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Disagreements happen in families but can often be damaging. If conflict is tearing your family apart, you may want to seek help. Here we examine family conflict and how to deal with it.

Family conflicts

Fighting in families is a natural part of relationships bound together by strong emotional ties and shared daily life. Conflicts can have many causes, from communication problems, where family members struggle to express their feelings and needs, to external stressors such as financial worries, and work stress that increase tensions.

Personality conflicts and different values can also lead to disagreements, especially when major family decisions are involved. Changes in family dynamics, such as child-rearing or aging parents, can upset the previous balance and create uncertainty or conflict.

Power struggles, often between parents and teenagers, can arise as individuals strive for independence or try to establish control. Unresolved conflicts from the past can also contribute to tensions, as well as issues of boundaries and personal integrity that are not respected.

Managing these conflicts constructively requires effective communication, empathy and a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives, which can improve family relationships and reduce the frequency and intensity of fights.

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Family conflicts with partners

Family conflicts between partners are a part of any relationship and can happen for many different reasons. Managing these conflicts is crucial to the health of the relationship. Effective communication, where parties listen to each other and express their feelings respectfully, is key to resolving family conflicts. Sometimes, it may be necessary to take a break to let emotions cool down before continuing the conversation. Seeking compromise shows that both parties’ perspectives are valued, and the relationship is prioritised over winning the argument.

For deeper problems, couples therapy can offer guidance and help to improve communication and understanding. In addition to conflict management, it is also important to build positive experiences together, which strengthens the relationship and provides a balance to the more difficult times. Approaching family conflicts with openness, respect and a willingness to cooperate can lead to stronger and more meaningful bonds between partners.


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Family conflicts between siblings

Fighting between siblings is a common phenomenon in families and be due to rivalry, personality conflicts, space infringement or perceived injustice. These conflicts, although stressful, offer valuable learning opportunities for children to develop social skills such as empathy and problem solving.

To manage these fights effectively, it is important for parents to prevent conflict by creating an environment that encourages cooperation, teaching children conflict management, intervening when necessary to prevent escalation, and reinforcing positive interactions between siblings. Applying fairness and ensuring that each child gets individual time with parents can also reduce rivalry.

Through these strategies, sibling fights can be turned into learning opportunities, where children develop skills that are valuable throughout their lives and build strong relationships with each other. Dealing with sibling conflict in a constructive way lays the foundation for lifelong supportive sibling relationships.

Difficulties in parenting

Parenting is a challenging journey that brings many difficulties, from physical and emotional exhaustion to communication problems and disciplinary challenges. Parents may struggle to find a balance between work and family life, deal with uncertainty about their parenting skills, and navigate the unique needs of children and teenage challenges.

Changes in the family such as divorce or relocation can further complicate the dynamics and create stress. Financial and time constraints also add an extra burden. Dealing with these challenges requires parents to seek support, learn new strategies, and take care of their own well-being in order to give their children the support they need. Accepting that no one is perfect and that mistakes are part of the learning process is key to navigating the complexities of parenting.


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Dealing with fights in the family

Managing and addressing family conflict requires a conscious effort from all parties involved to create a more harmonious and supportive family environment. Here are some strategies that can help reduce conflict and improve relationships:

1. Improve communication

Learn effective communication techniques such as using ‘I’ messages to express feelings and needs without blaming or criticising. Active listening, making a genuine effort to understand the other person without interrupting or preparing a response, is also important.

2. Get to know each other’s needs

Try to understand and respect each other’s needs and boundaries. This requires empathy and sometimes compromise to ensure that everyone in the family feels heard and valued.

3. Managing stress

Identify external sources of stress that affect family dynamics and work on strategies to manage them. This may involve adjusting working hours, finding ways to reduce financial stress or ensuring that everyone in the family has enough time for themselves.

4. Conflict management

Develop and practice constructive ways to resolve conflicts. This may include taking a break from the discussion until everyone has calmed down, using mediation techniques, or agreeing on ground rules for how to argue.

5. Family therapy

Sometimes it may be necessary to seek professional help. Family therapy can provide a neutral place to explore problems, learn new skills for cooperation and communication, and work through unresolved conflicts under the guidance of an experienced therapist.

6. Build positive routines

Create positive family routines and traditions that help strengthen bonds, such as shared meals, family meetings where everyone can share their thoughts and feelings, or regular family activities.

