Family conflict

Family conflict

Tuesday, 07 September 2021

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 clash between people who have differences of opinion, interests or attitudes.

Why does conflict happen?

It often arises within families, or close relationships, when 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 start to make up our own mind about things as we mature. And our opinions might differ from others’ at home.

Two rooks facing off on a chess board

Difficult to deal with

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 there. If you have brothers or sisters, it’s quite likely you have experienced 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.

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. There is no resolution in situations like this.

Below 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”.

Tension at home

Living with tension at home can make you feel anything from guilt to anger, or anxiety to sadness.

Hands pulling on either end of a rope

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 we can help resolve conflicts at home, but usually it’s only the people involved who 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 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 their arguments are having on you? If you don’t feel comfortable telling them, is there a trusted person in your life 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 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, speak to a teacher, coach, or trusted adult. You can also speak to Childline on 1800 66 66 66.

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