by David Lipschutz, LCSW, Director of Adult, Child and Family Services
Conflicts happen at school, at work, and in homes. Arguments, big and small, occur in all families. There are many causes for these conflicts. The pressures on families are endless. Financial, cultural, traumas, school, employment, and relationships are some examples of stressors that families face on a daily basis. All these stressors create a complex environment for raising children in our society. This article highlights the potential for growth and change by acknowledging that verbal conflicts occur in families and looks at ways to be less reactive in these conflicts.
For parents and children, verbal arguments may indicate an untapped need being expressed. Some families try to manage the painful or shameful feelings associated with conflict by withdrawing or sometimes engaging their child or partner with the hope they can change the situation. When the conflict continues, parents and children feel more upset.
One way to reduce the intensity of these conflicts is to use the pause button when the feelings become too great. When we hit the pause button, we give everyone a chance to restart and find a new way to express our feelings. Hitting the pause button could be as simple as saying, “I need to stop this discussion right now.” At that point, you can ask to speak with this person at a later point, a time when both parties are feeling less emotional and less upset. Families may use a code or a nonverbal cue for when they are feeling in distress. This cue signals to parents and to children that a “pause” is needed. This “pause” gives the person time to reflect and feel less reactive. After a moment away for the stressful situation, you and your child are able to find a new way to express your needs.
Resolution of harmful conflict in families can lead to immeasurable growth for you and your child. Recognizing that you are being triggered by someone in your family is the first step. Then, using approaches such as pausing, to express negative feelings before they become too great will ultimately help your family feel more connected and your home life feel more supportive.
If you are having difficulties with disengaging from verbal conflicts and are feeling stuck in unhealthy conflicts, then professional help may be needed. The staff at Jewish Child & Family Services can help build on the natural bonds that are part of your family, so you and your children feel less anxious and less stressed by day to day situations. Recognizing that verbal conflicts are a sign that more support is needed, we can start to connect you and your family members in a new and rewarding way. If you are feeling that the conflict at home is unmanageable at times, our trained, experienced and dedicated family therapists have the skills to intervene and guide you and your family members through a rewarding process of change, strengthening your family relationships with love and respect.