While family disagreements are normal from time to time, it can be difficult on all family members when there is ongoing conflict among one or two individuals. It can lead to feelings of hurt, stress and serious anxiety if problems are not addressed in a peaceful way.
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This expert advice from relationship counsellors can help you deal with a painful family rift.
According to the government’s Family Relationships Online some of the most common triggers to family conflict include separation or divorce, a house move, travelling long distances or commuting interstate for work and financial insecurity. However, even seemingly joyous family events such as birthdays, holidays, weddings and the birth of children can create unforeseen stress or conflict.
According to experts, you don’t have to accept family conflict as the norm. Effective communication from both parties and coping strategies can help turn your family gatherings into a more positive situation for all.
Communication is key
“Communication is always the best method to remedy a situation. This means providing a safe environment for both people to converse and exchange feelings and thoughts,” says counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip.
“It can be resolved even if both people may not completely agree. However, if they can agree to have different perspectives and beliefs this is a big step to acceptance and unity,” she adds.
Dr Phillip says trying to walk in the other person’s shoes can often be the most challenging task during a family conflict situation.
“We need to always remember that each person has a firm belief they are correct therefore it is not a matter of one admitting fault but both accepting their own differences and beliefs.”
A relationship counsellor can help provide techniques for dealing with broken family relationships
Focus on the solution
Many individuals are unable to see through the problem, says Dr Phillip, when they should be focusing on the solution instead.
“Before discussing the matter, have two solutions worked out and allow the other person to select the best one for them and the situation. As long as you are comfortable with either solution and they choose and own one of them, you are both on the same page and a resolution is easier and more permanent.”
Dealing with family events and parties
Family and relationship expert Marina Bakker says forcing people who do not want to be in the same room together, for example during family functions, can cause a great deal of hostility and animosity, which is often felt by everyone else in the same space. She says the key is to take control of only what is within our control.
“We cannot change other people but we can change how we view the situation and respect people’s decisions if they decide not to attend family functions and so on,” she says.
“If family members decide to attend the same function and they are prone to outburst or fights you can lay down a few boundaries prior to the event about what behaviours will or will not be accepted.”
Don’t assume all of the responsibility
“Family rifts and ruptures do happen and it is important not to take on other people’s responsibilities for repairing their relationship rifts,” says Bakker.
Instead, focus on strengthening family relationships by practising positive behaviours such as acceptance and understanding.
“When we accept things as they are it provides us with the opportunity to focus on what we can influence in a way that is not controlling or meddling,” she advises.
Useful links and resources
- Family Relationships Online
- Family Relationship Advice Line (1800 050 321)
- Family Counselling Factsheet
What advice do you have for dealing with family tensions? Share in the comments below.