How to prevent family conflict during the coronavirus pandemic

19 May 2020

How to prevent family conflict during the coronavirus pandemic

  • Pandemic
by Michael Grose

Conflict between family members is normal, even healthy. However with constant close quarter living conflict is amplified. A child’s annoying behaviours once easily accommodated can become intolerable without a break. A parent’s leadership ability to build family closeness, while preventing siblings squabbles and sorting our skirmishes is key to maintaining family harmony.

Here are six ways to create a strong family culture that minimises conflict during corona virus period and beyond.

Avoid rivalry

Sibling competition is an ancient survival mechanism that prepared children for life beyond the family tribe. With close quarter living, constant comparison and competition can be wearing on everyone. You can reduce rivalry by avoiding sibling comparison, genuinely accepting individual differences and recognising each child’s role in the family.

Meet regularly to get everyone on board

Regular family meetings give you the chance to hear what’s bugging kids and let everyone know what’s going on. Meetings can be either formal with a simple agenda and regular scheduling or informal, occurring every two or three days with a known order of discussion (e.g. what’s happening this week, who has a problem, what needs to be done). Whatever method you choose make sure meetings are regular, well-managed and that decisions made in meetings are adhered to.

Spend time with each child

One-on-one enjoyable interactions between parent and child are underrated in their impact on the reduction of sibling rivalry and promotion of harmonious family relationships. Quality, fun, one-on-one interactions with each child negates the need for them to compete for your attention. When kids feel valued they are less likely to fight for parental attention.

Bring the family together

The family that plays together stays together so look for ways to bring your family together to connect, have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Work out your regular family rituals and make them non-negotiable. Evening meals, family discussions and at least one weekly movie or entertainment activity gives children and parents the opportunity to come together on a regular basis.

Know when to stay apart

It’s hard for family members who are used to doing things on their own to suddenly be thrust together in each other’s company for extended periods of time. Encourage kids to spend some time alone each day so they can relax, reflect and draw on their own emotional resources. Time alone is an underrated contributor to a child’s resilience and mental health.

Have a process to sort out squabbles

Sibling fighting comes with the parenting territory, but it’s not a fait accompli. How you respond to sibling conflict will determine the number, intensity and extent of fights between siblings. Resist sorting out on the run. That said, there will be times when squabbles need to be stopped or managed in real time. Better to choose a time and place when kids are settled and then look for ways to solve the problems that may exist between kids, rather than the resulting fights.

The changed living conditions we find ourselves in is a great opportunity for parents to impact family culture in positive ways. Do your best to lighten the mood, focus firmly on relationships and know when to bring kids together and keep them apart. That’s terrific family leadership at any time.

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Michael Grose

Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s an award-winning speaker and the author of 12 books for parents including Spoonfed Generation, and the bestselling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It. Michael is a former teacher with 15 years experience, and has 30 years experience in parenting education. He also holds a Master of Educational Studies from Monash University specialising in parenting education.