How to Cope With Family Conflict

There is nothing unusual about family conflict. From arguments over curfews with the kids to arguments over whose family to spend the holidays with, family conflict is a common occurrence 1. Although these spats may seem like negative occurrences, conflict can actually prove healthy when approached and handled properly. Conflict means that your family is working through issues rather than covering them up.

Choose your battles with careful thought, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises. This approach can help a family avoid meaningless conflict. For example, if your husband insists on wearing his black suit to dinner instead of the tan one you picked out for him, let it go. It’s much easier to deal with family conflict when you save your conflict for the stuff that matters.

Learn to manage your stress in a positive manner, the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension of Family and Consumer Sciences advises. When you are stressed, you are more likely to take your anger out on your family, which creates conflict. Try exercising, going outside and getting some fresh air or even counting to 10 to help you calm down when you feel you are experiencing too much stress. This can help you deal with conflicts your family is going through with less anger and frustration. You may find that your family resolves conflicts more quickly when your stress level is down.

Create boundaries when it comes to arguing, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises. For example, create a rule that anyone who feels they are on the verge of yelling or anyone who feels that their anger is escalating can say something like, “time out,” and walk away. This phrase is a way of letting your family know that you need a few minutes to calm down so that you can continue your discussion without losing your patience. This approach prevents fights from escalating and spinning out of control.

Keep the lines of communication open at all times. When everyone feels comfortable talking without worrying that they are being judged, blamed or disrespected, a lot of conflict can be prevented. For example, if your kids feel comfortable approaching you when they mess up at school, you may not be as angry with them as you would be if they covered it up.