Many of our struggles with work, finances, career choices, and even health issues have a natural ebb and flow throughout our journey of life. If we gathered up all the academic research in human psychology, talked to countless numbers of “life-coaching” gurus, and reflected back on our own lives, we would all describe that despite our world growing more complex and intense, the most difficult and lasting struggles are still found in the home.
Family conflicts are the most heart-breaking of all of life’s toughest problems.
When we separate out the “typical” short-term ups and downs, we come to a clear conclusion that most long-term, sustaining family conflicts have their beginnings during the major transition points in life. Just to state a few of the obvious ones:
- Transition into marriage. “Two become one” is a lot easier said than done.
- Transition into parenting. Time, effort, commitment, and unconditional love take on a whole new level understanding.
- Transition for children to adolescence to adulthood. Moving from “being taught” to “choosing to learn” is a responsibility that not everyone wants to accept.
- Transition of parenting. The parental struggles of purpose and meaning when grown children become exactly what we want them to be, self-sufficient to take on the world.
- Transition of generations. The grandparent struggle for purpose and meaning when grown children and grandchildren are actively engaged in the building of their own lives.
- Transition of life & death. The struggle with the loss and the legacy.
Probably the most difficult of all transitions in the home is the mental and emotional transition from expectation (or “fairy tale”) to reality. We all grew up with a certain expectation of what family was all about. As adults, we come to realize our reality may not be what we original had planned.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, handling the many transitions in life provides abundant opportunities to reinforce the importance of principles like commitment, courage and loyalty.
Here are a few suggestions to support and encourage a more intentional family engagement to deal with the tension that occurs through life’s most critical transitions:
- Regroup: Whether it is a marriage that has fallen off the tracks or families seeing a lack of care and concern, someone needs the courage to be the catalyst to “gather around the table” and raise the issue. Avoidance is not a healthy option. We don’t need to wait for a brilliant solution to emerge, we just need the courage to start the discussion.
- Understanding: This time (as we all probably fell short the first go around), genuinely try to understand the other person’s point of view. Too often we are continually angling to have our point of view to “win.” For perhaps the first time ever, focus all effort on trying to understand the other person’s point of view to a level that we can describe it back to them to his/her satisfaction. Then and only then, should we proceed with raising our point of view. It has been my experience, that when I have tried to put this into practice, my supposedly “brilliant” point of view was not even relevant to the real issue at hand. Understanding is the most critical step along the path to resolving family conflict.
- Try a different approach. Albert Einstein once said, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” We need to come to the reality that the quick fixes that may have worked in the past, are most likely irrelevant today. A new approach, anchored on timeless principles like honesty, loyalty, and commitment, should be our rallying cry.
If the three points above don’t work for you and when all else fails, just take the advice of one of my children who has a discerning heart to sense conflict in our home and simply have the courage to say, “I need a hug.” Believe it or not, there is an overwhelming amount of research to show that a physical touch can break down walls of conflict in the home. Even when tensions are high, both sides in the home should find the courage to touch. It has been shown to make all the difference in getting on the right path to healing the wounds suffered during a family conflict.
As we develop the courage to regroup, seek understanding and a different approach, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to effectively address the most difficult of all of life’s struggles, family conflicts.