to gauge our really well!"  Megan Tobin, New Orleans, La. time to eliminate distractions. For example, turning off the TV or not the phone, and sitting down with family members to talk."  Dawn n, Texas for my wife and myself it's been a common involvement in activities, at church or social events. We each have our own interests, but it's impor- remember our shared life through sharing our time together too."  Fred The Woodlands, Texas reach out to my elderly parents who live at a distance I initiate weekly phone Use to wait for them to call, but when I call them first, they look forward to the feel my love for them more than before."  Barbara Lee, Milwaukee, Wis. . "edition asks" What have you learned  discovered  about life om some- Who was dyin  lf uou 'would like to res nd r possible publication, pl se 'rite: Faith -" o. ,  po fo . ea ve13211 Fourth St N E, Washington, D C. 2001/-1100. The assumption is this: Family members can learn to communicate better on difficult topics. Do you think the assumption is well founded? Actually, people don't always communicate well on the easy stuff. Have you.ever found in an ordinary conversation, after determining to listen well to someone, that you did all the talking? If good communication often seems blocked under ordinaD" circumstances, the obstacles are much stronger when the matter at hand is serious because: * The stakes are higher. Something about the topic strikes fear; we feel threatened. Or the matter calls for shared action, but we're not ready to entrust any part of that action to another person. To communicate better on an important topic, it couldn't hurt to clarify' how important it is. Remember:. Important matters are not all equally important. Try clarifying expectations also. Will you feel disappointed by anything short of total agreement on this matter? Are you certain that full agreement is necessary this time? Remember that family communication often is blocked because people are not talking about the same thing -- although they think they are. Or, each person considers the topic serious, but not for the same reason.s. David Gibson Editor Faith Alive!