Family Resilience: Rebuilding After a Family Crisis

Dream about the Queensland Floods 2011

I had a dream.  I was in a car. My Dad was driving the white Toyota Landcruiser with two doors that opened at the rear. I was in the back with my children.  We were trying to get away from the water. The brown water began to swirl around the car. There was a strange shift in movement. No longer forward. But sideways. Sideways. The car moved sideways towards the gap in the road side rail. Falling. Falling.  We were going to go under. I knew it. My mind was racing.  I opened the two doors at the rear of the car in preparation to exit with my children. I opened the doors. An encircling force sucked me out of the car and for a moment, I didn’t know where I was.  Then, with indescribable horror, I watched the car, with my Dad and kids inside, plummet into the angry water abyss. Where were my babies? I dived desperately. But they were gone. My children were gone, under the water. Gone. Then I woke up.

I woke up.  And I was relieved to find it was only a dream and my children were  asleep in their beds. Processing the last month and the affects of many changes on my family has been a slow but steady process. Just last weekend, I was back in Toowoomba staying with my sister and my daughter (5) begged to go home. “I want to go back to our new house Mum. Or it will be flooded. Flooded.” Poor sweetie.  This will pass. Yes.Yes it will.

The fact is, our family is quite fragile at the moment.  The kids have been bickering, it seems, at every moment.  I cry, most days. And throw in the fact that my husband is away and you have one dysfunctional family.

It’s been an extreme month, true. However, to varying degrees,  most families go through dips like this at some point. Maybe the kids have been sick for a period or there have been many changes in the family unit. Perhaps a loved one has died or the family is struggling financially.  There are times when families need to regroup and rebuild. I believe, if this isn’t done, cracks can start to form in a once strong foundation. So, our family has been settling, regrouping and repairing.  And it’s working.  Here are some of the steps we’ve taken to get to this point.

Have a family meeting

We often have family meetings in the car. Why? Because we are all in one place and the kids can’t move (hooray for seat belts). Here are some of the issues we talked about:

1. Emotions: We asked how the children felt about the flooding and all the changes in our family. For example, starting a new school and making friends.

2. Reality: We talked many changes and challenges we faced and how this has caused strain on our family unit.  My husband and I used the example of my Dad’s shed to talk about this topic.

I think it’s important, in this sort of situation, to  focus on the external factors that led to the stresses placed on our family rather than focusing on the children’s individual behaviours.  Our family has been through many changes in a short period of time and, like the water through the shed, this has left a mark on our family. That’s the reality. But the good news is our foundations are strong, built on faith, and we all love each other.  Everything else can be repaired and I’m glad to say the rebuilding is coming along nicely.

family in crisis
3. Future: We discussed where we’d like to be as a family and how we were going to get there.

4. Recovery: We established the trust between the children and us, as parents. My husband and I made this distinction so the hard work of recovery could be led by us, knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy process.

I am Mum

Our family is very much a team and I love the children to have  input into how we do things. That’s all well and good when things are steady but right now, I am running this recovery effort and I’m calling the shots.  My husband has been away for 3 weeks (coming home for just 1 weekend) so I’m it.  I’m confident I know what is best for my family and for this short time we’re rebuilding,  I am Mum so don’t mess with me. {Glad I got that off my chest}.

Establish a routine

I’ve learned from experience, the value of routine when things are unstable (read the post: When’s Daddy coming home?).  This includes daily chores for the children, regular daily exercise and familiar places.  There’s a sense of security in knowing what comes next, especially when things are stressful at home. If you know me, and my blog, you’ll know I love things to be relaxed, fun and spontaneous; however when the family unit is a bit wobbly, routine becomes the backbone of finding stability.

Decide what matters

It’s very much been survival for the last month and I’ve been far from consistent and clear in my parenting during this time. Now I’m feeling a little better, I’ve had a careful think about what behaviours I expect from the children and am sure to follow through.  I found this post  helpful: 5 Ways to Regain Lost Ground with a Young Child.

Put some good times under your belt

In the week I wrote this struggling post, there was very little positive interaction between myself and the children. Like maybe none. It was awful. On the weekend, when my husband flew home from Canberra, we decided to do something our family enjoyed: swimming at the beach.  It wasn’t all hunky-dory but we did manage to have a nice time. After a month of unrest, it was nice to put some “good times” under our belt. And we continue to do so in small, manageable doses.

Building a Strong Family Unit

I’m exhausted but I see the fruit of my labour (thank you God for wisdom).  The children are once again, able to play happily together  and I’m able to enjoy the little moments like seeing my son laugh.

