Family Conflict and Stress
Although it is normal to experience family conflict and stress from time to time, chronic conflict can be damaging to your relationships as well as your own mind and body. Long term conflict and stress can lead to mental health issues as well as physical stress and illness in your body. Therefore, finding a way to work out those family issues is very important for the health and wellness of the entire family unit. If not dealt with properly, adults can unknowingly pass on their negative emotions to their children, and if children's own stressors are not dealt with properly it can affect their emotional development and can even carry it with them into their own adult lives. It is worth your time to work through family conflict and stress early on before it becomes a chronic problem.
Examples of Family Stress and Conflict
The examples of family stress and conflict can be endless. With life comes change and often these changes interupt the healthy flow of typical everyday life. Families evolve, unforseen circumstances occur, everyday schedules change, and the routines that once were common are interrupted which require us to re-adjust and re-learn a new way to live. Many of these changes are not within our control, which can bring on negative emotions that often increase family conflict and stress if they are not dealt with properly. Below are some common examples of family stress and conflict.
New Couple Living Together - At first, living together is fun, exciting and new - however, as time goes on, we quickly learn what things annoy us when we are sharing a common space. One person may snore, or not pick up their clothes off the floor, or not used to sharing space or having to be considerate of different living preferences. You will need to to compromise through all these little things and find a way to be a peace together.
Birth of a Child - Bringing a new baby into the family brings major changes. Your sleep, the sole attention you once got from your partner is now shared, responsibility is increased and household chores, and routines become affected. Again, compromise will be in demand and with sleepless nights, and increase in responsbilities, fluctiation in hormones, feelings of neglect, amongs other things, emotions are often easily provoked leaving us open to conflict and disagreements.
Teenagers in the House - Whether you have teenagers or you are ARE the teenager. Life is changing on both sides. New challenges arise as your kids separate from you to proclaim their independence. Overprotective parents can cause more stress and conflict to their teenager by not allowing them room to grow and make mistakes, and on the other hand, parents often feel distress over letting go and discipline becomes more challenging as rules are broken or disrespect occurs. The relationship teenagers have with their parents naturally evolves over time but is not without growing pains.
Social Challenges of School Aged Children - School aged children often experience challenges with social skills. Sometimes, children experience bullying from another student or maybe your child is bullying someone else, or maybe a child/teacher relationship is not a healthy one and requires your constant attention. Oftentimes, a child's social challenges are met with parental challanges of the same variety. Having to advocate for your child is a growing experience for all. Not knowing how to handle situations can bring more stress into the family, it can cause anxiety, frustation, disagreements, and many who suffer social anxiety might want to avoid confrontation which can be detrimental to the child if not caught in the early stages and dealt with promptly. Children learn by watching how adults handle challenges, so, pay attention and know your kids are watching you.
Special Needs Child or Adult - Children and/or adults that have a challenging life-long medical diagnosis that requires special attention and care can be exhausting at times. Not just for the caretaker but for the one who suffers, also. These challenges bring unique emotions that require support and positive reinforcement on a regular basis. When needs aren't met, it is easy to enter into conflict and stress when emotions are high. It is important to find balance and get involved in programs/groups that can help you feel understood and not alone. Taking a time out as a caregiver is essential to good mental and physical health.
Family Estragement - Family Estrangement is the loss of a previous family relationship through complete cut off of communication for a prolonged period of time. Although estrangement may be due to abuse (physical/emotional), unaddressed mental illness, untreated substance abuse, neglect, bullying or other toxic reasons, it usually happens as a result of conflict that one or the other cannot see coming to a resolution. Each person is unique in their own reasoning why they have walked away from such a relationship, and many times the ones left behind suffer great feelings of confusion, loss, grief, stress and abandonment. Estrangement is a complicated situation that often requires professional therapy. It is always the hope that those who suffer estragement come to a place of peace and spiritual/emotional healing.
Separation/Divorce - Both separation and divorce typically brings family conflict and stress. If children are involved, the stressors can become overwhelming. This type of family stress usually involves moving, and often estrangement of previous family and shared friends. If you are going through a separation or divorce, family therapy is highly recommended. Special care is needed when children are involved.
Employment Changes - A change in employment can certainly bring on family stress. New jobs require new routines, sometimes requiring longer work hours or longer commutes. In the case of job loss, the family often feels the burden of financial stress and uncertainty. Families often have to cut the budget, and find ways to get by. Most of us have experienced this type of stress in some way. Keeping a positive attitude is crucial to get through this tough change.
