Steps to Resolve Family Conflict

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Steps to Resolve Family Conflict

Most families have conflicts, therefore it’s helpful to learn about dealing with family conflict if we really want things to work, and then so take steps to resolve family conflict for a happy family and a better life.

Common family issues are something that are inevitable, and so are disagreements a normal part of any relationship. These happen when people have different beliefs, needs, or ways of working – that clash. But if remedial steps are not undertaken, such conflicts begin to harm relationships at home.

While relationships in our family give us joy and support, these relationships can also bring us stress, especially when we don’t know how to cope with family stress.

I have often noticed common family issues trouble few of my relatives and friends, and such conflicts have always caused bitterness in their relationships, if they did not make efforts to resolve them – of course if it was possible.

I however, consider myself lucky to have a beautiful family free from any kinds of conflicts, where my loving father who’s always been my pride and mother who meant the world to me – always tried to become better parents by teaching us family values that hold so strong.

Whenever there were petty differences in our family, or arguments and fights with my sister, we made sure they were resolved in no time and we were back together once again.

“My long experience has taught me to resolve conflict by raising the issues before I or others burn their boats.” ~ Alistair Grant

What is a Family Conflict?

The definition goes as follows :

It is any conflict that occurs among members of a family – such as, parent and children, husband and wife, among siblings, or the extended family like aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.

In short, family conflict is a strong disagreement or disharmony between members of a family.

Every family is made up of many unique individuals with their own personalities, each with a range of opinions and thoughts about every subject and situation. In such cases family conflicts are bound to occur, and it’s also the natural and healthy progression of any relationship.

According to many psychologists, a certain amount of family conflict is healthy, rather than no conflict at all, which indicates a problem in itself.

However, when the fighting intensifies or such common family issues start impacting your happiness and causing stress in the family, effecting your daily functioning or the personality of one or more family members, and when nothing seems to be able to resolve the family problems, then outside intervention or counseling becomes necessary.

Common Causes of Family Conflict

In order to understand the steps to resolve family conflict, you need to understand the stages a family goes through that can cause conflict. Some of the stages include:

  • Adjusting and learning to live as a new couple.
  • Birth of a baby.
  • Birth of other kids.
  • A child beginning school.
  • A child growing to become a young person.
  • A young person becoming an adult.

Each of these stages may create new and different stresses and conflicts. And changes in the situations can also take a toll on the family, which contributes to and causes family conflicts. This may include events like:

  • Separation or divorce.
  • Clash of egos.
  • Friction among family members.
  • No happiness in the family.
  • Lack of communication among family members.
  • Disagreements on bringing up children.
  • Lack of family time and togetherness.
  • A child or teenager asserting his or her independence.
  • Children showing disrespect towards family members.
  • Frequent disagreements among siblings.
  • Dispute on whom or how to handle chores.
  • Difference of opinion over career direction, land disputes, or transfer of property.
  • Difference in age, gender, and culture between family members.
  • Moving to a new location, like a new house or country.
  • Travelling long distance to work, or commuting interstate for work.
  • Change in financial conditions, division of income, or disagreements over money.
  • Needs or requirements of one or both partners that don’t get met.
  • Meddling or nosy relatives. They may visit or stay too long, call and talk too often on the phone, and try to tell you how to live your life.

There could be innumerable other common family issues and situations, though the one important thing to be kept in mind while dealing with such conflicts in general is that all problems should be approached with love and understanding, which greatly helps to resolve them all.

Remember that conflicts and behavioral issues occur due to hidden emotions or/and insecurities that family members may have, which need to be tackled before the problem can be diffused.

Need to Resolve Family Conflict

Family conflicts affect each one of us differently as our families are different, and so is the personality of each family member.

Generally, conflicts in your life affect you emotionally as well as physically, where unresolved issues overtake your life and affect everyone around you.

For some families conflict may start with a specific event like a death or divorce, while for others it may be caused by many little things that keep piling up and are not resolved.

Sometimes conflicts in a family may result in the ending of a relationship because one or both partners become too irritated with their failure to be heard, and to settle their differences once and for all.

If partners don’t know how to resolve problems between them, such conflicts can last in a relationship for decades, sitting quietly below the surface waiting to explode. Eventually, these conflicts erode away the well-being and trust that people have for one another.

“You will only be remembered for two things: the problems you solve or the ones you create.” ~ Dr. Mike Murdock

If we don’t know how to resolve family conflict, it can adversely affect our health and cause us stress by impacting our sleep and appetite.

You may experience anger, irritation, annoyance, anxiety, nervousness, sadness, depression, feeling of powerlessness, and a fear about dealing with uncertainty or the future. There may also be physical complaints like headaches or digestive problems.

