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Article: Tips for Diffusing Family Conflict

Tips for Diffusing Family Conflict

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  1. Tips for Diffusing Family Conflict

Tips for Diffusing Family Conflict
By Jane Mahoney, Older Americans Act Consultant, Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging

Providing care for a loved one through a debilitating illness or at life’s end can create stress on individuals and families alike.  Each family member has his/her own response to the difficult situation and will have varying levels of commitment to help.  Each person handles stress, grief and change in their own way and will also have different ideas of what is best for the loved one needing care.

Good communication is essential in keeping families strong through a difficult time.  Disagreements are sure to arise but the key to success is to diffuse the conflict before feelings are hurt and long-lasting damage is done.  Here are some tips that will help you avoid conflict and make your caregiving journey less stressful and more successful.

  • Be honest. Say that you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, scared, sad, etc. Then work together to diminish these feelings.
  • Use “I” statements to avoid blaming others.
  • Value everyone’s ideas and opinions. Don’t judge. There is not just one right way to provide care for someone.
  • Consider counseling. Caring for a loved one is stressful for even the healthiest families. Attend a support group with family members or seek private counseling if you fear relationships are about to be torn apart.
  • Share responsibility. When everyone has a task or responsibility,  however small,  a sense of teamwork is shared.
  • When times get tough, remind each other that it is the disease that has caused the challenge. Blame the disease, not the person with the disease (or each other) for hard times.
  • Step back and look at the larger picture. Sometimes we get hung up on a certain issue and lose sight of the more important goal (like happiness, safety and/or independence).
  • If you are the main caregiver, get some respite! Taking a break from your daily duties can boost your spirits and in turn help you communicate better.
  • LISTEN! Be an active listener by focusing on what is being said, including body language, without interrupting. We often miss much of what someone is saying because we are busy thinking about what we will say next. Or we “tune out” what is being said because we think we’ve already heard it.
  • Never assume anything. When doling out tasks, be specific and clear to avoid misunderstandings.  Write things down.
  • Find a good time to communicate. If you need to talk to someone don’t do it while they’re in the middle of something else. Always ask, “Is this a good time?” before diving in with a heavy topic.
  • Steer away from emotions. If something you’ve said has sparked strong emotions in someone (anger, tears, sarcasm), apologize and try again at a different time and in another way. If you are becoming emotional, ask to talk about it later after you’ve calmed down.
  • Schedule regular family meetings, either in person, over the phone or by e-mail so everyone is kept updated on how things are going.

And if you need help in your caregiving role, contact the ADRC.


Copyright GWAAR,  12/2018



Last Updated on 4/29/2020