Family Conflicts and Problems: A Family Counsellor Speaks

Family Counsellor

Family Conflicts and Problems: A Family Counsellor Speaks

As a social institution, the idea of family may be on the downhill in many societies globally. But there’s no denying the fact that it has stood the test of time for thousands of years, despite the many problems that plague it. We all know family is our life, that’s all we crave for whenever we’re in trouble or need support. Our family has our back and is something we can always count in our successes and failures. Our family laughs with us, cries with us, but is ever ready to support us in the hour of need. Of course, nowhere does it imply that families don’t have any problems. Each family, being a unique entity, has its problems and issues. But there are some common threads in a majority of family problems, which are in need of resolution for a happy family life. 

  1. Family conflict

Disagreements, conflicts and fights are part of family dynamics. Period. This is especially true of egalitarian marriages and families wherein there is everyone is free to express their opinions. These differences in opinions, however, can easily escalate to arguments and conflicts, which can potentially damage the family relationships and peace, if not resolved in time. 


Arguments, per se, are not bad at all; rather, they tend to promote independent thinking and reasoning, especially useful for kids, but the trouble arises when they slip out of hands. Argue, by all means but lay down certain ground rules and do not let your emotions get the better of you as you may say something hurtful without meaning to.

Family Problem Solution

  1. Define the problem clearly. Do not beat about the bush and especially try to avoid generalizing the issue. For instance, if your spouse didn’t pick a towel lying on the bed this morning, do not say “You know, you’ll never do that in life”. You know there has only been one such instance. 
  2. Argue only over the specific issue and do not bring out other grouses, which you may have held in the past. Harking back to past arguments isn’t going to do any good. 
  3. Life coach recommend that we focus on the solution part instead of endlessly stretching the argument. For instance, if your spouse never presses the toothpaste tube from the bottom, it’s no fun always fighting over it. Buy two toothpaste tunes, instead. Simple!
  4. Focus on the why behind the other’s actions and behavior and if the disagreement seems to be turning into a fight, have a time-out. Return to the topic whenever you have cooled down enough.
  5. In this way, family counselling can be extremely beneficial for any family facing troubles in maintaining healthy relationships with one another.

2. Communication

Life coaches, especially those dealing with family conflicts, agree that most arguments are there thanks to inadequate or qualitatively poor communication. Everyone needs the chance and the space to explain themselves and their viewpoint. Making assumptions regarding anyone, even within a family, is just not done.

One of the biggest casualties of a disagreement or fight is the closure of communication channels, which worsens the problem.  So keep the lines of communication open. It’s difficult to find a solution to a family problem if you’re not talking. To open the line of communication, you need to set aside your ego as it takes a big heart to become the first person to tackle a problem. 

Therefore, try to reach out first, however hard it may be. 

* In case it doesn’t work out, an older, wiser family member can intervene and set up a meeting by acting as a mediator. 

* Ignoring the problem is only going to worsen it, leading to a certain coldness in relationships. It’s better to express yourself at a suitable time. So, bringing up a family problem at festival time is definitely not a good idea.

* Avoid drinking before a tough family conversation as it can fuel emotions even in a moderate quantity, which is going to hamper your thinking and act as a block in a difficult conversation. 

* Many kids and teenagers hesitate to express their emotions in the fear of ridicule or shame. Explain to the family that each one is welcome to express themselves openly and fairly. 

  1. Work-Life Balance

The lack of a healthy work-life balance creates another common family conflict, as per expert life coaches.. Amidst the responsibilities of both parents’ jobs/ businesses, ensuring a work-life balance can be tricky. But this family conflict is relatively easier to resolve as the balance can be easily achieved with a bit of smart planning and slick execution. The key lies in creating clear-cut boundaries between work and life spaces so that the two don’t overlap to create conflicts.  

Family Counsellor

It’s important to spend time on yourself as well. With a better work-life balance, you’ll be able to have a better focus and give due attention to work and family at the same time.

Solution: The best solution is to leave work at work and focus on family when you are off work. Make time for family only when it comes to family time. Delegate your tasks at work so that you are not overworked. 

  1. Infidelity

Experts involved in counselling for family issues concur that infidelity (includes adultery too) or cheating is being emotionally or physically unfaithful to a spouse or partner, and breaking a commitment or promise during the act. Around 1/4th of all marriages face infidelity, which is one of the biggest threats to marriages and families worldwide, says research. The figure goes much higher if we also consider purely emotional affairs or online infidelity. Prevention is the best pre-emotive solution here i.e. the partners commit to and nurture their relationship. 

Unfortunately, the situation of an extra-marital affair offers no painless solution as to rebuild the broken trust, one needs  time and a commitment to change.

