So you’ve just flipped your lid at your partner in front of the kids or you’ve lost your patience with your teenager or your teenagers have just had a major brawl and the little ones are scared and crying… Chaos has come into the family home.
How do you recover from family fighting? If you’re not skilled at it, I’d hazard a guess that you wait for everyone to calm down and then either not mention it again or talk to the little ones and reassure them but not address it with the offending parties. This creates big problems because a) you now have a precedence for how to handle major blow ups and it’s not affectively reducing the problem or the outcome, b) unresolved family fighting creates anxiety in children (nightmares, acting out, anxiety disorders) and c) you’ve missed a wonderful opportunity to teach your children how to manage conflict effectively when it occurs.
Recovering from Family Fighting…
Takes courage… it’s not for the faint hearted and when done with the right intention in mind, can be a catalyst for healing and promotion of resilience in a family. The first thing that is requires is that you are able to stay in a neutral, non judgemental place, even if you are the original offender. When we do something wrong we can quite often hid behind that hurt part of us and blame others for setting us off. That gives others the power over us… as if they have their finger over our anger button. It’s dis-empowering… it puts us in the helpless chair. We need to do recovery from our adult self… the part that has control, that can remain calm… that can admit to our mistakes and wants to do something differently next time. It’s the part of us that is still stuck as a child where power over us took our rights and our personal power away… we didn’t have a chance when we were little to be right and be heard… so as an adult we slip back into that child self and loose ourselves to the helplessness again or need to control and be right and we will… at any cost win this fight! The damage this does just perpetuates the pattern from generation to generation… If you’re awake and ready to make a change to that pattern, here’s what you need to do…
- Take responsibility for your role in the fight (whether you reacted or watched from the sidelines)
- Talk to all the members who witness or were affected by it individually and ask them if you could convene to hear everyone out
- Insist and practice respecting everyone’s right to a voice and to be heard
- Set a time for the family meeting
- Set the boundaries for a family meeting – listen, don’t talk over, don’t run out, respect of each other, no swearing, no name calling or spiteful talking
- Get each member to talk about what happened for them… stick to the facts but encourage the naming of emotions (a very important step – see below for why). Everyone gets a turn without interruption. You be the facilitator and speak also of your experience.
- Talk about what is needed to recover – make a plan – does an apology work? Should one person do something for the other? Was there something broken that needs to be replaced
- All parties have to agree to the recovery plan
- Ask what they learnt from this experience
What this process does is provide a very important process to integrate the left and the right hemispheres of the brain – emotion and logic. The secret is in the dirt of what happened… the emotions, the facts, what happened… all need to be looked at when resolving emotional issues.
This addresses both sides of our brain and (when spoken about) is balanced. When balanced, the emotional and logical integration lasts and the next time a similar situation occurs you will find that it’s less intense or even avoided as both parties now understand each other better. Connections between family members are improved. Children feel safer. Children also learn that adults are not perfect and that gives them the right not to be perfect, because they look up to their parents as role models. It becomes a healthy experience and it’s resolved and not left to fester.
The more you do this process, the quicker it gets and the closer you become as a family. If both adults are not on board and willing to resolve family issues, you can be assured your children are suffering for it…. anxiety, nightmares, acting out are all signs of family unrest. We all have a basic need for safety in our family home and even if there is a few chaotic times, it’s how you recover from that event that counts.