Queensland Floods Series

Why Is There So Much Rain In Brisbane

Queensland Floods: One Family’s Story

Struggling

External Links

After Crisis Comes Growth: Family Resilience and Rebuilding Trust

Dealing with tragedy and trauma

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

Latest posts by Kelly - Be A Fun Mum (see all)

Comments

  1. Jill Brown says

    That sounds like a chilling dream….some might call it a nightmare! I’m sure this post will be very helpful for many families in a similar position to you. I wish I had read this post last year when my 10 year old son spent the first 6 months of the year at home sick. Thanks for sharing. I wish I could do more to help.

    • says

      @Jill Brown, Yes it was a chilling dream (nightmare). I guess a lot of it comes from putting myself in the shoes of those who have lost children. My heart just aches. I was SO glad to wake up I can tell you.

      Is your son well now? That must have been heartbreaking Jill. To see him sick for so long.

  2. says

    I cannot imagine the dreams of those affected by the floods. Scary.
    I don’t know what to say but your strength , tenancity & resilence shines . I hope everything settles down for you and you can rebuild your lives as quickly as posible.

  3. says

    Routines really can get us through difficult times. Maybe that’s because they break up the day, give our thoughts a much needed change of direction, even change the group dynamic. Whatever the reason, it sounds like your strong family unit is restoring its foundations and Captain Mum is back!

  4. says

    Kelly, as always you make so much sense. I have printed this out. We are not a family in crisis currently. But have been in the past, and have some tricky stuff coming up.

    Thank you. xx

  5. says

    Oh wow. That sounds like a terrible anxiety dream. Sending big hugs & prayers that you can find some space for you to get recharged and process- I know that’s almost impossible to do with kids but know that you are loved and not alone xx

  6. Nicole says

    Kelly it’s the same for my parents area. People who were not flooded are having night mares about water coming up. The elderly man next to my parents has had a nightmare everynight. Kids are inconsolable at times I really wish that there was a councellirs army out there now to talk to the people. They can’t afford it otherwise.

    • says

      @Nicole, That poor man! How terrible. I only had the one dream but it was terrible because I had opened the door, I got out but the kids died. Terrible. Terrible. You know, my kids are scared of rain and storms in general. Much more than they have before. And especially my 5 year old. She is constantly talking about the “flooding” and how I was “lost”. It will pass eventually…and I think of those who were affected much more than we were….so hard. And no Yasi!

  7. says

    Kel – I’m so glad you and your family are beginning to smile and enjoy life again. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through … but I’m so pleased to hear that things are looking a bit brighter now.

    Thanks for sharing your great tips on how to cope – I’m sure others in similar situations will find this invaluable.

    Big hugs x

  8. Jen Finch says

    Kell, you are an inspiration!!! Your honesty and ability to look at the big picture is refreshing and encouraging. I’m so glad you are all settling and working together to restore your family unit. You go, Captain Mum, you’re AMAZING!!! Love and hugs to you and all your little people.

  9. Peta Wright says

    Thanks Kelly for sharing this.

    Our family has received a massive blow recently, due to some problems in my marriage. I am happy to say that my husband and I are committed to re-building and I know that this can be done. Any type of tragedy or upset to the family creates an opportunity for re-adjustment, so I really like your tips and will look at putting some of these into practice so that my littlies feel safe and secure and that real sense of family once again.

    Peta

  10. Erin says

    Sorry to hear it’s been so hard – what an awful nightmare!
    It sounds like you have a good plan though for getting things back on track. You are Mum and you know best – love it!

  11. says

    Thanks for these honest and wise words Kelly. You have obviously been through some really hard times over the past month or so. Your faith in God, and the firm foundations you have built as a family will continue to sustain you. As others have said, your resiliance and honesty shines through this post. Hugs and prayers to you.

  12. says

    I read the start of your post in my reader and had to click through to make sure it was a “story” not reality. But its real enough to have it in your dreams.

    Your advice is so great! I love your parenting philosophy and it is very timely for me as our daddy is about to change jobs. Your post about dealing with daddy being away is also timely and although I had thought of some of these things, the extras are priceless. Thanks.

    • says

      @CraftyMummy, Some dreams are so real aren’t they….and then I thought of the people who can’t wake up from their dream because it’s reality…

      Yeah, Matt is about to change jobs too. Changes, changes…they can be hard. I hope it all goes well. Keep me posted. xx

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