Family Togetherness – Managing Conflict - Wise Institute

Family Togetherness – Managing Conflict

Family and holidays are two words that have a complicated relationship. For some people, the holidays are an opportunity for some quality bonding with those closest to them. But for those who have conflict or tension in their families, holidays can be a time that is dreaded. Admittedly, this holiday season is different than many, with COVID keeping some families apart, while intensifying the amount of time other families must spend in close quarters with one another. While these situations can be tricky to navigate, we have some tips that can help keep this summer holiday period cordial and calm. 

Don’t try to resolve conflict on the day

Given ‘tis the season to be jolly, you may feel tempted to try and resolve long-standing issues during the holidays. But this can backfire dramatically. People may feel attacked and then retaliate, and other members of the family may involve themselves unnecessarily in the conflict. And before you know it, the problem has snowballed and relations are worse off than where they started. 

If you personally are involved in a conflict with a family member, it may be best to avoid that person during your family holidays, where possible. That doesn’t mean being rude or icing them out of conversations, it can just be a matter of sitting at a different end of the table and conversing primarily with other family members.

Create a positive environment

If you are hosting a get together, it’s important to give some extra thought to those relatives who may be anxious about seeing the rest of the family. Make them feel included and ensure they’re seated with people they feel comfortable around. If they seem isolated from other people’s conversations, ask them questions about topics you know they enjoy, or invite them to help you out with food preparation in the kitchen.

Take some time out

If you’re attending a family lunch that is beginning to feel unstable and stressful, excuse yourself from the table and take a walk outside. This is a good way to diffuse mounting tension, and give you some time to decompress and calm your frayed nerves. If you’re hosting the get together, then allocate a room in the house where people can relax on a couch, watch some TV and avoid the overwhelm. 

Laugh and get silly

Let’s face it – it’s a lot harder to get mad at people when you’re laughing and having a good time. A great way to diffuse tensions is to get everyone involved in a game of Celebrity Heads or Cards Against Humanity at the table. Or when lunch is over, suggest the family head outside to the beach or play a match of backyard cricket. 

Divide and conquer

When there are outwardly warring factions in your family, the thought of them coming together can send a shiver down the spine. Sometimes, it’s better to accept extreme cases of family division and find a way to celebrate with different family members separately. Think of it as a bonus opportunity to be merry with loved ones!

If it’s too upsetting, just say no

If you are experiencing conflict with relatives that is causing you immense stress, and the thought of being around them is traumatic, then it is also OK to decline the invitation. It’s a far better option than walking into a volatile situation that you know will be emotionally damaging. Instead, do something that makes you feel truly happy during the holidays. Whether that be seeing friends, dining at your favourite restaurant, or watching your favourite movie, it is time to reassociate the summer holidays with some positive feelings.