Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
We romanticize and glamorize families and we place great expectations and demands on them. While we often expect families to be above the chaos that exists in the rest of society, that belief places unrealistic expectations upon them. In the real world, families are not always a haven, since they, too, can be filled with conflict.
Still at the very least, families are much more than groups of people who share the same genes or the same address. We look to our family as source of love and support. This does not mean that everyone gets all he or she wants or that it comes to us without struggle. Conflicts, then, are a part of family life and is the rule rather than the exception.
Families are under constant stress, being pushed and pulled from many directions. Conflicts can come from many sources both internal and external. Parental conflict is commonplace. Sibling rivalry and competition and present. Parent-child conflict takes the cake. Death, illness, physical separation, financial strains, divorce are some of the events to which families have to adjust. Some families experience conflict as a result of different views about the world. Although stress and disagreements are common, they can be destructive to families, especially when conflict gets out of hand.
Parental conflict is common in many families and often leads to friction involving the entire family. Most parental problems revolve around financial matters, infidelity, different views regarding child rearing and family decision making. Homes with high levels of parental conflict often have a tense and hostile environment is detrimental effects children. Children learn what they live.
Looking back at recorded history, it appears be common for brothers and sisters to fight. Sibling rivalry makes good literature but it's not pleasant for anyone in the house. And a family can only tolerate a certain amount of it.
Parent-children conflicts are commonplace too. As parents assert their authority, and children try to assert their autonomy appropriately, strife is inevitable. A parent-child power struggle can create conflict and stress for the entire family. Power struggles frequently appear when children reach certain developmental stages. Ask any parent who has parented a two year old or a teenager.
Change is a part of life. Issues such as illness, disability, addiction, job loss, school problems, and marital issues bring on additional levels of stress. Consequently, stability shouldn't be the only measure of a family's success. Many families function quite well, despite frequent disruptions. In fact, one important measure of a family's success is its ability to adjust to change. Daily life is full of stresses that constantly demand accommodation.
Another type of family conflict is lack of proper communication. Many families communicate superficially and don't have time to share meaningful conversations. The conflict in this arrangement is that there are no opportunities to discuss family values, and other important issues.
Yet despite these differences, parents are responsible for imparting to each child a sense of being loved and accepted, for helping each child to succeed at various developmental tasks, and for socializing each child into respecting the rules and accepting the responsibilities society imposes. These are indeed awesome tasks. Disagreements will happen as part of being in a family and living together.
In all the years I worked to help family members get-along better, I found things that stand out as true detriments to resolving these normal conflicts. I suggest the following remedies.
What’s A person To Do?
1. Accept that conflict is normal. This the first step in dealing with it. Look for and use appropriate ways to deal with problems; the kind that promote growth and acceptance of each family member.
2. Remember that the person in the conflict is someone you love and you want to preserve the integrity of the relationship. Winning the battle is not as important as the relationship.
3. Refrain from unhealthy communication such as in yelling, cursing, blaming and insulting one another.
4. Listen to each other and work to resolve conflicts. Do your best to see things from the other’s point of view. Psychologists call is empathizing.
5. Focus on the issue at hand, not on past transgressions or the person’s character.
6. When you speak, use a conversational tone. Loud voices increases emotionality which get in the way of resolving the conflict.
7. Take leave (temporarily) when your emotions get the best of you. Cool down and return when you are more level headed.
8. Life happens in ways you can’t predict. Welcome change and learn flexibility.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives in Tunica and writes with the Tunica Chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.