- Dr. Lalit Chawla
E#53: Family-focused, parent-focused or children-focused: What type of family are you?
This is a episode is about family structure that people set up and the pros and cons of each
(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)
There are three styles, or modes, of conduct we can choose to focus on in our approach to our home lives. I know I’ve gone through each of these three phases in my life, whether it was good, bad or indifferent. What I am referring to are three modalities that ultimately affect the kind of life we have at home.
So much of what we do is at an unconscious level and this episode is meant to bring awareness to how we make decisions about where we put our focus in our home life, which not only affects us, but those closest to us. I want to discuss these three key modalities to help you, and others you may be working with, to think about where your home life’s at and where it could be. The three modalities are family focused, parent focused and children focused.
In no particular order, let’s start with a parent focused family setting. This is where the primary needs, goals, and activities of the parent, or parents, come first and everybody in the family focuses on them.
So much of what we do is at an unconscious level ... how we make decisions about where we put our focus in our home life, which not only affects us, but those closest to us.
You can see this is easily done. We pick up our kids from school and put them in front of the TV, or ipad, and let them play their games because we’re too busy doing the things we need to do as adults. I know sometimes I get trapped in that and I’ve had to be more conscious of not doing that.
One dramatic example sticks out in my life. I came to a crossroad where I had to decide whether I was going to complete a large book that I was writing. I already had a few hundred people wanting to buy it at a large conference that I was speaking at. My children were very young and I had told the organizers that I would have it for them, as I thought I’d be able to finish it on time. I was several months away from finishing, and I realized with my busy clinical practice that the only way I’d be able to complete the book was if I did not play with my kids in the evenings like I normally do. I had to decide, would I stay on my computer and focus on completing the book,or, give it up and play with my children for the next several months. I chose to play with my kids as I knew I’d never get that time back with them as a father. I knew I had to make a decision as to what was absolutely necessary, and for me spending time with them was the most important. I told the organizers that was why I wouldn’t be able to complete the book and they understood. The book was a bonus anyway. In some households, the entire family structure works around the needs of the parents or parent. Very little thought or action is given around the need of the child or children.This is obviously not a healthy state to be in, as children’s needs are neglected in terms of their emotional, social and/or physical development. Children need role models and mentorship as they grow and mature. Adults have to be mindful when they focus on themselves at the expense of others.
In some households, the entire family structure works around the needs of the parents or parent. Very little thought or action is given around the need of the child or children.
So now, this brings me to the next area of focus where some families are very much children oriented. I do admit I tend to err more on this side, where I do love to spend time with my kids and interact with them. I’ve worked my schedule, and sometimes my hobbies, around them. However, in some families, I know that the children’s activities and goals dictates the entire agenda. Some easy examples are families where they are nurturing their child’s talents, whether it be in sports, music or another art. There’s nothing wrong with this, per say. The only risk is that sometimes parental needs are forgotten, missed and overlooked.
One of the biggest challenges for busy people, especially in healthcare, is that they forget to make time for themselves and their partners. They’ve spent so much time focusing on the kids and their activities that they don’t create time to spend with each other, pursue their own hobbies, or invest in personal development. I can tell you, as a physician, I’ve seen so many couples get older and, after their children leave, they don’t know who they are, individually or as a couple. They never developed personal hobbies or interests.
I can tell you that I could easily fall into that pattern and I’ve had to be more conscientious to make sure that I’m spending more time with my wife. We do date nights and we do lunches because work and other interests and projects just seem to keep coming up. I know that if I don’t make that time and effort to connect I could easily walk down the path that so many other couples have. I certainly know that children, when they are young, require more attention when you’re a young family and they need your care and encouragement a lot. Sometimes that’s the hardest part if you don’t have any support.
One of the biggest challenges for busy people, especially in healthcare, is that they forget to make time for themselves and their partners.
The third mindset, where we focus on family is- what is best for the family and how we can all manage each other’s projects and interests? This can be done conscientiously by having family meetings and together deciding what everybody’s interests and priorities are. For instance, a discussion would take place that says “ok, we can’t do all your four activities, but we could do two, because I have one that is important to me and conflicts with the other two that you want to do” With this mindset there is discussion, compromises and negotiations.
I know that sometimes I've had to put some of my goals and interests aside because it really isn’t in the best interest of the entire family. I know that, later on, I can always pick up that project. I also know that I have to say no to certain things that maybe the kids want to be involved in but that simply does not work in the best interest for the whole family. This approach takes into account what’s best for everyone’s well being.
So those are the three modalities defined to help increase our awareness and improve our family dynamics. I wish I had thought of these three different areas a lot more conscientiously when I was younger. It would have helped create a better framework to organize and plan for the future So that’s what this podcast is all about - to help us reflect on what our families are doing currently and whether it is working in the best interest of all the members in the family. It’s also a great tool to share with other people, whether it's with a patient, your colleagues or a friend.
I hope this episode serves you well and this is another useful tool you can put in your tool kit to live your best life when you are at home!
Thank you so much for listening and may you and your family be well.
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