The best way to help your child manage family conflicts is shape behavior by example.
Parents or caregivers that are in a healthy relationship with each other can teach these skills to their children by example. That does not mean that there are no disagreements. It means that conflict is managed effectively within the family.
Children need to see the adults in the household use negotiating, debating, and coping skills. Healthy homes, especially when children are in the developmental years (0 – 5) support brain and skill development of the child. Children will learn self-soothing, problem solving, communication, and cognitive and interpersonal skills to help them be successful in school and life in general when they learn these skills at home first. Teach your children about how to manage conflict at school by giving them good examples at home.
When family conflict erupts, as it does for everyone, demonstrate:
- Everyone disagrees sometimes and that is okay
- People argue with words and do not physically fight with hands, feet, or fists or by breaking things.
- The volume of voices when arguing should not reach frightening levels.
- Those arguing are respectful of each other and do not call each other names.
- Persons in disagreements make comments starting with “I,” not “you.” “I feel hurt by what you said.” NOT “You are so mean to me”
- Those arguing describe how they feel or what they want from the other person.
- People in arguments do not blame the other person for the problem because the other person will stop listening to what you have to say. It takes 2 to solve a problem.
- Arguments should be about today’s problem, not old hurts and disappointments
- When everyone that is arguing has time to “cool down,” it is time to come back together and solve the problem that started the argument
- Listening to and repeating back that you heard the person’s feelings is important. “I heard you say that you felt hurt by what I said.”
- Disagreements mean that you sometimes have to compromise
- No one has to “Win” the argument; Solve the problem
- You can agree to disagree
- Making up is important, also
- Set aside some time every evening for family discussions of
– things that are going well
– how your day went
– exciting and disappointing news
In addition to demonstrating fair arguing and good problem solving, talk to your children about managing conflict and solving problems. If your family is having a difficult time doing this, a good way to resolve issues is to get a family therapist to help you.
Dr. Kathryn Seifert has had over 30 years experience in mental health, addictions, and criminal justice work. She founded Eastern Shore Psychological Services, a multidisciplinary private practice that specializes in working with high-risk youth and their families. She writes and lectures nationally and internationally on the topics of violence, risk assessment, sex offenders, suicide prevention, school based mental health programs, and stress management. She advocates for the highest quality services for all children needing mental health treatment.