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Do you want to understand your relationships with your family better? What are the best books about family relationships?
Families can be complicated. And sometimes, the only way to improve the relationships within dysfunctional families is to read and learn more about them. The books listed below focus on various familial topics, from childhood trauma to practicing healthy communication with parents.
Keep reading for the best books about family relationships that you should add to your reading list.
Best Books to Understand Family Relationships Better
Family relationships can be difficult to navigate. More so, your relationships with members of your family define who you are as an adult, and even your romantic relationships. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of books that can help you understand how important family relationships are, whether you’re the parent or the child in the situation.
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents
In Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, psychologist Lindsey Gibson dispels the myth that “parents know best,” revealing the damage that emotionally neglectful parents can do to their children. Gibson explores key features of emotionally underdeveloped parents and how their behavior impacts their children. She also provides strategies to help adults who suffered childhood emotional neglect turn their relationship with their parent from toxic to tolerable, and develop healthier emotional connections with others.
Gibson is an adult psychotherapy and personal growth counseling specialist. She wrote Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents to help survivors of emotional neglect free themselves from dysfunctional relationships with their parents and find emotional fulfillment.
In this book Gibson looks at traits of emotionally underdeveloped parents, coping mechanisms children employ to survive emotional neglect, challenges that those children face in adulthood, and strategies they can use to heal and move forward.
How can we raise kids to be self-confident, independent, and compassionate? In Unconditional Parenting, author and lecturer Alfie Kohn argues that we should throw away the standard parenting rulebook and replace it with a new approach built on unconditional support, acceptance, and understanding.
Find out what kids really need from their parents, why using rewards and punishments doesn’t work (and can even backfire) in the long term, and what you can do to make your kids feel loved and valued for who they are rather than what they do.
In What Happened to You?, Oprah Winfrey and renowned psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry discuss how childhood trauma can have a severe and lasting impact on the brain—and thus our worldview, health, and behavior—sometimes without us even realizing it. They discuss why the developing brain is so susceptible to trauma, why trauma survivors often experience flashbacks, and why it’s so important to address your trauma to live a healthy and happy life. They also describe how to begin the healing process with compassion for yourself and others.
We all have a deep-rooted need to be loved, but often a rift opens between our romantic partners and ourselves. Why does this happen, and can anything be done?
In Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt suggest that we unconsciously seek out romantic partners to help us resolve unfinished business from our childhood. When our partners fail to meet our unconscious expectations, our relationships fall apart. To prevent this, Hendrix and Hunt designed a process to change the way couples interact, allowing them to learn about their unconscious needs and to transform their lives into a conscious, loving union.
This book explores the psychological principles that affect how we relate to those closest to us, what science and relationship experts reveal about how our childhoods shape our adult lives, and how a struggling couple can learn to talk to each other, heal, and grow.
If you suffer from persistent anxiety, depression, or illness, you might be playing out trauma from your family’s past. In this case, the question to ask is not “What’s wrong with me?” but “Where did this come from?”
In It Didn’t Start With You, Mark Wolynn says the source of your suffering may lie hidden in your unconscious, where traumas from your past—and your family’s past—are stopping you from being truly happy and free. Wolynn shares the latest research to reveal how traumas get passed biologically from one generation to the next. He also describes how you can uncover and resolve deeply-rooted trauma by applying his unique therapeutic approach. By doing so, he says, you can reprogram your body, stop suffering, and start living a life you love.
Other Books to Improve Family Relationships
The books below don’t specifically focus on family relationships, but they help you improve your communication and set healthy boundaries. Additionally, you might get a better understanding of how you should cope with toxic relationships within your family.
Here are six books that can help you improve your family relationships.
Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, recounts how the authors found happiness and a meaningful life after rejecting the “American dream” of wealth and success, and instead embracing minimalism.
Based on their experiences, they offer a formula for living a meaningful life by eliminating extraneous possessions and entanglements, and instead focusing on living by a specific set of personal values. This includes relationships that may or may not be hindering your happiness.
What is love, really? In The Art of Loving, psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm argues that what most people think of as love is actually a form of false love—giving affection only to get something in return—instead of genuine, mature love. He believes that this failure to truly achieve loving connection is why so many people are unhappy, despite having all their basic needs met. However, if we can learn how to genuinely love others, we’ll be happier and less isolated.
The Art of Loving was originally published in 1956, but many of its lessons are just as relevant today as they were in the 20th century. In this book, we’ll examine Fromm’s ideas on the purpose of love. Then, we’ll examine the types of false love that people often mistake for genuine love. Finally, we’ll learn what genuine love looks like and how to practice it.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a memoir by psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb. She discusses a difficult time in her life following a sudden breakup with her long-term boyfriend. The incident upset her so badly that it drove her to seek therapy herself.
This book is the story of Lori’s time in therapy, interwoven with stories about Lori’s own patients. Though each of their situations is different, their shared struggles and how they overcome them reflect common experiences that all people share—in fact, Lori says that the reason therapists can be effective is precisely because they have those same struggles. As Lori and her patients work together toward health and understanding, they reflect on their pasts—how they got to be where they are now—and the futures they’d like to have.
In Codependent No More, Melody Beattie explores codependency and how it affects people’s lives. A self-help classic and the book that inspired codependency 12 Step Programs around the country, Codependent No More provides explanations, advice, and compassion for people struggling with codependency.
In this book, Beattie explores her main principles, including detachment, self-care, and personal responsibility.
You probably know someone who always blows things out of proportion, or who insists on having the same argument over and over. According to Dr. Eric Berne, a pioneering psychiatrist who broke away from the Freudian tradition, those are just two of the games that people play.
Games People Play is Berne’s 1964 classic about the many ways that we habitually relate to one another through “games.” These aren’t fun, harmless social games, though—they’re subtle, largely unconscious patterns that harm us and our relationships. Berne explains how most of us don’t even notice our games, and how we’re missing out on the fulfillment of game-free living.
In Games People Play, Berne explores the foundations of his theory and builds up to an extensive discussion of games, before finishing with his strategies for growing into a fuller way of living.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a way of interacting with ourselves and others that’s rooted in empathy and compassion. The ultimate goal of NVC is to foster authentic connections between people regardless of their differences. That focus on human connections makes NVC a powerful conflict resolution tool—once there is a genuine human connection, the original problem tends to solve itself. You can use NVC in almost any relationship or environment, including in families, schools, governments, businesses, and personal relationships. NVC can also help you reshape your inner dialogue to promote self-compassion, improving your relationship with yourself.
Healthy family relationships might be what you’re missing in life. After all, family is an important aspect of many people’s lives. However, if you have some toxic family dynamics going on, maybe it’s time to read up on how to resolve them.
Did we miss any of the best books about family relationships? If so, leave your suggestions in the comments below!
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