With most of us right in the thick of the family summer holidays, whether with young children in our charge or adolescents who have flown the nest or are about to, all this sudden being thrown together for 24 hours a day, when we are used to having our own space to be our individual selves out of our family scenario, is bound to increase tensions.
While it’s normal and healthy that disagreements arise within a family quite simply because we are all so wonderfully different – when it escalates into a full- blown argument with shouts and nasty words spoken, the stress this causes can become unbearable and all this bottled-up unexpressed stress, can end up making us physically sick in one way or another.
If arguments pepper your family dynamic in your normal work/back at school or university daily routine, but have now escalated to an almost 24-hour barrage, ruining everyone’s holiday – this extra time together is a great opportunity for you to take stock and take hold of the reins…
As a mother who single-handedly brought up two boys from a young age after my divorce 10 years ago, I had to learn to deal with their testosterone-fuelled clashes on my own! It wasn’t easy but with consistency and persistence, I’ve managed to steer us all into a new family dynamic based on mutual respect and while I’m not saying that we’re all sweetness and light, we have learnt a healthier way of airing and resolving our disputes and clearing the air.
Here’s what’s worked for me and I hope will work for you:
Remove yourself from the scene – the next time you feel yourself in the middle of a brewing domestic Armageddon – the first thing you need to do is step away. Go for a walk, shut yourself in the bathroom or even better have a pamper bath or shower and have a good long think from a calm, clear place.
Ask yourself what is really going on? Apparently 80% of all arguments are triggered by a past, unresolved resentment that has never been voiced.
Create a healthy family vibe: Our relationships within our family create our future relationships within our lives. They are the learning starting blocks. Our future can be very much defined by how we develop our coping strategies, how we communicate and how we develop our friendships and personal relationships.
If it’s you that’s losing your rag – identify what you are angry about. Is it your anger or someone else’s? By this I mean – do you ever catch yourself mid-outburst thinking “I sound just like my mother/father?”
We inevitably take on the family argument dynamic and it can be passed on from generation to generation without us even realising that shouting is not a normal or healthy way to communicate. The good news is that if you recognise this, you can begin to reclaim your own way of dealing with and healing this unhealthy pattern.
Once you have brought yourself into a place of calm, get everyone together and let each person involved in the dispute have the opportunity to talk about whatever is going on for them without being interrupted by anyone else.
Ensure there is no confusion about what is going on.
Look for solutions and leave criticism behind.
Communication is key!
When parents don’t give their children enough autonomy, this can lead to much resentment and stunt or warp their adult communication skills and mar their future relationships. In my opinion, it is vital to empower our children to be able to communicate effectively and know that they can express themselves freely within the family, without fear of being shouted down.
If it feels like WW3 is about to erupt now that you’ve all been thrown together for an extended period of time, it could be that back in the routines of your busy lives, you have stopped communicating as a family – with everyone doing their own thing, fixated on social media, glued to the telly and rushing in and out of the family home.
Here are some suggestions to improve your family communication:
Eat together more regularly– This is such a healthy bonding experience that used to be the norm but which many families no longer follow. Sitting down for a meal with your family is a great opportunity to catch up with everyone’s day and listen to what everyone has to say.
Play together – make time to bond as a family by scheduling in regular fun outings
Communicate, really communicate – whenever you are all together make a rule that phones and i-pads are switched off. Be present for each other. Enjoy each other.
Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter. Brad Henry
Everyone is an individual and has different ideas and it is important to respect others in the family even if their ideas don’t meet your expectations or match your opinions. A happy family is loving, accepting and non-judgemental.
I want you to know that although changing a family argument dynamic is challenging to say the least, it’s well worth it – all of you will thrive as a result : Now, in your futures and for generations to come.