Summer is a great time to make family memories that will last a lifetime. Taking a break from the stress of school and all the extracurricular activities that keep everyone hopping is something everyone in the family looks forward to.
However, once the anticipation of summer adventures dies down and the reality of boredom and family conflicts sets in, those dreams for a relaxing summer can soon become a thing of the past.
Conflict is a normal part of family interaction. While it can’t be avoided, it can be managed and minimized. Families overwhelmed with disagreements and negative behaviors may want to consider family therapy to learn new communication skills. The goal of family therapy is to help families function as a unit and strengthen their relationships.
Attending therapy isn’t the only way to navigate summer conflicts. These tips will help you and your family members enjoy each other’s company more this summer and through every season.
7 Strategies for Resolving Family Conflict
Whether you’re planning a classic family road trip or making the most of local fun spots this summer, the first step to enjoying yourself more is to let go of unrealistic expectations.
The kids are going to squabble. You and your partner are going to be stressed, and if you’re a single parent, you are probably going to stress enough for two people.
Hanging on to the idea that this summer, things are magically going to be better than all the summers before is a setup for frustration and disappointment. No family is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you have to surrender to a constant stream of bickering.
Whether through the help of family therapy or changes you make on your own, there are steps you can take to increase everyone’s summer enjoyment.
1. Keep Normal Boundaries in Place
It’s tempting to throw out all the rules during the summer months, but too much media and too many late nights and junk-food binges are bound to make anyone disagreeable. Help keep the peace in your family by keeping basic health and wellness boundaries in place.
Of course, there will be late nights here and there and plenty of special treats. It is summer vacation, after all. But making sure everyone gets adequate sleep, exercise, and nutritious food will help everyone keep a cool head, even when the temperatures are rising.
2. Get the Team Involved
Sometimes the adults must make decisions that work for the entire family unit. Kids don’t always get a vote in making summer plans but involving them as much as possible increases their sense of investment in the activity.
When everyone feels like their preferences matter and their voice is being heard, they are more inclined to self-manage minor conflicts when they arise.
Don’t feel bad if working together isn’t your family’s strong suit. Many families need help learning how to communicate with one another effectively. Family therapy teaches family members the skills they need to function better as a supportive unit.
3. Identify Triggers
Identifying triggers is a skill that’s commonly taught during family therapy. Triggers are those people, places, actions, or events that make a person feel distressed. For example, a child might get overly upset when a sibling takes one of their belongings without asking.
Teaching siblings to respect one another’s property is part of the solution but teaching the “triggered” child how to handle the situation is just as important. In this case, you could role-play how to handle things when one family member takes someone else’s item. Through role-play, the child can learn how to handle the infringement without causing an unnecessary conflict.
4. Avoid Over-Scheduling
Think about how stressed out and cranky you feel when practically every moment of your day is scheduled. Everyone benefits from a little downtime now and then, even children. You don’t have to fill every moment of the summer with a planned activity to ensure the kids are having fun. In fact, a little bit of boredom is good for children.
Downtime helps kids release stress and regulate their emotions. It also allows them to tap into their imagination and enjoy some unscheduled creative play.
5. Play Together
Summer activities don’t have to be extravagant to be meaningful. Playing together as a family promotes better family bonding. It can create a comfortable space to talk about issues casually. Family time can also help promote healing after a conflict has happened.
Choosing something active is preferable to passive activities like movie watching. Playing board games, going to the park or pool together, or enjoying a summer picnic in the backyard complete with a round of Hide-and-Seek are just a few ideas that will help your family relieve stress and feel closer to one another.
6. Be Solution-Oriented
Arguments, fights, and hurt feelings are a normal part of family life 12 months a year, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to ignore them. When kids are doing a good job of working through conflicts on their own, it may be best to stay out of them. But sometimes, a parent needs to intervene.
Breaking up a tussle is only part of a parent’s job. Helping children find solutions to their problems is just as important. If you’re unsure how to work toward solutions, consider taking the gang to family therapy.
Family therapy isn’t just for families who are stuck in dysfunctional cycles. Therapy provides parents with the support and resources to successfully guide their children through life’s challenges.
7. Reward the Positive
Let’s be honest; being with your kids 24 hours a day all summer long can be exhausting. It’s easy to forget some of your best parenting skills, especially with so many extra duties to oversee in the summer. Don’t forget to let the kids and your spouse know when they’re doing a good job.
A little praise is good for a kid’s self-esteem and reminds them what behavior you’re looking for. Thanking a family member for picking their dirty clothes up off the floor or for being generous to a sibling is sometimes all it takes to change the mood in the home.
Is Therapy Right for Your Family?
Don’t let another summer go by while your family struggles with the same issues over and over. Contact Blackhawk Family Development to learn more about our family therapy services. We can help your family learn to support and enjoy one another no matter what challenges the summer brings.