6 Tips for Positively Resolving Family Conflict


As an ideal to work toward, the image of the perfect family can be inspiring. More often, though, it is dispiriting because it sets an impossible standard. Trying to be the perfect parent, partner, or child adds unnecessary pressure to our already complicated lives. It is no wonder that even the families we think are picture perfect experience conflict. Whether it is pressure we put on ourselves, or perceived pressure put on us by others, our daily struggles to live up to that ideal (or to intentionally resist it) limit our ability to simply be who we are and accept others for who they are.

Closeness (physical proximity as well as emotional attachment) and familiarity enable families to be loving and supportive, but they can also lead to conflicts. We don’t always feel the need to be as accommodating with family members as we might be with others who are more at arm’s length. We may feel that family has to accept us no matter what and as a result, we push the limits of what is acceptable. We may also hold unrealistic expectations of family members.

Certain factors can increase the likelihood of family conflict.

  • Different values, priorities or expectations.
  • Change in circumstances (e.g. having a new baby, children leaving home, losing a job, getting a new or more demanding job, health issues, divorce).
  • Sibling Rivalry.
  • Differing ideas of how to discipline children.
  • Involvement of in-laws/extended family.
  • Friendships outside the family.
  • Money concerns.
  • Daily stress (commitments, lack of time).
  • Unmet or unrealistic expectations.

Conflict cannot be avoided entirely, but there are ways to manage it and even make it productive. Effective conflict resolution can enhance relationships. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Set boundaries. When disagreements arise, it is important to maintain a safe, productive space in which to discuss them. If emotions are high and voices are raised, for example, you may agree to postpone the conversation to give the parties a chance to calm down. Consider setting parameters, such as focusing on the current situation without bringing up past experiences.
  2. Listen. Active listening is key to resolving conflicts. When another person is talking, it is important to focus on what he is saying and to the feelings beyond the words, rather than on your rebuttal or other distractions.
  3. Shift your perspective. Separate the facts of what actually happened from your interpretation or emotional response to what happened. See the situation in a neutral light. Without the filter of hurt feelings, anger or fear, situations often become much more manageable.
  4. Be an example. Instead of trying to change someone else, show her by your own example how to respond more positively to a difficult situation.
  5. Remain open-minded. We all like to be right, but often being right gets in the way of resolution. Be willing to consider another point of view. Even if you can’t accept it, you can still treat the other person with respect.
  6. Seek outside, professional help when needed. Some conflicts are too big to handle on your own. Working with a professional counselor or therapist can keep conflicts from escalating and resolve them more quickly.

About Mariea Monday-Richardson, LMFT, CP, CCTP

Choose to have an amazing life! Life has a way of sneaking up on us. We get busy. We get in a routine. We function on autopilot much of the time. Fear and anxiety, trauma, transition, loss and addiction can put us on a path that takes us further and further away from our true selves. Until one day, we wake up and realize we are not where we wanted to be. Are you ready to take the path back to YOU? If so, I am ready to guide you. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), I work with couples, families, individuals, and children of all ages to tackle a variety of problems. My services cover a wide range of individual psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse; relational issues including marriage, child-parent relationships, and family issues; child neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and attachment disorders; and recovery from trauma, including childhood trauma, physical and emotional abuse, and grief. I am pleased to offer Rapid Resolution Therapy® (RRT)*, a breakthrough treatment developed by Dr. Jon Connelly for overcoming trauma. RRT offers fast, long-lasting results. Unlike some traditional therapies, RRT does not require the client to re-experience the traumatic events, yet it allows him or her to resolve the pain of the trauma quickly and completely, often in just one session. RRT is used successfully to treat PTSD, sexual trauma, childhood abuse, anxiety, lack of sexual desire, sexual addiction, anger, fears and phobias, and nightmares and insomnia. I am a Certified Practitioner (CP) of Rapid Resolution Therapy and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP). Change is rarely easy and often scary, but it is possible! You don't have to stay stuck or settle for an unworkable life. If you are ready to take-on the effort of growth and healing, let's move forward together. *Rapid Resolution Therapy® and Rapid Trauma Resolution® were founded and developed by, and are both trademarks of, Dr. Jon Connelly and are used under license. For more information, visit www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com.
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2 Responses to 6 Tips for Positively Resolving Family Conflict

  1. Jessy Shaw says:

    My husband and I have been having a lot of problems with our oldest son and we have been thinking about seeing a family counselor here in Virginia. It can be a little scary and I’m not sure if he will go for it. Do you have any advice for me? I will keep your tips in mind when we get to that point, thank you for sharing. Hopefully everything can be resolved!

    • Hi Jessy,

      Going to therapy the first time can be scary. I’m assuming your son is suffering from PTSD. I would try to find someone who specializes in PTSD and suggest that your son see them first before doing family therapy. At least give him the opportunity to create relationship/trust with the therapist before the whole family becomes involved. If you cannot get him involved then you and your husband may want to go to therapy so you can learn other coping tips while going through this process with your son. I wish you and your son the best!

      Be well,

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