Illness/Death in the Family - Of course illness, death, and even sudden disablity is stressful and can leave us susceptible to conflict within the family when we are overwhelmed with sudden change and/or loss. The weight of emotions, the damands of life-changes are often unbearable and require the help of others.
Addiction in the Family - Addiction within the family brings great stress and conflict. Many times the addict refuses therapy, family members often disagree about how to help them properly, and behaviors affect everyone in a negative way when the addict does not seek to help themselves. Many families today have a family member who suffers addiction. It is said that 1 out of every 5 children grows up with a family member who abuses drugs and/or alcohol. In many cases, extended family members have to help financially - sometimes to help raise children whose parents are unable to care for them, or to care for the addict. For these reasons, addiction is considered a family disease.
Moving/Military Deployments and/or Military PCS - Moving your residence can bring much family stress and conflict. Not only is it stressful packing and moving, but starting over somewhere new, especially for children (new schools, new friends, etc.). Even if the move is exciting and looked at as a positive thing, stress is usually unavoidable. Military families often move around, and with Active-Duty this often means deployments away from the family, and military spouses must pick up and learn to function as a single-parent temporarily.
Family Holiday Stress - Holidays are always a time for more family stress. Visit Holiday Stress Management for tips on coping through the holidays for a less-stressful experience.
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How Chronic Family Conflict and Stress Affects Health
Over long-term, chronic family conflict and stress can hurt your overall health. Research shows that chronic stress can contribute to both physical and mental health issues. When people are subjected to constant conflict and stress over a long period of time, imbalance of the nervous system occurs therefore contrubuting to unwanted and unpleasant symptoms in the body and the mind.
Physical Symptoms - Physical Symptoms of Chronic Stress and Conflict may present as fatigue, brain fog, muscle tension, digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, fluctuations in weight (such as loss or gain), heart disease and also high blood pressure, cancer and even strokes.
Emotional Symptoms - Emotional Symptoms may include things like anger, hurt, fear, frustration, anxiety, depression, lonliness, feelings of low self-worth, isolation, etc. These feelings, and the circumstances of the threat presented by the conflict, cause our bodies to react in the “fight or flight” stress response including panic attacks.
Remember, there are effective stress management strategies that you can implement into your daily life to keep your physical and emotional health in check. And, as always, if you are feeling you need more than your average "self-help" methods, do not hesitate to call your family doctor.
Tips for Dealing with Family Stress and Conflict
As the saying goes, "Teamwork makes the Dream Work". There are many things you can do to work better together as you work through family conflict and stress. The goal is to always see family as a team, finding ways to work together better and to handle the challenges that occur. Be equally minded in your heart and mind with the same drive and determination. Work together as a team to accomplish your goals. It just doesn't work when both are not equally dedicated to make it work.
Control Your Emotions! Wait until initial feelings of anger subside before talking. Always speak the truth in love with respect for the other person. Do not interupt eachother when having discussions. Allow eachother to speak and allow the other to respond. Communication is about all people being able to express themselves in a safe environment where they feel heard. Allow time for questions, also. If you do not understand something, ask for clarification. Being heard is not about agreeing - you can still talk, get your point across and AGREE TO DISAGREE.
Stay on topic and do not interupt. Always deal with the issue at hand and do not bring up other problems that have already come and gone. If it is worth fighting over then make enough time to talk about it, allowing each person to express themselves without interruption.
Define your goals and then take steps together to make things work for the good of all. Define what jobs belong to who, and compromise with an understanding that it takes all of you to work together in harmony. Sometimes this means picking up the extra when someone is sick or cannot be there. Love is about giving our best to eachother.
Be accountable to one another. Hold eachother accountable if things aren't being tended to, and if things aren't working like you originally thought, take a time out and discuss it. Reassess how things can improve. Don't allow defensiveness to take over. OWN YOUR MISTAKES. Nobody is perfect!
Compromise! The goal is to resolve conflict or at least come to some type of compromise. Finding a resolution does not mean you have to always agree on everything. We are all different and have our own ideas on how things should be done. What matters is that we meet in the middle and find something that works for everyone.
Ask for help if you need it. If your own attempts don't work and you find you are falling into a chronic pattern of family conflict and stress, REACH OUT FOR HELP. Whether your join a support group, relationship and/or family counseling, or even a Life Coach, there are many options that can help you sort things out. Sometimes, all you need is for someone to listen and understand, who can encourage you in the right direction. Do not be afraid to get some extra help. You don't have to do it alone.
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