Resolving Conflict in Families Around Holiday Time

Unresolved conflict can be most stressful around the holiday season. Here are some of my thoughts which may assist some of you.
 Common causes of family conflict
It is well recognised that some of the stages a family goes through can cause conflict. These may include:

  • Learning to live as a new couple
  • Birth of a baby
  • Birth of other children
  • A child going to school
  • A child becoming a young person
  • A young person becoming an adult.

Each of these stages can create new and different stresses and potential conflict. Changes in the family situation can also take a toll on the family and contribute to conflict. This may include events such as:

  • Separation or divorce
  • Moving to a new house or country
  • Travelling long distances to work
  • Commuting interstate for work.
  • Change in financial circumstances.

The opinions, values and needs of each parent can also change and they may find they are no longer compatible.

Agreeing to negotiate

Usually, our first angry impulse is to push the point that we are right and win the argument at any cost. Finding a peaceful resolution can be difficult, if not impossible, when both parties stubbornly stick to their guns. It helps if everyone decides as a family to try listening to each other and negotiating instead.  Suggestions include:

  • Work out if the issue is worth fighting over.
  • Try to separate the problem from the person.
  • Try to cool off first if you feel too angry to talk calmly.
  • Keep in mind that the idea is to resolve the conflict, not win the argument.
  • Remember that the other party isn’t obliged to always agree with you on everything.
  • Define the problem and stick to the topic.
  • Respect the other person’s point of view by paying attention and listening.
  • Talk clearly and reasonably.
  • Try to find points of common ground.
  • Agree to disagree.

Try to listen

Conflict can escalate when the people involved are too angry to listen to each other. Misunderstandings fuel arguments. Suggestions include:

  • Try to stay calm.
  • Try to put emotions aside.
  • Don’t interrupt the other person while they are speaking.
  • Actively listen to what they are saying and what they mean.
  • Check that you understand them by asking questions.
  • Communicate your side of the story clearly and honestly.
  • Resist the urge to bring up other unresolved but unrelated issues.

Work as a team

Once both parties understand the views and feelings of the other, you can work out a solution together. Suggestions include:

  • Come up with as many possible solutions as you can.
  • Be willing to compromise.
  • Make sure everyone clearly understands the chosen solution.
  • Once the solution is decided on, stick to it.
  • Write it down as a ‘contract’, if necessary.

Professional advice

There are services available to help family members work through difficult issues of conflict. Seek professional advice if you think you need some assistance.
 
Helen Reese has worked as a health practitioner for the past 30 years in hospitals, community settings, private organizations and with DEET and other public sectors. She also works in private practice with children, adolescents and adults in physical and psychological crisis. She has been counselling young people and adults for 25 years.
Having a Master of Counselling, being a Registered Nurse and with post graduate qualifications in Paediatrics, Hypnotherapy, Pain Management and Education she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her counseling and training.  Rebates are available under the mental health care plan, and free counselling may be available for those who are not working or caring for someone with a physical or mental health problem. PH 0400991346
www.counsellingservices.com.au or helenreese1@gmail.com

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