≡ Menu

6 Signs Your Family Is In Trouble – And What You Can Do About It

Watch Out!

Watch Out!

Dear Friend,

You’ve known for some time that things didn’t feel right in your family life.

Nothing obvious.  Just a feeling.

Maybe you are worrying too much. Or perhaps you are subconsciously picking up on signs that there are problems with your family’s “ship-of-state.”

But who’s perfect, right?  And from some of the stuff you see on TV, your family life seems almost angelic.

Still, you wonder.  “Is my family strong?,”  “Am I doing enough to keep us strong?,” “Are my relationships with my partner and kids as good as they could be?  As they ought to be?,” “Are we bonding like a family should? Or is there a barrier, or superficial character to our relationships that could be improved on?”

Well, you’re right.  There are no perfect families.

At least not as compared to some idealized, 1950’s standard.  However, a family where all of the members feel loved and safe to grow and thrive as the person they truly are is as close to perfect as any family can be.

Is that your family?

If you just aren’t sure whether your family is in smooth water or is heading for the falls, consider the following 6 signs that your family may be in for a rough ride.  The more of these that are present, the more serious and imminent the danger.

The 6 signs that your family life is in trouble are:

1.) Little interest by members in doing things as a family;

2.) Superficial understanding by individuals of what is really important to other family members;

3.) Parents who do not include children in decisions that effect whole family;

4.) When given a choice, kids who choose to leave home and gather elsewhere;

5.) Similar-age/sex siblings who do not hang together, but go separate ways;

6.) Partner(s) who simply don’t enjoy time with the family, or who prefer to live separate lives altogether.

Do any of these sound familiar?  If so, you should put aside other family priorities for the moment and focus your creative energies on taking care of these danger signs ASAP.

Each of these 6 danger signs point to a lack of awareness and interest by each family member in other family members individually, and in the family as a unit.

This is often because members do not feel acknowledged, respected, or loved when with other members.  They may feel that they are seen as a burden by the others.  Or that their views do not matter.  And the family may not be doing enough together that creates a bond of trust and reliance between the members.

If having a strong and loving family unit is important to you, you must focus on strengthening the bonds between the members, and the group.

Obviously, personalities clash.  And sibling rivalry can get ugly.  But nothing fires up sibling rivalry more than a lack of regular focused attention by the parents on each child as an individual.  When a child feels secure in their relationship with each parent, the reason for the rivalry between siblings disappears.

If there is a large age difference between the children, or if you are a mixed family with step-children who simply don’t know each other very well, these can be practical barriers to family bonding as well.

The parents are the foundation, and the model, on which the family is built. If the parents don’t really enjoy each others’ company much, then they shouldn’t expect their kids to be any better.  Factions may form, with some kids supporting one parent more than the other.  And this sort of dynamic rips families apart.

You must have a strong partnership before you try to build a strong family. Or be prepared to build that family as a single parent, whether you are married or not.

If the partnership is strong, and feelings of love seem secure, but you still want your family to feel more bonded, consider sharing a real adventure.  Something that will force each of you to rely on and trust the other. Do something that looks a bit dangerous, that is outside of most of your comfort zones, and that requires teamwork for success.

Many businesses use adventure outings to build trust and reliance among their management teams.  Why shouldn’t families do the same?  Perhaps, after just such and experience, you will find a sense of bonding that you never knew was possible.

The sooner that you plug these danger holes in your family ship-of-state, the more likely that the ideal family life will be yours.  The sooner you build a strong bond of love and trust within your family, the sooner you will enjoy the best that family life can deliver.  And you will be teaching your kids how to do the same with their own future families.

All the best,


{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Denise Michaels July 27, 2010, 3:46 am

    You're doing a great job. My husband and I don't have children at home – but I've noticed we've slid into the convenient habit of more and more TV and more and more time in front of our laptops. So, we're doing an experiment (starting today!) of two weeks with no TV. If it works (I should say WHEN it works) we're going to have a conversation about turning off cable and saving $65 per month.

    I realize this is just a babystep towards lifestyle design or what I call “an excellent adventure.” But I'm willing to grow closer and then hit the road together in a few more months.

