Conflict is not uncommon in families and can occur when various members of the family have differing beliefs or views. Although conflict is not uncommon, when it is not resolved in a peaceful manner, it can lead to further arguments and even resentment.

What Is Family Conflict?

It should be understood that family conflict is different from the normal disagreements that take place in a family from time to time. While an occasional conflict is simply part of normal family life, when conflict becomes ongoing, it can be stressful and can ultimately damage relationships. Some members may find it challenging to manage their feelings. As a result, they may experience hurt feelings and could even become aggressive. In some instances, conflict may reach the point of violence.

Family Conflict Symptoms

There may be several warning signs or symptoms that conflict is causing undue amounts of stress to be placed on the family. They include:

  • Changing eating habits
  • Changing sleeping habits
  • Constantly feeling down or tired without physical explanation
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Anxiousness
  • Irritability
  • Consistent headaches
  • Stomachaches

The Causes of Family Problems

In an ideal situation, family is who we usually turn to for support, where we receive love and with whom we feel most comfortable. In reality however, most families do not live up to this ideal all the time. In fact, in some instances, family may instead be associated with anger, stress, and misunderstanding. Due to the fact that we develop our communication skills, coping skills, and expectations of others from family, conflict in the family can produce lasting effects.

Family conflict can range from mild to severe. Regardless, it can create challenges within the family. Family conflict can occur due to a number of reasons. In some cases, family conflict occurs due to the natural stages that a family may go through, such as:

  • The birth of a new baby
  • Children starting school
  • Teens going off to college

Such stages can place new stresses on the family and possibly create conflict within the family.

Some additional changes in family situations that can also create conflict might include:

  • Separation or divorce
  • Moving to a new house
  • Moving to a new location
  • Commuting long distances to work
  • Changes in finances
  • Medical issues
  • Death of a family member
  • Substance abuse
  • Behavioral issues in children
  • Academic concerns

Regardless of the source, conflict within the family can seriously interfere with the ability of family members to function not only within the family but also have an effect on how they interact with others. Even though family conflict is most likely to affect those living within the same household, it can also affect extended family. When members of a family do not get along, the resulting tension can have an impact on each person’s physical and mental health, relationships, school/work, and even the ability to perform routine tasks.

Getting Help for Family Issues with Counseling

Understanding when it is time to reach out and get help with family conflict may vary from one family to another. As a general rule, whenever the conflict begins to control ones lives, it is an indication that it is time to get help. It should be kept in mind that when issues go unresolved, they can take over someone’s life and affect everyone around them. While it is impossible to completely remove all of the conflict from ones life, working with an experienced therapist can give a new perspective and help one learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner.

Addressing family conflict can be challenging, especially given the different personalities involved. Working with a therapist can help members learn how to relate to one another while using more effective methods of communication.

Family conflict therapy often involves a two-pronged approach. First, participants will work to identify the cause of the current crisis and determine how to reach an acceptable resolution. As part of this process, family members will also learn how to communicate more effectively to help avoid any future misunderstandings.

Family therapy can help families learn how to collaborate together in order to address current family issues that may be leading to conflict. While conflict within a family can range in terms of severity, it does not need to be severe in order to seek out therapy. By working with an experienced therapist, family members can learn how to better understand one another, work in a proactive manner to prevent developing unhealthy patterns, and communicate more effectively.

A family therapist may decide it is in the best interest of the family to work together as a group or individual therapy sessions may be recommended in order to supplement group sessions. Due to the fact that conflict within a family can be highly individual in nature, the precise way in which therapy is approached may vary from one family to another.

Family therapy can also prove to be helpful in terms of helping family members learn how healthy family relationships function. Family members can also learn how to strengthen family relationships so they can resolve issues together. During family therapy sessions, all members of the family learn how to take responsibility for their own issues. Some family members may need to focus on changing certain behaviors. It should be noted that family therapy is an active form of therapy. Consequently, assignments may be given for family members to work on at home as they progress through therapy.

The number of therapy sessions required may vary based on the severity of the conflict as well as the willingness of family members to cooperate and participate in therapy. Family members as well as the therapist will set goals and discuss the anticipated time to achieve those goals.

In some cases, family therapy may also be beneficial before issues arise. Some families may choose to participate in family therapy in anticipation of a major change. For instance, family therapy may be helpful for blended families in which both spouses are introducing children from previous relationships.

If you find you relate to the information in this article and would like some help, please contact Rita with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling at (605) 610-9228.