“I respect your views, but…”: family therapy for adult children and parents

One of my specialties is working to heal chronically fractured family systems where all of the family members are adults. Generally speaking the request comes from the younger generation, who respond to one or more aspects of their parents’ behavior with a combination of worry and outrage. Oftentimes present disagreements between family members overlay past hurts and transgressions.


As with all interpersonal conflicts, it’s important for me to understand—absolutely—each person’s frame of reference as inevitable for her or him; I then help each person communicate the viewpoint nondefensively, “leading with vulnerability” so as to leave behind the anger, which allows the viewpoint to be heard, as I help the listener expand capacity to listen to and tolerate the viewpoint.


Truly respecting a viewpoint with which we vehemently and reflexively disagree implies recognizing that the good person we love came by that viewpoint understandably and honestly: completely understanding and accepting their path to their viewpoint, we can forgive them for it. And they, likewise, will reciprocate. 


Truly respecting each other’s viewpoint does NOT mean we must do everything in furtherance of that viewpoint, campaign for that viewpoint, or abandon our own; nor does it mean we condone the other viewpoint. But it does mean we can coexist. 


Family disagreements I can help with include: a parent’s or child’s remarriage; attending to health concerns; and other issues in family lifecycle, acculturation, and generational social change.