Families can provide so much love and support, but challenges and conflicts often arise between family members, and it’s essential to have some tools to work through them effectively. We will cover the most common causes of rifts and disagreements and provide you with some effective ways to resolve family conflicts. Our focus is mostly on more significant disagreements, but these tips can help even in the smaller moments. So whether you have a competitive family that can’t get through a game of Monopoly, or you all have significantly differing views on election results, there is hope that you will find peace again as a family unit.
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Family conflict happens at every phase of life.
Conflict is usually considered to be part of the adult world, but family conflicts can start at any point in life. Young children might be upset when new siblings join the family and take some of the attention. There might be moves, routine changes, or even divorce between parents that can cause issues within a family. Dealing with children is much different than dealing with adults because they are still forming and developing their emotional intelligence.
Adolescents also come with some challenges that can impact the family dynamic. As they work towards independence, there are often conflicts with their caregivers who aren’t ready to let them go or disagree over their decisions. Young people can be opinionated and stubborn, so it’s important to choose your battles and let the small things go. Learn how to check in with them in a way that comes off as supportive instead of combative.
Building strong family relationships in the formative years can help set you up for success as your family grows and your adult children start their own families and add in-laws. Learning good conflict resolution skills early as a family unit can assist with de-escalation in the future.
Understand the main causes of family conflict.
The best way to resolve family conflict is to understand the underlying reasons for the conflict and address the issues. Each family has unique struggles and challenges, but most family conflicts stem from one of these seven things.
Some say that money is the root of all evil, and it’s safe to say that it does cause some friction within family relationships. Financial disagreements can happen if someone lends someone else money or has an argument over splitting the cost of something. These can start small but build over time if they are not addressed.
There are plenty of advice articles out there about the dos and don’ts of loaning money to your family members. At the end of the day, you should consider whether or not you are willing to accept the possibility that you’ll never see that money again and if you can manage without it. Do you trust your family members to handle your money? Will you be okay if someone in your family took longer to pay you back than you initially agreed upon?
2. Different Values and Beliefs
As children grow up, they are often influenced by their parents when it comes to religion and belief systems. However, there is a point where children will leave home and be exposed to different ideas, and a shift might occur. This can lead to difficult conversations and disagreements between parents and children (and other extended family members.)
This also commonly happens with politics, where family members may disagree about candidates or political stances. As the spectrum becomes wider between the two extremes, there is a much larger chance that your family might land on different sides. Friendly conversations can be extremely productive, but there’s always a chance that things can get emotional and go sideways. Hence, it’s best to set boundaries around these issues and discussions.
3. Opinions on Parenting and Children
Each generation has access to new tools and information that generations before them did not possess. That means that parenting styles can change over time, and the things that your parents did when you were a child might not align with how you want to parent. That can cause conflict within the family because parents may feel offended and think you are being critical of their methods. Most new parents have probably heard their parents say, “You turned out okay, didn’t you?”
If you are aware of these differences, managing them with your communication style is pretty simple. For example, if you leave your children with their grandparents, be selective about the rules you leave behind and trust your parents. The more detailed you are, the more uncomfortable they may feel because they might think you don’t trust them.
For situations where your styles are completely different, find ways to spend time together with everyone so you can keep your routines in place while also giving your parents time with their grandchildren to bond.
4. External Influences
Family issues don’t always stem from within. There are plenty of external influences that can cause conflict within the family. Substance abuse issues can create conflict and push family members apart. With these issues, there is less control you can have over the situation, but just being aware of the issues and offering support where you can is helpful.
Work is another external influence that can cause family conflict. If someone has a job that requires a lot of travel or long hours, causing them to miss family events can be challenging. It can be hard for people to understand the demands of a position they aren’t familiar with.
5. Control or Authority Issues
Families often have a pecking order, with someone at the top that makes the big decisions and settles internal disputes. Because of this order, it can be hard for people to let go as children grow up and begin to make their own decisions. Often, these issues arise when new partners are introduced if the family doesn’t approve or if you move to a new city, and they aren’t happy about it.
Letting go is hard for any parent, but it’s a critical part of raising kids. You must know when they are leaving the nest and going on their own. If parents hang on too long, it can actually cause problems and more fighting. There are plenty of ways to give advice and feedback without being controlling or intrusive. Learning the boundaries of appropriate discussion around sensitive topics will go a long way in keeping the peace.
6. Stressful Life Events
Weddings, becoming parents, losing someone close to you, and being diagnosed with an illness are all examples of life events that can be stressful for people. The added stress can trickle into other parts of life and greatly impact your relationships. Having the support of your family is critical during big life changes and can help ease the burden, but if your family doesn’t understand what you’re dealing with or doesn’t know how to support you in these moments.
7. Sibling Rivalry and Jealousy
Finally, there can be some sibling rivalry that will cause conflict within the family. This doesn’t happen with as many families, but it can come up when multiple children are growing up under the same roof. One child might feel like the other gets more attention and is more “spoiled,” which can trickle into adulthood. Siblings don’t always stay close as they become adults. disagreements can cause discomfort or conflicts in the family.
The Most Effective Ways to Resolve Family Conflict
Once you understand the causes of the disagreements and conflicts within your family unit, you can start to work on the resolution. We’ve put together six effective ways to resolve family conflict. Some steps won’t necessarily work for your situation, but if you start with this list, you can start finding a path forward and begin the healing process.