7. Evaluate progress

Set aside time on a regular basis to evaluate progress in reducing fights and improving family relationships. This can help identify what is working well and what may need to be adjusted.

By applying these strategies, families can work towards resolving their conflicts in a healthy way and building a stronger, more cohesive family unit. It is important to remember that change takes time, and that every step towards improvement is valuable.


12 common questions about family conflict

What is family violence?

Family fights are common in many families and can have many causes, from communication problems to external stressors such as financial worries and work stress that increase tensions. Personalities, values and power struggles can also cause conflict.

What characterises a dysfunctional family?

Not all families are dysfunctional and fighting is common in many families, but if there are communication problems, emotional and physical abuse, addiction, control, manipulation, lack of support, rigid roles and favouritism, it may be worth taking it seriously and seeking more support.

Is fighting common in families?

Conflicts and arguments are common in many families, but if you notice that it is difficult to resolve and that it escalates in different ways, it is good to seek help.

I fight a lot with my partner, what should I do?

Arguments between partners are a natural part of any relationship and can arise for many different reasons, but managing these conflicts is crucial to the health of the relationship. If you are finding it difficult to resolve these conflicts on your own, couple therapy can be helpful.

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples understand and resolve conflicts, improve their relationship and communication, and strengthen the closeness of the relationship.

What is family therapy?

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to resolve conflicts and improve communication and relationships within a family. Underlying causes of problems get identified and addressed, which can lead to healthier family dynamics.

I have difficulties in my parenting, what can I do about it?

Dealing with these challenges may require parents to seek support, learn new strategies, and take care of their well-being to give their children the support they need. This may mean attending family therapy or individual therapy.

My children fight all the time, is this common?

Fighting between siblings is a common phenomenon and can be due to rivalry, personality conflicts, space constraints, or perceived injustice. These conflicts, although stressful, offer valuable learning opportunities for children to develop social skills such as empathy and problem-solving. If you are having difficulty, seek help in therapy.

I am having difficulties with my teenager, what should I do?

The teenage years can be a challenging time for both parents and children. Power struggles can occur as individuals strive for independence or try to establish control. If you are struggling, therapy can help.

My husband does not want to go to family therapy, what should I do?

If the person does not change despite being asked to do so, it may be useful to go to individual therapy to get more help in managing the situation and deciding what to do in the future.

Can you get therapy online?

Lavendla has a team of therapists available for online sessions done via video conference. These offer great flexibility and accessibility.

Where can I seek help?

If you want to get therapy, you can ask a GP for a referral to a therapist who works with relationship or family problems. Alternatively, book an online session with one of Lavendla’s team for an initial discussion. We help make the difficult easier.

Family therapy treatment

Family therapy treatment aims to address and resolve the problems and conflicts that affect a family’s functioning and well-being. The process involves several steps and can vary depending on the therapist’s approach and the specific needs of the family. Here is an overview of how a family therapy treatment usually works:

Initial assessment

Treatment often begins with one or more initial sessions where the therapist meets with the family to assess their dynamics, identify problem areas and set therapy goals. This phase is important to establish an understanding of the family’s structure, relationships and the specific challenges they face.

Identification of goals

The therapist works with the family to define clear and concrete goals. This may include improving communication, resolving specific conflicts, changing dysfunctional behavioural patterns, or strengthening family bonds.

Therapy sessions

During therapy sessions, various techniques and methods are used to promote positive change within the family. This may include communication exercises, role play, conflict management techniques, and exercises to build empathy and understanding between family members. The therapist acts as a neutral and supportive facilitator, helping the family to explore their problems and find solutions together.

Working with relationships

A key focus of family therapy is to work on the individual relationships within the family, such as parent-child relationships or sibling relationships, to address specific conflicts or problems and improve mutual support and understanding.

Homework and practical application

Families can be given ‘homework’ or tasks to work on between sessions to practice the skills and techniques they have learned during therapy. This aims to encourage application and change in the family’s everyday life.

Evaluation and closure

Towards the end of the therapy process, the therapist evaluates the progress made towards the initial goals. Based on this evaluation, the therapy can be terminated, or further sessions can be recommended if necessary.

Family therapy is a flexible form of treatment that is adapted to the family’s unique needs and circumstances. By engaging in the process, families can develop stronger, more supportive relationships and learn to deal with future challenges more effectively.

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Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.