If your kids are skipping school or scoring poor grades, abusing alcohol or using drugs, and not behaving normally, these are a sure sign that something is wrong.

Negotiate to Resolve Family Conflict

When you are dealing with family conflict, you need to be willing to negotiate and try to patch up with each another. This however isn’t the case always, as normally your first angry impulse is to prove your point and win the argument anyhow.

“The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.” ~ Garth Brooks

If both parties and different family members have solid egos and stubbornly stick to their viewpoints, it is tough to resolve family conflict. But it helps if everyone as a family decides to listen to one other and negotiate instead.

A few suggestions to negotiate include:

  • Try to separate the problem from the person, and learn to identify and accept the problem.
  • If you are angry, try to cool off first to talk in a clear, calm, honest, and reasonable manner.
  • Remind yourself that you want to resolve family conflict, not try to win the argument.
  • Chalk out if the issue is worth fighting over, and then be willing to compromise.
  • Learn to pay attention and listen by respecting and acknowledging the other person’s view point. Don’t interrupt while the other person is speaking.
  • Keep in mind that the other person may not always agree to all that you say.
  • Stick to the solution that’s decided on, and make sure it’s clear to everyone.

Dealing with family conflict in a constructive and positive manner tackles the issue at hand and eases communication, which makes it simpler to deal with any such events that may happen in the future.

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one reason that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” ~ William James

Steps to Dealing with Family Conflict

Although there is no magic wand or perfect formula to sort out all the mentioned problems, a few steps and guidelines are suggested to help tackle such events.

  • Assess if the conflict is worth addressing

If you want to resolve common family issues, you need to first decide if the conflict in hand is worth addressing or not.  You must deal with recurring or major issues to reduce the negative impact of conflict and argument.

If you feel the family conflict is over a trivial issue or some minor difference, then the best way to resolve it may be is to just leave it alone, and let everyone calm down after sometime.

  • Include all family members

While dealing with family conflict, it is essential for all members to be involved in trying to find ways to resolve your conflict by working together.

Family members can help out by gathering information from libraries, bookstores, Internet, or by reading articles on various common family issues – especially on topics like raising kids, marriage, or dealing with and understanding teenagers.

Sometimes there are frequent or repeated issues that are the cause of family conflict, for which you have to make a plan to resolve it together by working on one issue at a time.

“We belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa

You should not forget to include all family members who will be affected by it; as such issues can be reviewed often and used as a model while trying to resolve family conflict that may occur in the future.

  • Improve yourself to react positively

You need to get hold of yourself by improving your ability to react positively to circumstances, and remember to be realistic in your expectations.

Take deep breaths or walk away to calm yourself, which also gives you time to think and retrospect before reacting.

  • Make sure all communication channels are open

Learn the art of communicating effectively like allowing each person to voice his or her thoughts without interrupting, and chalk out how you would talk about conflicting issues.

While working towards resolving the common family issues, watch your words and language, and use a soft, gentle, and friendlier tone that reduces the hostility of what you want to convey. Learn to improve the relationship with kindness.

“Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn’t listening.” ~ Emma Thompson

Don’t use you-statements, instead use I-statements, as they sound less accusing and you are able to take the responsibility for the statement on yourself.

Also, avoid calling names as they are inflammatory and only add more fuel to the fire by making the other person angry, thereby intensifying the conflict.

Communicate with your children without turning conflicts into lectures and punishments, and never forget that poor communication leads to relationship problems.

Ask them their feelings, as being parents you may be surprised to discover how unloved or/and unfairly treated your kids may feel.

Without coming to the rescue of your kids, encourage them to find solutions to their conflicts without taking any sides.

Avoid choosing a side to agree with when dealing with family conflict, as this leads to more fighting and conflicts. Instead, listen calmly, be understanding, be indifferent, and let the involved people work out the problem on their own.

If you do have a solution to resolve family conflict that your family members are facing, then offer it by remaining neutral. Remember, if you don’t remain neutral and choose sides, you become a part of the family conflict too.

  • Resolve through mediation and counseling

Mediation helps a great deal while dealing with family conflict, though you can even resolve issues without bringing in a neutral third party.

Such resolutions can be done by mediation from a person who is a qualified professional like a family or marriage therapist, provided the other member is ready to discuss the issue and wants to find a resolution.

When nothing seems to work and issues start affecting your mental and physical health, counseling may be the answer to help you with methods or ways to deal with family conflict.

  • Learn to forgive, forget, and let go

If you are not able to find answers to resolve the common family issues and they are having a negative affect on your health, then it’s better to try to forgive and forget the other person, and move on in life.

Forgiving means that you let go your feelings of anger and resentment towards the person involved, and this will benefit you in the long run.

