Your parents don’t have to be divorced or separated for you to experience conflict.
In fact, most people have experienced conflict within their family home in one way or another.
It is important to consider how your family’s conflict impacts you.
It is equally important to consider positive coping mechanisms that can help you best deal with your family’s conflict.
What Do You Mean By ‘Conflict’?
In this blog we're going to focus on conflict between your parents.
Conflict comes in many forms.
When you first think about conflict you probably think about your parents yelling at each other.
However, conflict doesn’t always begin and end with your parents yelling at each other.
Whilst conflict can definitely involve yelling, it can also involve silent aggression.
Let’s consider the following two examples:
1. Your dad spoke rudely to your mum. Your mum yells at your dad for speaking in this manner. This kicks off a screaming match between your mum and dad.
2. Your mum does something that she knows makes your dad upset or angry. Your dad reacts by not speaking to your mum at family dinner.
Both examples 1 and 2 are conflict related. Conflict does not only relate to screaming and yelling but it can also involve ‘the silent treatment’ or passive aggressiveness.
Now, it is important to note that conflict is a part of any relationship. Conflict is not always bad and there is generally a way for it to be resolved.
However, there are times when your parents' conflict can negatively impact you.
It is during these times that positive coping mechanisms can be super handy.
Let’s Talk Feelings
Take a second right this moment to think about how your parents' conflict makes you feel.
You may be thinking: Upset, hurt, angry, annoyed, frustrated.
Let’s be realistic. Seeing two people fight in general really sucks. It hurts even more when it’s your parents.
Your parents' conflict can make you think a whole heap of difficult thoughts such as:
“They’re fighting because of me; this is all of my fault.”
“Life would be so much easier if they weren’t together, I wish they never even met.”
As we have already established, conflict comes in many forms.
Because of this, it can seem really difficult to know how to deal with it.
This is why we’re going to focus on two key mechanisms:
1. Focusing on what you can control
Focusing On What You Can Control
There is very little that you can control about your parents' relationship and ultimately their conflict.
So, what can you control?
You can control your self-talk.
Do you commonly think to yourself: “They’re fighting because of me; this is all of my fault”?
If your self-talk is similar to this statement, it is time to reiterate what you already know:
You can do very little to control your parents' relationship and their conflict.
It is so highly likely that your parents' conflict is engrained in their own relationship problems that truly have nothing to do with you.
Thinking that anything in your parents' relationship is your fault is detrimental to your own well-being.
Recognising your self-talk and ensuring it is positive is something that you can control.
Working on bettering your self-talk is something that you can continuously do.
So, what else is in your control? Communication!
Let’s face it, family conflict can really get you down.
It is so deeply important that you communicate this.
Communication in relation to family conflict is twofold:
1. Communicating with the conflict instigators (generally your parents) and;
2. Communicating with those you trust
Communicating With Your Parents
So, your parents fight, often.
Let’s consider the following example:
Your parents had a fight last night over something that had nothing to do with you.
Despite knowing this, you still feel like the fight could have started because of something you said.
At some point after their fight, you approach your parents, either separately or together.
You express to your parents how their fight made you feel. You let them know that you feel as though the fight could have been your fault and its really getting you down.
You ask your parents if they could work on their relationship issues in a way that does not make you feel anxious and on edge.
So, you’re probably thinking, sure, that’s easier said than done.
And it probably is! Your parents could easily not understand where you’re coming from.
However, there is still so much value in communicating how you feel.
Allowing your parents to understand how their conflict makes you feel can have more of an impact than you know.
Communicating With Those You Trust
Conflict witnessing is not something that you should deal with alone.
Whether it be a sibling, friend, teacher, therapist or colleague, I encourage you to communicate with those you trust.
Those that care about you are willing to listen. Let them be there for you. You are not alone.
Hey Parents! Listen Up!
Conflict is generally inevitable in any relationship.
Yet, the extent of conflict can significantly vary from one relationship to another.
Your conflict with your partner or ex-partner can seriously impact your kids, especially when they witness it first-hand.
This isn’t to say that your kids should never witness conflict.
Rather, how your conflict makes your kids feel is something you should be well aware of.