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6 keys to resolving family conflict

By Ian Shann 2 min read
Sunday, March 01, 2020

Let’s face it: There isn’t a family on the planet that hasn’t had to deal with conflict at some point or another (some families more often than others).

Having arguments and disagreements isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be perfectly healthy, but there are good ways to handle family disputes and not-so-helpful ways.

How you resolve your family conflict and disputes can depend on who is involved. Sometimes it’s the kids arguing over who gets to play with a particular toy, but sometimes, parents or carers can be the ones having the disagreement.

Here are some key things to remember when it comes to conflict resolution.

1. Co-operation is key

Getting family members to co-operate is always the key to resolving any family conflict.

Gather everyone together and encourage them to sort out the problem once and for all.

Hold a family meeting with those involved in a neutral space, either in the house or somewhere external. Encourage everyone to have a turn to speak and listen to the other person’s point of view before responding.

2. Keep emotions out of the conflict

Being emotional during conflict never improves the situation.

While it’s difficult to completely keep emotions out, do your best to avoid playing the blame game and becoming emotionally overwhelmed during your conversations.

Stick to the facts, be as logical as possible about the situation and do your best to keep your emotions at bay.

3. Communicate clearly

Communication is crucial to resolving any conflict, not just family conflict.

Always keep your lines of communication open or if it’s the kids arguing, make sure you constantly remind them to talk things out to try and resolve their disagreements.

As soon as you stop communicating, you lose the ability to resolve your problem.

Relevant: 4 common marriage problems after babies—and how to solve them

4. Be assertive, not aggressive

There is a huge difference between being assertive and being aggressive.

Be aware of the language you use when you communicate, as well as the tone and volume of your voice.

Where children are involved, remind them to use their inside voice so as not to shout and make sure the words they are using are appropriate for the situation. Often, children can throw words around that they don’t really understand so making sure they do understand what they are saying is also important.

5. Try to understand the other person’s point of view

While it’s not always easy, you need to listen to the other person's point of view if you want to find a resolution to the problem.

Once you’ve listened to what they have to say, process and try to understand why they have said what they have or why they feel differently to you.

Sometimes, asking questions can help you both communicate and understand each other’s positions and find a common solution that is agreeable to both sides.

6. Consider family dispute resolution

When adults are unable to resolve family conflict internally, an option that could help is family dispute resolution.

This is particularly helpful for families who are in the process of separating or getting a divorce as you can have an independent third party help you work through your issues to find a resolution that both parties can agree to, without the expense of lawyers and going through the courts.

Family disputes can be stressful but with some management, clear communication and understanding, they can be resolved amicably.

Ian Shann is the principal mediator and director of Move On, which offers affordable and effective divorce and family mediation in Perth for separating couples. Moveon.com.au.