How to put an end to the bickering before it begins?
It will not be easy- but we can do it if we follow these five simple rules and if we promise to catch ourselves when we break one of the rules.
It has been three weeks, maybe 4? I am losing count of the days, and I catch myself wondering what day of the week it is. Suffice to say, it has been a while that we are all at home together in a never-ending episode of Full House!
I don’t need to remind you or myself that we love our families. That is granted and obvious. I also have no intention of preaching to you (and by extension to myself) how this is a difficult time for everyone – far more eloquent people have written thousands of words about this topic already.
My only objective in writing this article is to provide five simple rules that will ensure that our time together at home is not a cycle of frustrations, anger, resentment, regret, and apologies only to watch the cycle repeat itself the following day!
So, how can family members avoid conflict during Covid-19? Let us try to follow these five simple rules:
Rule # 1 Consider the Source of your Anger before Reacting.
Covid-19 is making you angry, not your family!
Before you respond in anger to any situation, count to 5 and ask yourself, “is my anger caused by the action taken by my family member or by Covid-19?”
For example: am I really outraged because my child did not put his plate in the sink AGAIN or am I frustrated in general because of the situation? I am not saying that we should completely relax the rules and allow our children to become slobs. I am merely encouraging us (me before anyone else) to let go of the small irritants. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Relaxing the rules just a bit will give everyone more room to interact more peacefully.
Rule # 2 No Flashbacks Allowed.
With so much time on our hands, families are spending more time talking together. That is great. The downside? We sometimes revert to Hot Topics that have caused problems in the past.
For example, this is probably not the best time to discuss, yet again, how our significant other’s 3rd cousin by marriage was somewhat rude during a supper 15 years ago and our significant other was not as offended as we were, knowing fully well that every time this topic comes up, it does not end well!
Covid-19 is not the time to rehash old fights. It is not the time to “talk about that subject we have been meaning to talk about”, but that will surely end in a fight. It is time to remember happy memories. Take out the photo albums, watch family videos, enjoy reliving those moments.
Rule # 3 Don’t Add More Items to the “To-Do List”.
Just because your significant other promised to fix, paint, change, rotate or modify ANYTHING once upon a time, three years ago, and has not yet, the odds are that the promise will not be fulfilled during the quarantine. I am not saying we should not GENTLY remind our significant other of their pledge; I am just suggesting that after six reminders, it will probably not get done so we might as well eliminate another source of friction.
During times of extreme stress and anxiety, adding additional tasks to the mounting To DO List just creates an additional load. Sometimes activities and projects can distract from the onslaught of information and 24 hours news alerts but sometimes extra projects, are just that: extra. And if this extra project, adds extra stress, then better shelve it for the time being.
Rule # 4 Physical Distancing is welcome at Home.
If possible, and depending on the layout of your home, take 30 minutes every day to sit by yourself, away from the rest of the family. Live in an apartment? No problem, go to the bathroom and take a bubble bath!
Too much togetherness can lead to some friction. There is a reason why the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has been passed down from generation to generation! Take the time to read, pray, listen to some music, anything that will re-energize you!
Rule # 5 Talk less – Listen more.
I wrote an article about avoiding conflict during Christmas and this section stood out:
“Silence is of gold” should be our new mantra!
Every family has one, an aunt/uncle/ cousin/ that speaks their mind and whose tongue is not dripping with honey. Knowing that this person will be at the family dinner is enough to cause one to stock up on antacids! The best strategy, when confronted with this family member, is to nod and smile. Don’t engage, don’t think of a witty comeback, just nod, smile and walk away. This is not a defeatist strategy; this is humility, another lesson that we learn from our Lord during Christmas. Ignoring our pride’s request for revenge and accepting snide comments with a smile and silence will transform the gathering. This is easier to accomplish than transforming the personality you are dealing with (let me spare you the grief, stop wishing that they will change, they probably will not- baring a miracle).
Now, apply this strategy for your interactions with your own family. A simple but effective way of ensuring your tongue is dripping with honey is by asking yourself these great questions before saying a single word: is what I am about to say kind, necessary, encouraging, hopeful? If not, why say it?
I leave you with this magnificent promise from the Bible:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
Other posts you might enjoy: Teaching Children to be Grateful
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