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Managing Anxiety in the Family System: How Couples Can Do a Better Job of Owning Their Own Anxiety

I would estimate that in about 70%-80% of the situations in which kids are brought into my office for counseling, the presenting problems have less to do with the individual child, and more to do with what is happening in the larger family system, and more particularly in the couple’s marriage (or former marriage). The children have often become the scapegoats or the symptom-bearers for the marital problems.

One of the newer relationships that I have become engaged in is a relationship with the Fuller Youth Institute. I love the work that they do in providing training, research and resources for youth workers, youth and families. In June I wrote an article for their E-Journal called Managing Anxiety in the Family: Strategies for Changing Our Relationship Dance.

Anxiety is a huge issue in the lives of many people, and it is often manifested in the lives of the youth I work with. In this article I wanted to help families understand how anxiety works within the family system, and how when couples avoid relational conflict they often end up placing their anxiety onto the lives of their kids. I hope that you will find some of my recommended strategies helpful, and that you become not only more aware of this issue, but that it will also help you avoid casting your anxiety onto others in the process.

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rhettsmith@churchleaders.com'
I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (MDiv, MSMFT, LMFT-A) and pastor to youth and families. I write about the relationships between psychology, theology and technology.