One of my roles in the family is a peacemaker. I have elected myself into this role when my daughter was young. She was a handful from the moment she was born and gave us many challenges. My parenting style is more laid back and go with the flow and my husband has an authoritative way of parenting. Our daughter didn’t respond well to my husband as she is a sensitive child. They would butt heads often and I felt I needed to insert myself in the middle of their arguments to keep the peace.
Part of the keeping the peace came from my childhood. I felt I needed to behave and not rock the boat because I didn’t want to upset my mom.
My husband mentioned to me a few weeks ago that he didn’t want to be the “bad guy”. This seems to be the role he feels that he has taken on for our family.
Do you feel that you have a specific role in your family?
How are these roles created? Roles function to create and maintain a balance in the family. There is both a positive and negative aspect to the roles. The key is understanding how well these roles work for the family and how they help or hurt family members in their effort to establish deep, meaningful, and safe relationships.
Within the dynamics of our family, we all have different roles and functions. These various roles can come about because of how our family dynamics play out, or due to our own individual choices, and personalities.
Some of the different roles we find ourselves playing within a family dynamic are listed below:
Hero: This is the “good” and “responsible” child. A high achiever that carries the pride of the family, and overcompensates to avoid looking or feeling inadequate. Sometimes the hero lacks the ability to play, relax, follow others, or allow others to be right.
Rescuer: The rescuer takes care of others’ needs and emotions and problem-solves for others in the family. The rescuer might have difficulty with conflict. They take on the role of rescuer in the name of helping others, though it is often to meet his/her own needs, such as relieving anxiety. This person doesn’t realize that sometimes helping hurts.
Mediator: The mediator can be a rescuer-type although he/she works to keep peace in the family system. This person does the emotional work of the family to avoid conflict. They act as a buffer in the name of helping others, although it may be for their own needs. This can be a healthy role depending on how the person mediates.
Scapegoat/Black sheep: The black sheep is treated differently, excluded, or disapproved by the rest of the family. People are considered black sheep for a wide variety of reasons, including leaving the family religion, not following gender roles, having different values or beliefs than the rest of the family, or marrying an “undesirable” partner.
Switchboard: This person is the central information center in the family. They keep track of what’s going on by being aware of who is doing what and when. This person has strength in being the central person to go to and understanding how the family is doing. However, this person focuses on everyone else’s issues rather than his/her own.
Clown: The clown uses humor to offset the family conflict and to create a sense that things are okay. This person has a talent to readily lighten the moment but hides their true feelings.
Cheerleader: The cheerleader provides support and encouragement to others.
Nurturer: This person provides emotional support, creates safety, is available to others, and can be a mediator. They focus on having and meeting emotional needs, usually in a balanced manner.
Truthteller: This person tells it how it is. Other members of the family might be offended or avoid the truthteller because of the power of the truth they hold.
I don’t like labels, but these roles can help understand how each family works as a unit. Family systems are unique, fragile and fluid. Understanding our position within not only our system but within the wider community can provide us with a deeper and more enriched way of looking at our interactions with others, as well as how we view and treat ourselves.
When you have a family member with a problem or medical issue, this may provide a distraction to the family dynamic. This can be a challenging time for the entire family. I know as our daughter struggled with mental illness from the age of 8 to 14. During that time period I had a variety of roles and she took most of my focus. I had awareness around my roles and made sure that I still provided time and support to my son and spouse.
Families need strong, healthy communication to function well and meet the individual needs of all family members. Communication happens whether families work at it or allow it to happen. Strengthen your family’s communication and its positive effect on family dynamics with practices and activities that improve communication skills and encourage honest, healthy interaction.
Write down your role in the family and the roles you see other family members exhibiting. Which roles don’t benefit your family and which roles would you like to see more of? Discuss this with your family members and make goals.
Schedule a FREE Discovery Call where we can talk about your family dynamics.