Family conflicts often escalate during times of change. For example, when multiple generations are sheltering under one roof instead of going to work and school as usual.
Even ordinary squabbles over the remote control can grow more heated. That’s especially true if deeper issues, like sibling rivalry and clashing lifestyles, have been lingering under the surface.
You can make your time at home more peaceful and enjoyable. Try these strategies for preventing and resolving family disputes.
It’s natural to disagree even with those you love. On the other hand, you can also take steps to keep conflicts from multiplying.
- Appreciate each other. Your relationships matter more than any issue that could divide you. Think about why you love each other and express your gratitude often.
- Establish priorities. Ask yourself if any particular event is worth arguing about. You can probably get used to the toilet paper hanging over or under the roll.
- Clarify boundaries. Understand your own needs and limits. Figure out the reasons behind your requests, so you can negotiate more effectively. Let others know how you wish to be treated and the consequences for crossing your boundaries.
- Schedule family meetings. Ongoing communication reduces misunderstandings. You may want to hold formal family meetings or put aside time each day to give each other updates and cover important topics.
- Pull together. Share practical assistance, support, and encouragement. Aim to find solutions that benefit your whole family instead of trying to score personal victories.
What if you’re already feuding with each other? Keep in mind that settling conflicts constructively can actually draw you closer together.
- Stay calm. Avoid saying anything in anger that you might regret later. Take a walk around the block if you need to cool down.
- Listen closely. Let your family members know that you care about their opinions. Hear them out without interrupting. Validate their feelings even if you disagree with their conclusions.
- Narrow your focus. Stick to one subject at a time. When you’re trying to divide household chores fairly, it’s irrelevant to mention who ate the last slice of pizza.
- Look ahead. Let go of past disappointments and resentments. Focus on what positive changes you can make for your future together.
- Be specific. Spell out your expectations. You may think that cleaning a bedroom means dusting the top of the door. Your teenage son may feel satisfied as long as the neighbors aren’t mentioning any suspicious odors.
- Offer compromises. Be flexible and creative about finding solutions that each family member can be comfortable with. Living together usually requires some give and take.
- Sign a contract. Do you have the same arguments week after week? You may want to put your resolutions down in writing and ask each family member to sign off. Keeping a record is likely to produce more compliance.
- Teach your children. Parents sometimes worry about how children will be affected when they see family conflicts. However, this can actually be a valuable opportunity for developing communication and relationship skills, as long as you provide a positive role model.
- Consider counseling. If you’re still finding it difficult to cooperate with each other, it may help to talk with an experienced and objective professional. Your family physician or organizations like the American Psychological Association can guide you to therapists who specialize in family dynamics.
Family conflicts often stir up strong emotions and power struggles. Protect your relationships and restore harmony by treating each other with kindness and respect.