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Read more about Raising an Optimistic Child

Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depresion-Proofing Young Children--for Life
(McGraw-Hill, 2006) by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry

Read more about Creating Optimism

Creating Optimism:
A Proven Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression

(McGraw-Hill, 2004) by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry

Dealing With Dysfunctional Families

By Alicia Fortinberry, MS

Dealing with a difficult, even dysfunctional family can be heart-wrenching, whether it's your family of origin or your partner and children.

Since 80% of all relationships fail, it's no wonder we have a tough time of it! After all, we learn how to make relationships from our parents and other adults around us, including older siblings. And maybe no-one taught them, either.

Here are some tips for surviving toxic families:

  1. With adult family members, always ask yourself: "If this person weren't my (father, mother, aunt, adult child, etc) would I want them as a friend?" If the answer is "no," maybe you need to rethink the relationship, which is probably not helping you or them.
  2. Don't "sacrifice" your needs for others-after all, if you aren't happy and healthy, the chances are your family can't be, either.
  3. Set clear boundaries and stick to them. Our method for boundary-setting is by identifying your functional needs according to the guidelines in "Creating Optimism." Then let others know what your needs are.
  4. Many of your needs will become the rules of your house-hold. Give young children a say in the rules, but in the end the decision is yours. Write these down and post them in a prominent place, such as the refrigerator.
  5. In order to be effective, rules must have consequences. Again, as above, getting input from the kids will help ensure their buy-in. But be sure to stick to the consequences you've outlined.

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About the Author

Alicia Fortinberry is an award-winning health writer, and expert on emotional health and optimal relationships. Together with her husband and long-term collaborator Dr Bob Murray, she is founder of the highly successful Uplift Program, and author of Raising an Optimistic Child (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and Creating Optimism (McGraw-Hill, 2004).

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 Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is based on the research, clinical experience and opinions of Dr Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry. It is designed to support, not replace a relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.