1. Communicate your feelings and practice active listening.
Open communication is key in any relationship. You must be able to explain your thoughts and feelings to the other person calmly and clearly. This can be difficult when emotions are heightened, and people are upset, but it’s critical to understanding and working through an issue. Equally, if not more important, is to listen to the other person and try to understand what they are feeling.
Active listening is a skill that requires practice and focus. In human conversations, two people often talk at each other and miss the listening part. They use the other person’s speaking time to think through their response. To actively listen, you should be focused on every word the other person is saying and ask follow-up questions when you don’t understand. Make eye contact, avoid other distractions, and really work to get on the same page.
2. Get creative with your problem-solving.
Some problems take compromise to get to a resolution, and that may not be the simplest path. Creative problem-solving can come in handy when finding common ground on something. For example, if your parents are upset that you live far away and don’t make lots of time for them when you come back to visit, consider offering up a different solution, like taking a trip together where you’ll get lots of one on one time and the ability to make memories together.
Creative problem-solving can also help if you are working to help others resolve a conflict you aren’t in the middle of. You may need to act as a mediator, hear both sides of the conversation, and then work to get them closer to the same page so they can talk it out. Sometimes, when working with stubborn and upset people, you have to think outside the box to get them to come around. Invite everyone to do something fun together and see if that helps spark conversation.
3. Be empathetic.
Part of the human experience is developing opinions and feelings that are unique to you. When you manage relationships with other people, you will need to work hard sometimes to understand where the other person is coming from. By remembering empathy, you can help avoid negative feelings and come from a place of compassion.
If empathy is hard for you, there are a few things you can focus on to help. Think about all the things you have in common with your family members instead of looking at the differences. It can help you relate to them. Show gratitude when others share their feelings and thoughts with you. That can be so encouraging, and they might be willing to go even deeper.
4. Take a break to breathe and regroup.
There is that saying about not going to sleep angry when you’re arguing with your spouse, but it definitely works a bit differently with family. In some situations, it’s best to take a step back and let the emotions cool off a bit. Whether you plan to reconnect with the family after a few days or at least take a walk around the block and gather your thoughts, it’s best to avoid getting too angry and saying something you’ll regret in the heat of the moment.
When you’re taking some time to think, it can sometimes help to get advice from a friend or a partner. It can help to work through what you want to communicate with your loved one and practice with someone else. Someone who isn’t involved in the situation can help give you feedback on how you communicate and perfect your delivery.
5. Remain open to compromise and apologize.
Finding a resolution means all involved parties coming to the table to figure out what was wrong. If the issue stems from just one person’s actions, that person needs to be able to apologize. Sometimes the conversations to reach a compromise can take a while, and things can go back and forth. If you come to the table ready to own all your actions and be open to different resolutions, you’ll be able to help solve the issues.
Apologizing can be extremely difficult for some people and takes some practice. It needs to come from a genuine place, so make sure that you are ready to say “I am sorry” when the time comes. Make sure you don’t over-promise in this step. Sometimes, just an apology is sufficient to get the conversation started if you were in the wrong.
6. Seek professional help.
Some situations will not be easily resolved by a conversation around the table. It might be necessary to work with a professional therapist. Many professionals are specifically trained to work with families and help them resolve big and small conflicts. Family relationship counselors specialize in getting to the bottom of the issues and work with everyone to develop tools to ensure you don’t fall into the same patterns.
Therapists, psychologists, and mental health professionals work with people on all types of conflicts daily. They can help you change some of your resolution tactics so you are more prepared to handle any future conflicts. Plus, they can work with your family to communicate better with each other. If you have difficulty finding providers, check with your regular healthcare doctor or utilize one of the newer online therapy options.
7. Make small changes going forward.
Once you’ve worked hard to repair a family conflict, you must find ways to avoid falling back into old patterns. Small moments in any conversation called “choice points” can significantly affect the discussion’s direction. Instead of reacting to someone, focus on responding. Acknowledge their thoughts and opinions instead of just launching immediately into an argument.
Other small changes might be avoiding specific topics going forward because you know they are triggering to family members. Politics, religion, and similar topics can be extremely emotional to people and could be avoided with family to avoid upsetting anyone and reigniting conflicts.
8. Recognize when things are out of your control.
With every interpersonal conflict, it’s important to remember that you can only control your actions. There might be some situations where you need to protect your mental and emotional well-being and recognize when there’s nothing else you can control. Other people might not be willing to see your point of view, making it hard to find a resolution. If you’ve done everything you can, you might need to give space and wait until your family members have a change of heart. Estranged family members will likely come around with time. It’s unfortunate and can disrupt your normal family life, but you can’t force people into a place where they are ready to forgive, move on, or apologize.
Being proactive with your family relationships and creating strong bonds can help avoid larger conflicts later in life, but sometimes these moments are inevitable. Hopefully, these tips gave you some ideas for managing these conflicts and improving your relationships with family members.
Frequently Asked Questions
When dealing with family conflict, it’s important to remain calm, understand the different points of view, and communicate with one another. This can make finding a compromise easier.
Sometimes, to have a healthy relationship and avoid family conflict, you’ll need to avoid some triggering topics, like politics. If it gets brought up, remain calm and try to listen with an open mind.