family conflict

10 Ways to Avoid Extended Family Conflict

One working definition of family is “the people you are stuck with.” And when you’re stuck with people, conflict arises. You and your sibling may not see eye-to-eye. Your mom may never really have liked your sister-in-law. Add in Aunt Alice’s gossip and Uncle Joe’s alcoholism and your family is officially dysfunctional.

It is challenging to navigate extended family conflict. But here are 10 ways to avoid it.

1. Seek out the level-headed.

Build a relationship with the level-headed members of your family. Build a group of troubleshooters and peacemakers. When conflict starts to brew, it is much easier to squash when caught early—when level-headed people work together to temper the storm.

2. Find common ground.

Find common ground with the people who give you a tough time. It could be a television show you both like, a band you both follow, or a sport you both enjoy. Try to create a situation in which you both are actually happy doing the same thing. This will create at least the start of a relationship and certainly will help lessen the chances of conflict.

3. Remember that your ex is still human.

Conflict can become contentious. Breaking up is hard, and someone is always hurt. Deal fairly and with the best intentions. Then assume best intentions on the other side. If you are divorced, set an example for others in your extended family, and encourage other divorcees to act the same way.

4. Lighten the mood.

One of the best ways to relieve stress or ease a tense situation is to add humor. Try to have some fun with the reality of the situation. If the mood in the room is heavy, a funny remark will lighten it.

5. Take the high road.

Lowering yourself into petty disagreements and bickering is not going to help. Keep an even temperament. Avoid insulting others and delivering low blows. They will only come back to haunt you in the end.

6. Treat the stepparent cordially.

It is never easy when an ex remarries. However, they play a role in your children’s lives and at least should be given a chance to be a part of yours.

7. Know the rules.

When divorce occurs in your family, know the legal rules and follow them. These are touchy subjects, and the last thing you want is to become entangled in a bitter mess.

8. Seek spiritual guidance.

Things often happen in life that are beyond our control. When problems weigh us down, God asks us to lay our burdens upon Him. Pray for the healing of your family, and trust that His will is being done.

9. Protect the innocent.

Children often feel the worst results of adults’ actions. If there are children of divorce in your family, spend time with them and gauge their feelings. They are the innocent people in this and need to be nurtured and handled with great care.

10. Choose to forgive.

The easiest way to avoid extended family conflict is to forgive. Yes, your family member has done something hurtful or wrong, but until you forgive, your bitterness will grow. You will continue to be emotionally entangled in the mess. Forgive and be released.

Sound off: What are some other ways to avoid extended family conflict?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one way to reduce conflict?”