Dealing with family conflict | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw

Family conflict

Family conflict

Tuesday, 07 July 2020

Conflict within families can be a big source of distress for young people who come to Jigsaw.

Often times, family conflict can bring up feelings of anxiety, anger, confusion or fear. Conflict is when there is a struggle or a clash between people who have differences of opinion, interests or attitudes.

a lineup of family rubber boots, tallest to shortest

Why does conflict happen?

It often arises within our families, or close relationships, because we have different points of view and want to be heard. As we grow older and want to increase our independence, conflict can become more frequent. We tend to start making up our own mind about things as we get older and our opinions might differ from others’ at home.

Unfortunately, family conflicts can be difficult to deal with because we tend to care about what our family members think.

When it arises

Family conflict can often arise when changes happen. Parental separation or a new baby in the home can can cause shifts at home. If you have brothers or sisters, it’s quite likely that you have experienced a conflict of some sort with them.
Unfortunately, family conflicts can be difficult to deal with because we tend to care about what family members think. If a conflict happens when everyone is under the same roof, it can feel very intense. It can affect our sense of wellbeing.

A young man pointing a finger in anger at a young woman who looks annoyed
Living with tension at home can make you feel anything from guilt to anger, or anxiety to sadness.

Types of conflict

Most conflicts are a normal part of life, and somewhat inevitable. Sometimes the conflict is between us and another, and other times we’re not directly involved. But, because it’s family conflict, it can still affect us.

Direct conflict

Chances are we have all experienced a disagreement with family members that made us feel angry or upset. We can feel like we have the same argument repeatedly because we don’t feel listened to. Then there is no resolution. Here are some ideas to deal with verbal conflict when it arises in your family.

  • Try to be assertive- Rather than aggressive in the way you communicate. Be specific and clear about what you want. For example: “I have a different opinion from you, but I think/feel/want…”
  • Listen and be listened to- Listening to a family member who disagrees with you can be easier said than done. However, it’s the key to resolving a conflict. Try and understand their point of view by asking questions and listening to what they have to say.
  • Take a breather- Active listening is a skill and requires patience. This is not always easy, particularly when you are angry or upset. Sometimes it’s best to delay a conversation, take a moment, and start again when you are more ready. Try “I can’t speak about this right now, let’s chat later”.

Indirect conflict

Sometimes we don’t have the power to resolve a conflict in our homes. Hearing and seeing conflict between family members can be just as distressing as being involved in it ourselves. It’s natural to assume that we can help resolve conflicts at home, but usually,it’s only the people involved that can. Here are some ideas to make living with conflict at home a little easier:

  • Understand your reaction. Living with tension at home can make you feel anything from guilt to anger or anxiety to sadness. It’s understandable to feel this. but important to know that it’s not your fault. Make sure you express these emotions as you feel them.
  • Speak to someone. Do your family members know the effect that their arguments are having on you? If you don’t feel comfortable telling them, can you identify a trusted person in your life that you could speak to?
  • Set boundaries. It may be that a family member wants to talk to you about their side of the story. This can be difficult as you might not want to appear to take sides. It’s OK to tell others that maybe someone else is better suited to give them support.
  • Get support. It’s very difficult to deal with conflict on your own. Chat to a friend or someone that you trust about it. Sometimes speaking to a stranger can be easier than someone you know.

Aggressive conflict

Emotions are heightened during conflict, and anger can quickly turn to aggression. If you are struggling to cope with feelings of anger, you can read about dealing with anger here.

When conflict at home becomes violent, it’s important to get help. No one deserves to live with violence in the home. If you’re concerned about your own safety, or that of others, then speak to a teacher, coach, or an adult that you trust. You can also speak to Childline on 1800 66 66 66.

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