Over the years in which I have consulted with families, I have observed an important, and encouraging, pattern in numerous families whereby the senior generation – despite substantial tensions and challenges in working together – offers the junior generation an opportunity to have relationships unspoiled by the challenges of their parents.
It goes something like this…
The senior generation, often a sibling generation, struggles with managing the emotional aspects of being in a family business together. These struggles are not uncommon, and often simply due to the pressures of being a family together, working with their parents and facing the stresses of the day. Over time, they become overly sensitive to comments or actions that were not intended to cause pain but do nonetheless.
It would be typical that these frustrations would turn into toxicity, which is then shared with their children – the next generation. But in many families something beautiful happens. The senior generation members, recognizing the value of their collective children building supportive and nurturing relationships, suppress their own frustrations and insulate the next generation from daily dramas, allowing the junior generation emotional space to become friends and build relationships. The result is a group of cousins who enjoy their relationships and their time together, often independent of the parents’ participation. In these cases, the collective sense of family created among the cousin group is a powerful force.
Being in a family is sometimes messy and intense. As human beings, we are not perfect. Many of us have emotional nerve endings close to the surface. We get hurt. We want to attribute the source of pain and frequently look outward for causes. In the worst of cases, we blame others for the entire balance of the messy relationship and are blind to our own part in the drama. In our frustration, we may even disparage our family members to our children, and even to their children. This creates division within the family.
When the individuals within a generation commit to nurturing the junior generation despite their own pains and the complications associated with the complexities of being in an enterprising family, a great gift is truly given.