Get Peace for Family Conflict Through Family Therapy
All families experience disagreements at some point. As unique individuals, you and your family members are not going to see eye-to-eye 100% of the time.
The key is to learn how to manage situations of conflict so that you can strengthen your relationships and return to living peacefully with one another.
There are lots of things you can do to deal with family conflict and this article will teach you a range of different strategies to help you restore harmony in your family.
However, if you experience ongoing disagreements with a parent, child, sibling or relative, often the most effective solution is to seek the help of a professional. Family therapy is designed to help you manage and overcome conflict within your family by teaching you new ways of understanding and communicating with each other.
Causes of family conflict
Family conflict most commonly occurs as a result of differences in beliefs or values, which can create resentment, concern and division in relationships.
For example, parents and their children may have very different ideas about curfews based on their individual values and beliefs.
Parents value their children’s safety and may believe that staying out late puts their child’s safety at risk. Teenagers, meanwhile, value freedom, independence and autonomy and may believe that an enforced curfew means their parents don’t trust them.
These differences in beliefs and values may result in conflict. In an argument, the parents are driven by fear (concern for their child’s safety), while the child is driven by hurt (not feeling trusted).
Common triggers of family conflict include:
- Money struggles (including arguments on who gets money, as well as stress about there being too little money)
- Separation or divorce
- High expectations (especially related to a child’s academic or athletic performance)
- Sibling rivalry
- Lack of attention (including spouses who feel ignored, or children who feel as though they receive less attention than their siblings)
- Different parenting styles
- Substance abuse disorders
- Health conditions (such as chronic illness)
- Moving home
- Different boundaries with in-laws
- Poor communication (including a lack of appreciation, respect or gratitude)
How to manage family conflict
Experiencing conflict with family members can be very upsetting since our families are often the people we are closest to and care about the most. Prolonged disagreements can be stressful and damaging to our relationships.
Here are 7 ways to help you overcome family conflict at home:
1) Understand each family member’s beliefs and values
What are the other person’s values and beliefs? In what ways might these differ from yours?
Try talking openly about your values and beliefs with one another. Greater understanding leads to improved relationships.
When you understand where each other is coming from and why you both feel the way you do, it is easier to stay calm and have empathy for one another. From this place of calm, you are more likely to find a solution that you both appreciate and feel is fair.
2) Learn to manage your emotions in a healthy way
Sometimes our emotions can cloud our understanding and distort our perception of a situation.
Staying calm and managing your emotions will help you listen clearly so that you truly understand the other person’s perspective and don’t misinterpret what they say. In order to stay calm, you may sometimes need to take a moment to walk away and calm down before you continue with the conversation.
If managing your anger is something you struggle with, you might benefit from getting the help of a therapist. Working with a psychologist will help you learn how to identify and manage your emotions during family conflicts. They can teach you tools and strategies to help you stay calm and process your emotions in a healthy way.
Learning to manage your emotions will help prevent family conflict from escalating and make communicating with one another easier. Some emotional regulation strategies you can try yourself at home include journaling, breathing exercises and listening to music. Test out what works for you and remember to use one or more of these tools when you need them during moments of family conflict.
If you would like additional help with anger management, you can reach out to us to book an appointment with one of our private psychologists here.
3) Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues
A large proportion of our communication with one another tends to be non-verbal (e.g. facial expressions, posture, gestures, eye contact and tone or loudness of voice). Often, we miss what a person is really saying because we are focused on their words and forget to consider the non-verbal messages they are giving us.
4) Think like a team
Rather than imagining you are on opposing “sides” of the problem, imagine you are on the same team, working together to come to a solution you both feel comfortable with. This encourages you to collaborate and come up with ideas together. It stops you from feeling victimised or isolated and will likely help you find common ground much faster.
Use active listening skills to help you do this. Active listening includes asking questions to get more clarification, summarising the situation and asking questions to clarify how the other person is feeling.
Working with a psychologist in family therapy can be a great way to learn active listening skills together. If you attend family therapy at the Blue Tree Clinic, one of our friendly, experienced psychologists will guide you through your initial conversations and demonstrate how active listening can work.
5) Use the perspective triangle strategy
This simple approach can help you gain new insights into a situation where there is conflict. There are 3 steps:
- Notice how you are feeling and what thoughts you are thinking.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider what they might be thinking and feeling in this situation.
- Imagine you are an external observer – what do you see? What does your behaviour look like to an outsider? Does what you are saying clearly communicate your perspective?
6) Learn to apologise easily
We all play a part in every conversation and conflict we have. Even if you initially feel like you have done nothing wrong, think about what you could have done or said to be more loving towards the other person.
How could you have treated them in more of the way you yourself would like to be treated? How could you have phrased something differently to be more neutral and less critical?