Solution: Working through the emotions of shock, anger and grief – common reactions to spousal infidelity – takes time and effort as it’s important to give yourself space to collect all your feelings. Try to be assertive rather than being aggressive as anger only leads to rash decisions. Practice mindfulness, self-regulation and seven-second breathing to calm yourself and think through it rationally.

The cheating spouse must take full responsibility for what had happened. They must be completely transparent and answer the other one’s questions. It can lead to an understanding of what went wrong and what needs to change. Though trust doesn’t return overnight, accepting one’s responsibility can be a good start.

However, if things don’t work out this way, total separation from the other person is the only way out. Making a drastic break is a tough task and it may be a bitter pill that needs to be swallowed as in many cases, healthy marital recovery is impossible without it. 

  1. Money Matters 

During the counselling for family issues, finances are found to be one of the biggest stressors in a relationship, especially if a family is undergoing some financial stress, which can raise tension. Arguments about money are common and important issues and need to be addressed on priority. The most important cause of such arguments is the lack of agreement over the way people think about money and its management. If one of the spouses is a firm believer in penny-pinching while the other one is a spendthrift, you can expect fireworks only. Therefore, it’s important to sit down and discuss calmly how they are going to deal with income, expenditure, savings, insurance and investment. The spouses need to get a basic financial literacy to be able to understand and profit from this kind of money management and set out the family priorities of how money is to be consumed. 

Solution: An excellent idea to avoid financial stress is creating a monthly budget. For a family facing financial difficulties, cutting back on unnecessary expenses and looking for additional sources of income may help. Financial troubles can test a relationship hard and but you are open to solving the issues together, you can navigate tough times together.

  1. Distance

Physical or emotional distance can extract a heavy toll on a family and put it under strain, especially if you have kids. With them, being distant for a long period can be challenging to bear through. Of course, physical distance may be a compulsion/ involuntary choice due to one’s occupation. If you travel and cannot do anything about the physical distance, think of nightly video chats, online games or watching movies online together to compensate. The converse is also true i.e. not keeping enough distance as spending too much time with the family can also be a problem. All relationships, even a happy and successful family, need some space.

Much more dangerous is the emotional distance despite physical proximity. Most often, it arises from a serious, underlying issue like lack of trust or lack of communication, which leads to a lot less sharing as compared to what happens in a normal, healthy relationship.  

Solution: To tackle the problem of emotional distance, simply talk it out openly, honestly and transparently. Listen to each other’s perspectives and try to find a common ground, if you can and be ready to accommodate the other person’s needs within your sachem of things to save your relationship/. . 

  1. Disagreements over parenting styles

While counselling for family issues, experts find that every parent has a different viewpoint about raising their children. How one raises their children is greatly affected by their own childhood experiences and upbringing. Of course, one cannot undo the past but if both of you disagree on parenting styles, it’s good to talk it out. Discuss the pros and cons and try to understand their views on your parenting style.

Solution: If two spouses disagree over each other’s parenting styles, they need to learn to make some compromises and adjustments. However, if one parent’s parenting style is proving to be toxic for the child, you need to convince the other one of its toxicity and make them come round to your viewpoint. 

  1. Rebellious Children

Quite often, children become rebellious, refusing to listen to their parents. Rebellious children can test your patience and push you to your limits. While you may be unable to control your children’s actions, you certainly can teach them the consequences of their actions by setting a positive example of how you react to your emotions. If you are dealing with an angry teenager, try listening to their grievances and discuss with them and offer them advice only if they ask for it. One of the best ways a child can learn good things is by making mistakes.

All families go through turbulent times and the above common family conflicts can plague all families – divorced, separated, or blended families. I hope with the above-mentioned common family problems and solutions, you can improve your family relationships.

Unravelling the knots 

We all know: Family problems are very painful. However, there are ways to prevent many family problems in the initial stages only and restore peace. Life is too short to waste time on cultivating negativity towards your loved ones. 

  1. Begin the discussion 

2 Get to the roots 

3 Address the problem 

Beginning the Discussion 

  1. Wait until you’re calm enough to discuss it. If you are arguing, wait until everyone is calm to keep the argument from escalating into a full-blown feud. 

* Don’t discuss the problem while you’re upset /emotional. If you wait for a while, the emotion is likely to subside somewhat.

* Waiting lets you approach the issue logically. If you give yourself some time to think, you won’t deal with it so reactively.

* Approaching someone while you are angry heightens an already tough situation. You can wait to make your point tomorrow; control your instant impulses.

  1. Deal in person

* Addressing a family problem by email is the worst possible choice. Your tone can easily be misperceived by electronic communication as people can’t appreciate your body language here, which conveys empathy and reduces the pain. People say things by electronic communication that they would never otherwise say to another, which is another reason to avoid it.

