Dealing with Family Conflict
Are you feeling family heart ache this Thanksgiving?
Are you dealing with family conflict?
This pandemic has given us some deep family hurts to hold and navigate this fall. As vaccinations role out and we take steps towards reopening we come face to face with differences of opinion everywhere. It is all over social media, the news, school communities and with friends, but perhaps the most difficult place is with our families.
Dealing with Family Conflict during a Pandemic
As a Couples and Families therapist, I have heard many examples of how disagreements around vaccinations, mask wearing, and indoor gatherings are coming to a head this fall season. For some, this is a time when we traditionally gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. Do you find that your heart is hurting as you navigate this this season? Is there a family member that you have had differences with? Is there someone that you have decided not to have contact with because of their pandemic response? We all feel the sting when our relationships are not what we want them to be. Here are some ideas to consider as you move through the season.
Notice and Validate feelings of loss without blame.
Sometimes when we are struggling with difficult feelings, we want someone to take responsibility for them. We think it will ease our feelings when we can understand who is at fault, but it rarely ever does. No one asked for this global pandemic and it may be helpful to assume we are all hurting from it. Noticing what feelings are coming up, validating them for yourself and responding with self-compassion can help us to feel soothed.
Use Both/And Statements.
Both/And Statements assume that two opposing things can be true at the same time and help from getting stuck in extremes and catastrophizing. “I love my family member and at times feel very hurt in our interactions.” Both of these things can be true at the same time and this helps to bring balance to our thoughts and feelings.
Make the bold assumption that everyone is doing their best this season.
The story that we tell ourselves about our family members has a big impact on how we feel. A story like “He is purposely being difficult” or “She is using this as an excuse to not see family” can add more hurt and painful conflict. Can we take a stance of respect and assume that others are making the best decision that they can for themselves during this difficult season? How can you challenge the stories that you are telling yourself about family members this fall?
Show care in ways that brings peace.
If you can’t gather with family in the way that you would like to don’t fall into the trap of all or nothing thinking. It doesn’t have to be a sit-down dinner with all the trimmings or nothing at all. Get creative and find ways to show care and gratitude for family in ways that you feel comfortable with. Instead of getting stuck in conflict consider a meaningful way to interact with family this fall.