Where there are two or more people, there will be disagreements, family notwithstanding. All of us have to deal with a family conflict at some or many points in our lives.

Trite as family disagreements seem, they can be delicate and difficult to manage. So, how do you handle squabbling loved ones? How do you cope when you become embroiled in the conflict yourself?

Seven types of family conflict and how to resolve each

Note that there are no straight forward solutions to solving in-law related conflicts. These suggestions are small steps you can take to improve the relationships with them.

1. Conflicts with in-laws

You’d be too familiar with this first scenario if you have a spouse. Clashes with in-laws are typical and even expected. They’re not surprising; bringing two families together is a mammoth task. It’s meshing together two different cultures and traditions. It’s even more difficult if there are kids in the mix because of the potential disagreements over managing them.

Awareness is one key to solving in-law related conflict. Be sensitive to their needs and culture; try seeing things from their perspectives. While you may not appreciate their stand, some empathy may help you reach much-needed compromises.

Do work with your spouse, who will understand his or her parents better than you would. Try to appreciate the bond your loved one has with his or her parents, even if they are not the most relatable. Never put your spouse in a bind by making him or her choose between you and them.

Set your family values, and let your in-laws know your boundaries. Direct communication is essential; never go through a third party because doing so creates fodder for misunderstandings.

2. Conflict over the care of elderly parents

Such conflicts are also the norm. Siblings typically struggle over how best to take care of their senior parents. While one feels that they would receive 24/7 care in a nursing home, the other might think that it is irresponsible to leave them there.

There are no easy answers to taking care of one’s elderly parents. Rotational visits or duties are a possible solution, but all siblings must be willing to spare the time for them. Consider daycare for the elderly. Daycare centers that look after the elderly while their children are at work are a solution for you if you only need help for a few hours each day.

3. Squabbles over disciplining children

Then, there are quarrels over how best to teach life lessons to the kids. One parent may subscribe to the “spare the rod, spoil the child” philosophy, while the other may adopt a more relaxed approach to discipline.

Being either too easy-going or harsh is not the solution. As with most things in life, balance is the key. Children need to learn boundaries, and setting structures in place will remove the need for a rod.

4. Family Business

Family members often set up businesses, and so they should. They should work together as one. Sadly, this is seldom the case. Fathers and sons fall out over how a family business should operate. Sisters feel disrespected when another doesn’t consult them over some issues.



Senior members of the family often have to take sides in the matter, which leaves one sibling feeling slighted. Even siblings who have little or nothing to do with the business get thrown into the dispute.

So, how do you work together with your family and avoid tearing each other apart?

Working as a family has one advantage-members understand each other’s tendencies. That means knowing what buttons not to push so as not to trigger a conflict. Also, if you are part of a family business, agree to keep things professional. Do respect each other’s roles, and understand the boundaries that come with them. Above all, don’t discuss work outside of working hours.

5. Stepparent-stepchild conflict

The stepparent-stepchild gap is another conflict that occurs within a family. Accepting stepchildren as one’s own is never easy; you can’t avoid comparison with their mum or dad. And it isn’t easy to shake off the feeling that they will never be your kids.

Likewise, it’s no mean feat for children to get used to a new parent. They miss mum or dad, and the new rules that the stepparent sets often don’t seem fair. After all, he or she isn’t mum or dad.

So, how do you get along with your stepchildren? First, if you’re spouse is divorced from his ex, give your stepchildren time to grieve. They miss mum and dad after all. Give them space as anything excessive will overwhelm them. Above all, treat them as you would your kids.



Assign responsibilities and give them the privileges that you would your sons or daughters. That would make them feel valued, respected, and willing to spend time with you.

6. Divorced parents squabbling over child management

Another conflict in a family is that between divorced parents over the management of their children. One finds the other too lax. Mum allows them to see a concert while dad is adamant about not letting them go. Dad takes them out, and mum complains that she should have known about it.

How do you co-parent successfully with your ex? Remember the love you had, even if it seems like a decade ago. He or she will have some qualities that drew you in the first place. You will have disagreements, but keep them out of the children’s way. Be united with your ex regarding rules and norms. Never badmouth him or her in front of the kids.

7. Conflict over family events

Family events can be full of drama. They can be full of stress too, and it’s what contributes to the arguments. They quarrel over the invite list, dates, and venues. You know the triggers for the drama, so avoid them as far as possible.

Visualize a satisfactory outcome from the event, and don’t view it as a pass or fail situation – cherish the memories instead. Family conflict can be the hardest to reconcile. But you can do a few things to make it manageable.

Michelle Liew, B.A.

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