Happy holidays with happy families – managing conflict on the go.

We look forward to holidays at the end of the year as a time to relax and recover from the stresses and strains of the past year. This anticipation can, however, be mixed with a sense of dread as we anticipate the increased time we will be spending with our families, whether they are immediate or extended family. This is usually because holidays can also be tinged with tension and clouded by conflict.

Here are some points to ponder to keep you sane:

  1. Remember conflict in any group of people is very normal and your family is not abnormal for experiencing some. The images of perfect families presented to us on Facebook can’t possibly be the only valid representation.
  2. This is because whether we are a happy family or not any two people have common and conflicting interests and needs. For example: we love each other dearly (common interest), and I want to rest this afternoon having just driven to the coast and the kids want to swim having been cooped up in the car for 5 hours (conflicting interests).
  3. It can be helpful to discuss your family and individual goals for the holiday. As a family, you might agree to reconnect on the holiday through certain joint activities and occasions such as cooking, playing games or going for walks together. As individuals, you might alert others to your need for rest and to what this means to you, for example reading or solitary exercise activities. In this way everybody’s expectations are clear and there is less potential for disappointment.
  4. To do this you will need to have a conversation with your family. In this conversation remember to let everybody speak before commenting on or rejecting ideas. You might be surprised at how many of your needs can be satisfied if you make it possible for the needs of those around you to be heard, if not satisfied. For example: your son’s need to sleep in gives you time to start the day slowly; your need to have a family meal once a day gives him an opportunity to practice his cooking skills.
  5. When tensions flare up listen before responding, choose your words carefully and adopt a joint problem-solving approach. This means describing the problem in terms which reflect both parties’ concerns, taking time to understand everybody’s point of view and then working together to arrive at mutually satisfying solutions.
  6. Adopting an attitude of ‘my way or the highway’ only makes things worse, and of course you still have to live together in 2019!

Happy holidays everybody!

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