6 effective ways to work through family conflict during lockdown
We are into week 5 of the lockdown in South Africa, and by now many households would have experienced some level of family conflict.
So why are the chances of family conflict so heightened during this time? Firstly none of us are used to spending 24/7 under the same roof with our families for weeks on end.
Secondly, we all have different needs, given that our personalities are different and that we are in different stages of our lives. This means that our needs can come into conflict with each other. E.g. some need quiet time to promote a feeling of calmness, while others may need music or liveliness to feel sane.
Additionally, some need alone time, while others may feel the need for more bonding and closeness.
Thirdly, we may not have access to our usual coping mechanisms – e.g. going to gym, sport, seeing our friends or even going to work. Many distract themselves from unhealthy family relationships by going to work every day, which means that they are away from the conflictual situation for most of the day – but now, there’s no escape.
Fourthly, we all cope differently (sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes not) and our way of coping can actually annoy others. E.g. a person who copes by being super organised may annoy someone who is struggling with routine due to the stress. Someone who copes by talking about things may annoy another who withdraws when stressed.
So, what do we do?
Understand how you are feeling
Identify how you cope – and whether your way of coping is helpful or harmful. Then, establish what you need to feel safe. Once you know, it’s easier to take steps to meet these needs, either by yourself or by communicating to others.
Communicate your feelings and needs to others
Remember, they are not mind-readers, so do not assume that it should be obvious. Be mindful of your tone when communicating. You are more likely to get what you want when you ask politely and explain why it’s important.
Agree on boundaries that distinguish family time from alone time, work time from leisure time, sharing of chores, etc.
Choose your battles wisely
We will be spending a lot of time with our family and there is no easy escape just yet. So before a confrontation, be sure that it is that important. If it is…rather express your complaint as a wish. Instead of complaining about something (e.g. you never wash your dishes), rather express your wish (e.g. I would find it really helpful if you washed your dishes after using them).
Connect with others who are good for your mental health
Ensure that you interact with at least one person outside your home each day (using technology).
Prioritise your selfcare
Ensure that you do at least one thing that makes you feel good (e.g. exercise, meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, reading, etc.).
Rakhi Beekrum is a counselling psychologist