To let go may refer to either letting go of the relationship that you can no longer carry on with, or it may refer to letting go of the need for you to be heard and understood.

However, as a last-choice resort, if you think that things are beyond repairs and if the person was abusive and there is no reason to expect anything from him/her in the future, it’s best to cut off total contact altogether by breaking up and moving on in life.

“Instead of suppressing conflicts, specific channels could be created to make this conflict explicit, and specific methods could be set up by which the conflict is resolved.” ~ Albert Low.

If there are any family conflicts that I have within my family, which happens rarely where my kids or husband are concerned, I prefer choosing to resolve them by forgiving, forgetting, and letting go.

I feel life is too short to cry over petty issues, when instead we should all be living it to the fullest by being loving and understanding towards each another.

Do you also wonder how to resolve family conflict? What measures would you suggest while dealing with family conflict? Share your experiences about what you did or steps you took to resolve common family issues in the comments below.


Photo Credit: Photostock

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92 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Nicolas Vincent Rao

    2014-10-21 at 7:50 pm

    Excellent family material.
    Not easy to put into practice but very real.
    The many facets of Harleena Singh are truly fascinating.
    Thanks Harleena.

  2. Temilola Globalwalyy

    2013-05-10 at 7:13 pm

    Dear Harleena

    Family Conflicts are hard to deal with, most especially if you really don’t know how to, maybe you are new to the type of conflicts..
    thanks for sharing this wonderful information

    Kind Regards

  3. KarenYvonne

    2012-11-26 at 6:10 pm

    This is a great post!

    The step I tend to forget is the first one you mention “assess if the conflict is worth addressing”. Sometimes I tend to argue a point that need not be argued. thanks for your post

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-02-17 at 9:12 pm

      Welcome to the blog Karen!

      My apologies for the late reply – I guess I slipped this comment of yours, though am glad I’m here now. 🙂

      Yes indeed, sometimes there are things we can overlook or that aren’t worth raising a conflict. I guess passing those along works best to avoid family conflicts.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  4. John Ernest

    2012-07-08 at 9:59 am

    Another unfortunate cause of family conflicts is favoritism. I can’t stand parents who favor one child over the other. Being parents, it is important that you show equal love to all your kids no matter who they are, no matter who they have become, and no matter they are fond of doing because that is your duty as a parent.

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-07-08 at 11:47 am

      Glad you could relate to the post John!

      Yes indeed, favoritism does exist in many households and I’ve also wondered as to why parents really have to favor one child over the other. I guess they need to understand that it’s the feelings of their own child they are hurting in turn before doing anything of the kind.

      Children should always be treated as equal within a family and parents need to take steps to ensure that they don’t favor one over the other, because this can lead to family conflicts even later in their lives.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  5. ntathu allen

    2012-05-12 at 3:10 am

    Harleena. This post is providing a safe space for everyone to open up and share our hurt and pain. That is a great tribute to you as a writer and container of peace. I find it inspiring and very heart warming to read everyone’s story of letting go and moving on. Thank you.

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-05-12 at 11:44 am

      Glad you could resonate with the post Ntathu!

      Thanks so much for those warm and kind words, and I hope posts like these are able to help people resolve their issues and overcome the hurt and pain in some ways. Yes indeed, when we read about other people’s story about how they have learnt to let go and move on in life, it does inspire us.

      I think when we make that sincere effort to resolve family conflicts and do our best to overcome the petty problems, things do start taking shape and get better – ins’t it?

      Thanks for stopping by. It’s always a pleasure to have you over. 🙂

  6. Grady Pruitt

    2012-05-11 at 11:48 pm

    Sometimes, conflict within a family can be hard to resolve. Especially with a family member that you don’t talk with often or see very much.

    A few years ago, my father pulled a disappearing act for a few months. When he resurfaced, we were still left confused as to what really happened. But worst of all was that it happened just before a point where we had been expecting his help. Suddenly, he wasn’t available to help.

    For a long time, I harbored feelings of resentment, not sure what I wanted to do. I kept playing in my head what I wanted to say to him, and it was quite angry. I was hurt.

    When I next saw him, I was shocked by a change in looks. I almost didn’t even recognize him until he started speaking. Between that, and the fact that we were together because of a funeral, I felt it wasn’t the right time to tell him what I really wanted to, so I held it in some more.

    Later, I got to thinking about it, and slowly started to realize that I could let this anger at him cause problems in my life, or I could learn to let it go. It’s been hard, and I still feel it is difficult to trust him, but at least I no longer feel the anger over the hurt caused. Letting go of that anger is probably the best thing I have done, even if I still haven’t gotten the chance to fully resolve the issues.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-05-12 at 2:52 pm

      Welcome to the blog Grady!

