Learning to Manage Conflict for Better Health (04/04/2019)

It has been said that when two people are put together, conflict will eventually happen.  While we adults realize that challenges are bound to happen in both personal and work relationships, our children may not understand this....yet.  Any parent with more than one child in the family can attest to the daily challenges involved with helping siblings learn not only how to get along but how to strengthen inter-sibling relationships as our children become adults.  These efforts can take a lifetime of practice.

What exactly is "conflict"?  What are some skills we can all use to manage it?  How do we teach these skills to our kids?

Conflict develops when there are differences "between what goals people want to accomplish, the ways they pursue these, and their personal needs and expectations for each other" (1).  Dr. Bryan Harris states further that conflict is a natural and unavoidable part of life; it exists precisely because of interactions between people.

For most of us, developing our own skills in conflict management can take years of self-reflection and practice.  Assigning blame, placing guilt upon ourselves, or ignoring conflict are strategies most of us have tried that we eventually learn are unhelpful and even unhealthy.  Instead, experts in conflict resolution encourage each of us to clarify our own thoughts and feelings about a situation, attempt to understand the other person's viewpoint (show empathy), and consider an outsider's perspective, ie, what would an independent viewer say about the situation (2).  Teaching our kids to recognize that conflict is an expected part of life, to manage their emotions when conflict happens, and to use "I feel --- when you ---" statements are good starting points.

Conflict itself is an opportunity for better communication, for a more authentic relationship with another person, and for self-growth (3).  Some of the many resources to help us help our children are listed in the links below.