    Denise Michaels Excellent Adventure

  • Stacy July 28, 2010, 4:37 am

    This is a very interesting thought. I have had these kinds of feeling and they are usually right. I like the way you look at things. I hope that I can see it coming and fix it before it goes too far.

  • Hugh DeBurgh July 28, 2010, 7:25 am

    Hey Stacy!

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    You know, if my family is anything near typical, each family member can be quite unique. And sometimes personal qualities clash. This can make it hard to bring the family together in ways that are actually fun for everybody.

    But is this a “problem,” or just the nature of families?

    Sure, we can force our kids to participate in “obligatory” family activities, but does this really count? What is it that we are trying to achieve? Are we just trying to build a fantasy family that we modeled in our dreams, but that has no relationship to reality? And is that at all fair to the rest of our family?

    This is an important set of questions that I think we have to ask ourselves this before we set out to create a closer family life. Because, to me at least, a great family is a family that likes being together. It is people who grow stronger from each others positive energy and support.

    The reality is that some members of our families may never get on board. And personality conflicts are inevitable. But if having a close family is important to you, you can't force it, or make it some kind of duty or obligation. I believe that approach is poison to family cohesion. Yet it is what I see everywhere.

    I really think the keys to solid family cohesion are 1) a “safe” environment at home, which means a lack of pressure to conform/acceptance for who they truly are as individuals, 2) a demand for and enforcement of basic mutual respect within the family , and 3) group activities that actually bring the family close together – that bond you.

    Anyway, I'm not sure whether that was responsive to what you wrote, or was just more substance for the original post! 🙂

    Anyway, thanks again for your comment!

    And the best of luck with your family!


  • Hugh DeBurgh July 28, 2010, 7:30 am

    Hey Denise!

    Looking forward to you all joining our family on the road! 🙂

    We never intentionally turned off the TV. But when we first set out on the road, we just lost interest in it. Now, except for a few favorite shows, or a movie on DVD now and then, our TVs stay off.

    For us, the TV at home provided a distraction from boredom. But these days, life is rarely boring. Even when it is stressful, it isn't boring.

    Maybe watching too much TV should be our signal that it's time to shake our lifestyle up a bit?

    Anyway, all the best,


  • Meaganfrank July 29, 2010, 1:58 pm

    I love this! And I love that I found you! My husband and I have been taking regular lifestyle audits for probably five years. We don't live the way other people live, and we prioritize similarly to how you describe. We are at a new juncture…a needed change…and I look forward to your insight for fuel. Thank you!

  • Hugh DeBurgh July 29, 2010, 2:32 pm

    Hi Meagan!
    I'm glad we found each other! 🙂 Thanks for commenting. Others need to see that this lifestyle transformation CAN be done. Comments like yours are fantastic examples and confirmation that it may be time for them to take action too.
    Thank you!! 🙂 Hugh

  • Amy July 29, 2010, 9:11 pm

    Happy to have found you via Zen Family Habits. Love the post, but I have teenagers… It seemed much easier to find activities for us to do together when they were younger! Now, more than ever, I feel the need for us to stick together and have fun as a family 🙂 Most family adventure-type articles and ideas I find on the internet are aimed at young children, and the things I DO find are fairly expensive. (we recently went ziplining – it was a great experience, but we can't do it often at $70 a person…) Any ideas/suggestions for activities that teenagers will actually enjoy doing with their families? And that don't cost an arm and a leg? 🙂 Thanks in advance!

  • Hugh DeBurgh August 1, 2010, 5:19 pm

    Hey Amy –

    All teens are different, as you know. However, most are driven by a desire to socialize with their peers.

    I believe the trick is to incorporate their friends into your family activities, and to give them a lot of rope so that you don't embarrass them in front of those friends.

    And let's face it, most families do very little together. You may find that the friends are thrilled to participate. We always do!

    My kids are tweeners, but the older ones are already showing signs of creeping “teenitis.” So I understand your challenge completely.

    Give the friend idea a try. But never push anything. They have to think that it is mostly their idea. It's just part of their budding independent streak.

    Best of luck!


Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: