How to cope with family feuds
Getting together with the family is a Christmas tradition many Australians celebrate. Unfortunately, family fights have also become a tradition for many, from old sibling rivalries to heated arguments over politics, life choices and other differences of opinion.
If family feuds spoiled your holidays, learning how to reconcile with estranged family members and how to cope with family stress could make next Christmas one to look forward to.
Why do families fight?
It is normal for people who are close to argue. A survey of more than 1,000 people by psychologist Leonard Felder found that 75% of respondents had at least one family member who annoyed them. The more you have in common with someone, and the more you care about them, the more the differences stand out and the harder they can be to understand.
Arguing is not necessarily a sign that your family has problems, and it is important to check your own behaviour and recognise if you are the one picking fights and creating unnecessary tension. People can also drift apart over time for many reasons, which can lead to estrangement if one party is not ready to let go.
How to stop fighting with your family
Whether it’s at Christmas dinner or at other times of the year, prevention is always better than cure. You don’t need to betray your beliefs if you find yourself arguing over the dinner table, but it is better to avoid getting into family arguments in the first place.
Avoid sensitive subjects – if you know from experience that certain topics (such as politics) are ‘no go’ areas, steer clear and your restraint may be reciprocated.
- Don’t drink too much – alcohol and controversial topics don’t mix.
- Don’t put people in a box – calling someone a ‘racist’ or using other labels is a sure-fire way to fan the flames.
- Take time out – if you can feel tension building, excuse yourself for a short break to calm down and avoid saying something you regret.
- Agree to disagree – it is unlikely that you or your relative will change you minds and see eye to eye, so agreeing to a ceasefire can avoid making a bad situation worse.
Your relatives might not always give you the same courtesy by keeping their own impulses in check, but by avoiding picking fights, you can come out the bigger person.
How to deal with toxic relationships
Unfortunately, family feuds are not always as simple as a difference of opinion. If a parent, sibling, partner or other loved one is having a negative impact on your life, failing to resolve this could make the situation steadily worse.
Whether through criticism, manipulation, emotional or physical abuse or neglect, toxic relationships can affect a person’s physical health and emotional well being. You can try to improve the situation by:
- Talking about how you feel, either to the family member in question, someone you trust or a counselling service.
- Setting boundaries to make it clear that their behaviour is not acceptable.
- In extreme cases, the only way to free yourself from the situation may be to end the relationship, especially if you think that you or your children might be at risk of harm.
Where to go for help
If you want to end family estrangement or to get help for yourself or your loved ones, Families NSW offers a range of support services for New South Wales residents dealing with all types of family and relationship problems. These include:
Relationships Australia (NSW)
02 9418 8800
1300 364 277
1300 1300 52
If you are worried about children in your family, or you may be in danger of losing your own children, East Coast Law’s experienced family lawyers could be able to help. Click below to download our free ebook ‘Care and Protection: Know Your Rights and Where to Get Support.’