Owning up to any mistakes or miscommunications by apologising for them shows the other person that you are willing to take responsibility for your words and actions, which in turn makes them feel more respected and understood.
You can use thoughtful apologies to help ease the tension and emotion you are both feeling. Apologising tends to make everyone feel calmer and, when you feel calmer, you are more likely to see a solution that works for both of you.
7) Be willing to forgive
Just as it is important to be open to apologising and owning up to your part in the conflict, it is equally as important to be willing to accept the apologies of others.
Holding a grudge only causes you to suffer more. If you truly want to feel peace, the best way is to be open to forgiveness.
Forgive yourself for any part you have played in the conflict and forgive the other person for theirs.
It can be tempting not to forgive someone, especially when they have hurt you. Holding off on forgiveness gives you a sense of power as you can use it as a reminder of your family member’s wrongdoings.
However, the only way to create harmony in your family dynamic is to truly forgive. Forgiveness can be hard, and it may take you a few days to really get there, but it is always possible. You can practice forgiveness by writing in your journal or imagining forgiving the other person before you do in real life.
Bear in mind that the more you can see the situation from the other person’s perspective, the easier it will be to forgive them. So, try asking yourself questions like, “Why might they have behaved that way?” and “How might they have been feeling at that moment?”
When to get help for family conflict
Sometimes, no matter how hard they try to resolve their problems, some families need the help of a professional.
Many of the private therapists at the Blue Tree Clinic specialise in family therapy. They have extensive experience helping families overcome conflict and find harmony together once more.
The occasional argument is completely normal in all families. We are all different and none of us will agree on everything all the time.
However, if you are experiencing consistent, recurring issues of conflict with one or more of your family members, it may be time to consider attending family therapy.
Here are the top things to consider when deciding whether you need family therapy:
- The scale of the problem – If the problem is very distressing to you, making you feel isolated or alone, or breaking your values, it may require family therapy to be overcome.
- How long the conflict has been going on – If the problem has lasted less than a week, you may be able to resolve it yourself through open communication. If, however, the conflict has been going on for two weeks or more, it may be time to go to a therapist for support.
- How much the conflict is impacting other areas of your life – If the problem has been causing you great distress throughout your day, and even impacting your experience at work, school, or in your friendships, family therapy is definitely worth considering.
What is family therapy?
Family therapy, also known as family counselling, is a type of talk therapy designed to help family members create a more positive, harmonious relationship with one another.
Multiple family members attend family therapy sessions together and work with a therapist to overcome their conflicts and build empathy and understanding.
If you choose to attend family therapy, your therapist will teach you and your family members tools to help you set clear boundaries, and improve your communication skills and problem-solving abilities.
As a result, you’ll find conflict occurs much less often and when it does, you’ll have the strategies you need to help you overcome it in a healthy and constructive way.
Even when problems and misunderstandings arise, you’ll know how to work through them while still feeling supported by one another.
5 benefits of family therapy
1) Non-judgmental environment – Therapists are neutral observers, which means they don’t take sides or tell you who is right or wrong.
2) Opportunity to learn new strategies and tools – Family therapy can teach you new ways of dealing with family conflict that you haven’t tried before. Every family and individual are different, which means the advice you get from friends may not work for your situation.
Experienced therapists have an extensive knowledge base, which means they will likely be able to help you find a tool that works for your specific family’s needs.
Family therapy will teach you tools like how to develop healthy boundaries, build emotional resilience, improve communication, and develop effective problem-solving skills.
3) A means to identify sources of recurring conflict – Working with a therapist gives you the opportunity to appreciate patterns that you may not have noticed before. A family therapist can help you uncover the root of your family struggles, which will help you prevent future conflicts by addressing their source.
4) Opportunity to feel supported, seen and understood – When you feel distanced or isolated from certain family members, talking with a therapist can help you feel emotionally supported and understood. Your therapist can also help your family build greater empathy for one another so that you ultimately end up feeling emotionally supported by one another.
5) Safe space to express difficult emotions – Your therapist will act as a mediator to guide you through the uncomfortable process of expressing painful emotions that you may have been holding in. It can be scary to tell your family members how you truly feel, but your therapist will make sure you feel comfortable, safe and supported while doing so.
Never give up on restoring peace and harmony to your family relationships. Always know that any family conflict, no matter how difficult or painful, can always be resolved.
Depending on your specific situation, you may feel like you need some professional help in order for your family to overcome its challenges. The psychologists at our private London clinic are here to help support you and your family through any conflicts you are struggling with.
To learn more about family therapy at the Blue Tree Clinic, check out this page. If you have any further questions or would like to book an appointment, you can easily get in touch with us using our contact form here.