By Ashley Mateo, SELF magazine
Dealing with your immediate family members can be tough no matter how close you are. So we called up Dr. Jane Greer, New York City marriage and family therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship (Sourcebooks, 2010), to find out how to resolve conflicts and keep things copasetic at home. Keep reading for her expert tips!
Related: 20 Superfoods for Weight Loss
When things are good with my family, they're great. But our fights are brutal. How can I best deal with conflicts within my family?
First and foremost, turn down the heat in the argument. Keep in mind that they are your family and you love them; right now, you're disagreeing, so you want to do it in a way that will make room for problem-solving and working things out.
Related: Check out this unique slim-and-sculpt plan for a speedy shape-up!
You can say, 'You know what? We're too upset right now, things are too out of control, let's take a time out and revisit this later.' Give yourself some time to decompress and calm down. The goal of the argument is not to prove somebody right or wrong, but to be able to work together to figure out a solution or a compromise. Too many times, people will argue and then nobody wants to come back and talk about it, so the resentment and anger still simmers and nothing gets worked out.
What's the best way to re-approach a conflict?
Everybody has their own decompression time. You have to play that by ear based on what feels right. Try to gauge what your comfort level is in terms of how much time you need. Some people need overnight, some people need two or three days before they can even begin to talk about something because they're going to start screaming again. A lot of people have trouble, too, when one person wants to talk about it an hour later and the other person doesn't want to talk about it for a week. So you want to be able to respect each other's needs and remember that the most important thing is not WHEN you talk about it but THAT you talk about it. Ask your mother, sister, brother, whoever, 'Are you open to talking about this now?' If they say no, ask them when, with the understanding that you have one week--we don't want this on the shelf where it can fall off and hit us unexpectedly.
Related: Try one of these 30 healthy snacks today
I'm older than my siblings. How can I be a good role model for them without seeming like another parent?
The tricky part is, parents tell kids what to do and that's their role. Siblings, when they tell each other what to do, piss each other off. The goal is to be able to impart good advice in a way that is not controlling. The best way to do that is to offer a suggestion and ask your sister or brother if they want some input, so you use your own experience as a role model without telling them what they should do. You could say, 'Actually, I went through that, do you want to hear how I dealt with it?' Throw it out as an option for them, because then you have someone who's cooperating, who's involved with you, and they're going to listen to what you say because you've considered them, you're not force-feeding advice down their throat.
My parents have certain expectations of me, but my life is good and I'm happy. How do I deal with their expectations?
Let's say they want you to go to medical school or they want you to get an extra job. You want to be open to listening. It doesn't mean you have to go along with it, or live up to it, but you want to be able to have open conversations so that everybody feels related to it and heard. Say to your parents, 'Tell me why you think that's important, let me hear your thinking.' After all, they have experience and they do have some good thoughts. Now, their ideas might not be right for you, so after you've listened to it, you want to say 'Alright, well that makes sense, I'll think about it.' That's it. And then at some point you come back them and tell them you gave it some thought, but it's not right for you.
Related: 20 minutes to toned? Better believe it!
These power struggles happen a lot because parents become parental and think kids don't know what they're doing, then kids get their backs up, which is natural. It really means that the kids have to be grown-up enough to know that if they know that their life is working, they can tell their parents they don't have to worry about them. By not reacting, you reassure your parents that you're doing ok and then they'll calm down.
I had a fight with one family member--how do I let it go so it doesn't affect the rest of my family relationships?
The most important thing is to set the boundaries. It's like a six lane highway: if you don't have the dividers in place, everybody's going to crash and you're going to have a real pile-up. If anybody comes to you and says, 'I can't believe what you said to mom' or 'mom told me', you want to empathize, but remind them that this is between you and whoever else. Acknowledge the impact it's having on them, but put your boundaries in place and keep them out of it.
When our parents fight, it drives me and my sibling(s) crazy. Should we let them work it out alone or try to help them?
That's the challenge of family life, because parents are supposed to shoulder the responsibility of their own issues and not burden the kids with them. It's hard when you see your parents fighting not to be upset, and to want to step in and try and make it better. But, again, you want to keep the boundaries in place. Empathize with your parents but let them know the impact it's having on you. If they pull you into it, state the reality: I'm your daughter, this is a problem you're having with dad, and you and dad need to work it out. I can't resolve this for you guys.
Sometimes, my family fights over the dumbest things. How can I keep bickering from turning into a full-blown fight?
Related: See how to shed years and pounds in just 7 days
One of the greatest ways to do that is to develop some sort of password, so to speak. If you have some kind of verbal tics that indicate things are starting to heat up, you can stop it before it blows up too much. Use humor to try and cool things off. As soon as you label it, you can let it go. Whatever it is, "here we go again," "uh-oh," "we're taking a nosedive," whatever, the point is, it will let the other person know that you're about to go to the mat over something stupid.
For more from Dr. Greer, tune into "Doctor On Call" at healthylife.net on Tuesdays at 2 p.m.
More From SELF:
- Hungry? Try one of these 30 healthy snacks
- Lose weight faster: 6 days to get slim
- Try these superfoods for flatter abs
Check out 10 ways to avoid germs at the gym
- Reach your weight loss goal with SELF's no-stress fitness plan
Photo Credit: Drjanegreer.com