Rule #4: Create a Support System

Inevitably, every family gets thrown into a crisis, and it is how a family deals with the catastrophe that defines the character of the family.

Take a minute to think back on past difficulties that your family has had to handle. How did your family handle the situation? Did this crisis bring you closer as a family or did it cause you to become more fragmented?

Problems…hard times…crises….whatever you want to call these times in our lives where things just seem impossible to handle is the perfect time to activate your support system! Smart modern family parents know that IT IS OK TO ASK FOR HELP IN TIMES OF NEED!

The kind of support system that I am recommending is one that is comprised of people who truly care about your family, who want to see your family succeed, and have the capacity to provide the help you need in a time of crisis. I’m not suggesting that these people are there for your everyday needs – these are people who are willing to come to your rescue when you need them.

Some of us have the best support system ever – our extended families! Having the support of our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. can be the best kind of support because they know us well and we already have a strong emotional bond with them that goes back years (and decades). However, some modern families do not have the luxury of an extended-family support system. This could be due to death, family drama, or the fact that family lives too far away to be helpful.

When modern families do not have an extended family, they can still form a support system using other people who are close to their family! Support systems can take the form of:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Teachers
  • Mentors
  • Other parents

Support systems do not have to be only family! Be creative and build a support system full of people who are positive, creative, and loving!

A good support system is one that includes several people that have different strengths. You don’t want to keep relying on the same person over and over again to the point that you burn them out! It is also most effective to have different people in your support system that meet different needs. For example, your mom might be great at babysitting for you in a pinch, but your friend Julie is the best at listening to you recount another horrible story about your boss (and my friend Julie is the best!!).

A support system can be used for:

  • Emotional Support
  • Emergency household repairs
  • Emergency babysitting
  • Advice

I don’t know how I would be able to parent successfully without my support system! When I have an important meeting at work that I cannot reschedule and it happens to be at the same time I am supposed to pick up one of my kids at school, my sister always comes to my rescue. I don’t know how I could have handled all of the difficult emotions that went with my divorce and grad school if it hadn’t been for my best friend who was willing to listen to me every day!! And I definitely have to give a shout-out to Jeff and Keith who have helped me with numerous household repairs such as repairing my fence, fixing plumbing and electrical issues, and other odd tasks around my ageing home!

One important note about a support system, though, is that the support system does not know you need help unless you communicate that fact to the people in your support system. Many modern family parents have difficulty asking for help, and I definitely understand this. When I first became divorced, I made a point not to ask for help from anyone because I did not want to become the person that everyone ran away from when they saw me approaching!

I changed my mind about asking for help during the difficult time when my Dad unexpectedly passed away last year. Because I had to go out of town to help my Mom very suddenly, I asked several work colleagues to contact my patients to reschedule their therapy appointments or other work tasks. One of my colleagues expressed to me how happy they were to help me because I had helped them in the past. Thus, having a support system is a reciprocal relationship – a relationship of both giving and taking!

Finally, the take home message here is that smart modern families have put thought into creating a support system to get them through difficult life circumstances. This support system can only be activated when we communicate our needs, and it is important to also support the members of our support system when they need a helping hand too.

I would love to hear all about your support system.  What does it look like? How does it function?

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