* Pick up the telephone or, better still, have a personal meeting. 

  1. Accept faults

* Understanding that family members have faults, but you can still love them, is the first step toward addressing problems. 

* Accept your own faults and blame when you deserve it. Try to look at family issues not as all-or- nothing situations where someone is wrong and someone else is right. Instead, perceive the gray areas. 

* Apologize even if you truly think you did nothing wrong. Say, “I see you’re upset, and though it has been hard for me too, I am sorry. I would like to fix this, so let me know how I can do it.” 

* Avoid the blame game and keep the language positive. Stay away from using language that puts blame on others or is negative. Negativity is a vicious cycle. 

* Avoiding using judgmental words or name calling e.g. accusatory words said in an angry tone. Blaming others makes them defensive and counter attack you, making it worse. 

* Don’t look at it like  “winning” the argument. Try to accept there are two or more ways to see the point. Develop a plan for solving the problem together. 

* Maintain a calm and modulated tone and voice. Explain yourself calmly and methodically, with empathy for the other person. Attempt to cool down the argument with comments like, “I can see your point.”

  1. Forgive 

* Forgive the family members who have wronged you, though a difficult thing to achieve. 

* Forgiveness frees yourself from the corrosive nature of a fight. It’s about letting go of the past so that you can build a healthier future without tension and stress.

* Tell them with empathy you forgive if they readily admit blame. It goes a long way.

* Remember all human beings, including you, at some point, are imperfect and need forgiveness on the journey called life. 

Getting to the roots 

  1. Problem identification

Family Counsellor

Identify the real problem by figuring out what’s really going on. Perhaps one may be facing health problems (e.g. high blood pressure causing too much anger or aggression) or personal problems (workplace or studies) that they have been hiding. Consider the real issue as it will allow let you address it better. 

* Don’t assume, talk to them to find out what they really think. Focus on causes, not symptoms. 

* A trusted family member may help you figure out what’s really going on, so it’s OK to talk to them about the issue.

  1. Ask 

* A good way to dig out the root cause is asking questions rather than making statements. Statements look judgmental and put others on the defensive. 

* Asking questions softens the conversation and draws out what’s really bothering them. Questions make one feel like not being condemned. 

* For example, if your brother has grown distant and isn’t inviting you out for coffee like he used to, you could say, “We haven’t seen each other as much as we used to. Why do you think that’s happening?” 

* Make sure to ask open-ended questions so as to provoke them to elaborate. And then truly listen to what they have to say.

  1. Recognize when to discuss

When a family conflict reaches a point that it needs to be addressed, these are clear signs of family and relationship problems – arguing, disagreements, angry outbursts, avoidance and physical conflicts. 

* Some problems are caused by differences of opinion such as on cultural values or beliefs. Often, parents and children may not be able to agree on lifestyle choices and personal preferences.

* Other problems can stem from substance abuse, mental sickness, bullying, mistrust, change in family circumstances, financial issues, stress, sexuality-related issues, and jealousy.

Addressing the problem 

  1. Reaching a compromise

Compromising implies that you come up with a mutually acceptable solution to both the parties. It’s a good way to defuse or address a family problem. 

* The first step is figuring out whether the problem is solvable, which depends on its nature and what’s already been done to solve it. 

* One technique to compromise is to draw two circles that relate to the family problem. In the first circle, write down everything you’re not willing to compromise on. In the outer circle, write down the areas where you are willing to bend. Then, share the circles.

* Don’t try talking to the family member when you’re distracted, working on a project, fielding phone calls, doing the dishes or the like. 

Prevention is the best cure

Families are built on relationships, which get strengthened with healthy communication. An environment of sharing creates a foundation for healthy communication. Family members need to feel safe while sharing their feelings and discussing their issues. As a parent, that means allowing your child to share their viewpoint without any fear of judgment/punishment. Children who feels safe can talk about difficult subjects like mental health, self-identity, anxiety or substance abuse. Children who feel safe and respected are likelier to open up while struggling with a situation or making a difficult decision. This is also true of other family relationships, not only between a parent and child, but also between siblings and within a marriage.

Family counsellors recommend the following to create an environment of sharing:

  1. Listen
  2. Be willing to share your feelings. 
  3. When sharing your perspective, present your perspective and not the facts. 
  4. Recognize others’ experiences as valid. 
  5. Admit your mistakes, encouraging others to admit theirs.
  6. Create a personal example of the behavior you want to see. 
  7. Do things together – interests, sports, activities – to achieve a sense of closeness, open communication and sharing.

However, if everything fails, it’s best to seek professional help by visting a Family Counsellor.

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