One of the Care for the Family team, Hannah Persaud, shares how a recent couples event helped to start a conversation about conflict with their children.
Until last week, my husband and I thought we had conflict sussed. As a couple, we don’t argue often. When the children argue with us or each other, we try to resolve it fairly and quickly, and we aim for a peaceful home. We thought we were doing OK.
So when we attended a marriage event recently, we were surprised to find that the section that kept us talking for ages was ‘When Sparks Fly’. As we considered questions such as ‘what are the silly things we argue about?’ and ‘how are we different in conflict styles?’ we became aware that our answers included the expectations we have of the children, ways in which we are similar and different to them, and how that affects conflict in our home.
We had not discussed this topic in depth together before, except after rows when tears were shed and one of us needed to say sorry. This felt completely different – an honest conversation in the context of a date night, without the stress of heightened emotion. It was so helpful and refreshing that we decided it was a conversation to open up to the whole family.
The following weekend we had some dinner and treats with our children and let them stay up a bit later. Then we handed them the ‘When Sparks Fly’ prompts we’d used on our date night.
They were in charge; they asked the questions, led the discussion and were allowed to say whatever they wanted. The subject was conflict, but the evening turned out to be a very positive and happy one, with lots of laughter and a renewed understanding of each other.
It was so healthy for the children to get a chance to explain the things which make them feel cross or upset, and to learn how we are different in the ways we communicate in those moments. All of us became aware of little things that we hadn’t really noticed before. Two of our children spoke passionately about what’s difficult for them when they come in from school – our expectations of them in that first half an hour are almost opposite to what we now know they value, and we’ve been able to compromise.
Since that evening, I have noticed an awareness in their interactions with one another. I know it’s early days, but they have listened to each other and understood each other better. You can see that they are navigating one another’s emotions more intentionally!
Making time to focus on conflict as a family surpassed my expectations. It’s made us commit to being intentional as parents to take stock and discuss family life and our relationships with the kids. Allowing healthy space for tricky conversations will be something we do more with the children – not instead of, but in addition to, adult time. We’ve realised it’s a very healthy habit that we have the opportunity to form in them, one which will benefit their future relationships as well as current ones.
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