Let’s Talk Family

Every family experiences conflict. There are many sub relationships that make up a family, therefore it is inevitable that there will be times when everyone does not agree. While we should always try to minimize conflict as much as possible, it is important to remember that family members are going to have their differences in opinions. How we handle the problems in our family is often more important than the issues themselves. When family members argue, there is often an attempt to establish blame, bring up past issues, and attempt form alliances within the family. The way we deal with conflict can become habitual and it is important to recognize any unhealthy conflict management strategies within the family and be open to adapting more effective communication strategies. Learning to manage conflicts in a healthy way can actually improve relationships and build trust. In my work with families, I have found the following conflict management strategies to be successful in helping resolve some issues and actually build relationships.


1. Recognizing Strengths

It is extremely difficult to think of people’s strengths when we are angry at them. We often resort to focusing on all of the things that they always do wrong and on the things that we wish we could change about them. This is why we sometimes start to bring up things from the past. The argument quickly shifts from the current issue into larger more systemic issues. Instead of resolving the problem, it actually snowballs and grows.

Families can prevent this from happening by making a conscious effort to remember everyone’s strengths. The purpose is not to ignore or disregard the issue at hand, but to address it in a more realistic and tactful way. It is also much easier to be understanding when we are reminded that people are more than the mistakes they make. Recognizing strengths can help to ground us and help us address the current problem, rather than create additional unnecessary conflict.

Because it is difficult to think of a person’s strengths in the moment, it can be helpful to take a preventative approach and spend some time thinking about each family member’s strengths. You can write them down for future reflection. If you are into crafty family projects, you can sit down as a family and create a piece of strength art to hang on your wall, highlighting all of the family member’s strengths. It is so nice to be able to see it and reflect on a daily basis.


2. Reframing the Negatives

When we get frustrated, we don’t always communicate very clearly. Many times, we resort to making negative comments in our attempts to make explanations. The problem with negative comments is that the other person will only hear the negative things you said about them. One negative comment can completely ruin an attempt at an explanation.

Typically, there is something deeper that we are trying to communicate when we begin to make negative comments. If we can make an effort to pause and reframe our words, it can do wonders for the conversation. You can say the same thing with a reframed constructive comment that you can with a negative comment. The difference is, the other person will more likely hear you and be open to continuing to try to resolve the conflict.

If you feel yourself getting ready to directly place blame or name call, take a step back and come up with another way to say what it is you are trying to communicate.  It can make all of the difference.


3. Adopting a Healthy Family Language

Every family establishes a language of its own. Our family language is how and what we say to our family members on a daily basis. If we aren’t careful and intentional in building our family language, we can begin making negative comments without even realizing that it has become part of our daily vocabulary. During family meetings, it is a good idea to make sure that everyone is okay with the language in the house.

Some families make a list of words and phrases that are not allowed in the house. It goes beyond just saying “no cussing”. These words and phrases can be anything that is not considered uplifting and positive. It is very important to include children in on this decision. They need ownership in decision making in order to establish a buy into the plan. Plus, it can be very enlightening to ask your child, “Is there anything that we say in the house that you don’t like?” You will probably be reminded that they hear more than you think. It can also help bring things to your attention that have become habits.


4. Encouraging Constructive Feedback from All Family Members

As parents, you can teach your children about constructive feedback by encouraging them to always have a purpose to what they say. Children and teenagers can be disrespectful and moody at times, and they need to have some instruction on how to communicate when they are feeling grumpy. A good point of reference is to make sure that there is a constructive purpose to every word that comes out of their mouth. If you teach them about constructive feedback at an early age, it will help them become more cognizant and careful in what they say to others.

Even as adults, we need little mini refreshers every now and then on how to give constructive feedback. It can be so easy to get comfortable with our spouses and forget that our words always matter. Before speaking we should think to ourselves, “What is the purpose of what I am about to say, and do my words serve that purpose?” It can help keep us from making empty and irrelevant negative comments.


5. Family Meetings

You might think that family meetings are unrealistic or a waste of time, but I have seen family meetings be successful every time that I have created them within a family. I typically recommend that families try to sit down one night per week, starting with a family dinner and then moving into a brief family check in. Families are busy, especially when teenagers start driving and having activities outside of school. However, family meetings should be considered equally if not more important than all of the other activities in our lives. Some of my families had trouble coming up with one specific night to have their meetings and that is okay. As long as there is a general attempt to meet as a family, it can be flexible.

At family meetings, I recommend that each person in the family give an update on how things are going and if they need anything from anyone. You can structure if more if you want- one of my families came up with the idea of each person saying three things: something positive about the family, something they want to see more of, and something that they need in order to feel supported. I encourage even the youngest family members to participate- if they can speak they can participate. The family meetings are an opportunity to vent, but in a constructive way and within the realm of your Healthy Family Language.

Originally posted on selfcarediary.com

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I am a therapist and blogger from North Carolina. I have a passion for self-care and overall wellness

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