      Glad you could relate to the post, and yes, sometimes it does get tough to resolve issues, more so if you haven’t seen that family member for a while- though I guess there must be reasons for it.

      I can understand how you must have felt when your dad disappeared for a while, especially when you needed him most. And that hurt and anger must have taken a long time to really go away – if it really went away.

      I wonder though if you did manage to really talk out things with your dad or ask as to why he did what he did? Yes, you did the right thing by not keeping that anger and resentment within you, which would only have harmed you – without your dad knowing that he was the reason for it. I think when you learn to let go of such feelings, in a way you also learn to forgive the person for doing the things he did and accept them for who and what they are. Perhaps there was a reason for his such behavior that you may not be knowing about, and would know only once you talk things over with him.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  7. Ann alka WorkingBoomer

    2012-04-19 at 4:58 pm

    There can never be enough written on this subject. You did an excellent job. Family relationships are so important. Communication can be difficult. Love must be there. Thank you for sharing all your information, encouragement and thoughts.

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-04-19 at 5:37 pm

      Welcome to the blog Ann!

      You are quite right in saying that this topic can have a lot written about it, because it is so wide and important as well. There needs to be deep understanding, love, and care within the family for making things work and resolving any kind of family conflict.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  8. Syeda Mehwish

    2012-04-16 at 2:55 am

    Hi Harleena,

    Negotiation is the best way to resolve family conflicts and anyone could take the step to resolve this issue but it is good that the one who is the elder of family should take this step to resolve any issues or conflicts. Forgiveness is a big thing and it needs a big heart to forgive anyone, and it is the best lesson that parents need to teach their children from childhood and this lesson plays a vital role in resolving any big or small issue.

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-04-16 at 9:10 am

      Glad you could relate to the post Syeda!

      Yes indeed, negotiation is one of the best ways to resolve family conflicts. I feel such negotiations or even communication should be done between the concerned family members first, and if nothing works then elders could be brought in to resolve family conflicts. But yes, sometimes even if that doesn’t work, you need to get third parties to intervene to resolve such conflicts.

      Not everyone has a forgiving heart, though if you do forgive those who hurt or cause you pain, it helps you in the long run. You need a big heart and a positive mindset to forgive people, and yes, such lessons need to instilled in kids from the time they are young though they don’t guarantee that they won’t have conflicts when they grow up!

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  9. Azam

    2012-04-13 at 4:16 pm

    Hello Harleena,

    You have a smart grip on the topic of family conflicts and their solution. I think after the solution of a conflict, love in the family members touches the peak, if caring attitude is adopted from all concerned members.

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-04-13 at 8:14 pm

      Glad you feel so Azam!

      Yes indeed, once all kinds of family conflicts are resolved there can be nothing else left other than love, care, and deep understanding.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  10. Brent Pittman

    2012-04-11 at 11:35 pm

    Great post on family and marriage!

    I talk to a lot of couples about financial disagreement and end up being the neutral third party. Learning how to deal properly with your emotion when conflict arises is key. Have you heard of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)- for when conflict often arises?

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-04-12 at 12:14 pm

      Welcome to the blog Brent!

      Glad you liked the post and nice to know more about you. I feel being a neutral third party is a good option where conflicts get out of hand and nothing seems to be working.

      You are quite right about saying that when conflicts occur, what matters most is how you handle your emotions and know how to resolve the issues. Hadn’t heard of HALT earlier, thanks for letting me know!

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  11. Dee Ann Rice

    2012-04-11 at 9:33 pm


    I hate conflict. I have had more than my share in the past in my family. It is a really bad thing and sometimes the only way out is to discontinue having anything to do with the person causing all of the conflict. This is not the ideal solution and I would only do it when everything else fails.

    I like your solutions. They are good.

    I think the most important thing is to communicate. Where there is no communication all hope of fixing the problem is lost.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Dee Ann Rice

    • Harleena Singh

      2012-04-12 at 11:46 am

      Glad you could relate to the post Dee Ann!

      I think none of us really likes conflicts, whether it’s in the family or with anyone outside. But yes, sometimes they do occur due to various reasons, whether we like it or not. What matters most during those times is to keep your balance and know how to resolve those conflicts.

      Breaking all ties with the person causing the conflict is an option, but just as you mentioned, it should be last option ideally after you have tried out everything possible to make things work.

      Yes indeed, communication is the key factor and in-fact the only thing that can really make things work. I guess if you can discuss out the problems and try to resolve them, it would put an end to all kinds of conflicts.

      Thanks for stopping by. It’s always a pleasure to have you over. 🙂

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Steps to Resolve Family Conflict

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