Family Conflict Resolution Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Helping families understand how conflicts work and how to resolve them is an important way of providing support. This lesson offers specific activities for teaching family conflict resolution skills.

Why Family Conflict Resolution Activities?

Have you ever tried to support a family that's struggling with conflict? If so, you know what a multi-faceted task this can be. Families get into conflicts for a variety of reasons, and, of course, not all conflict is bad. Family members can learn a lot about themselves and one another by working with and through conflicts, but it's also important to develop skills for coming to resolution.

Unfortunately, conflict resolution isn't something that can be taught in a simple or linear way. It doesn't lend itself to a lecture or even a one-time discussion. Rather, conflict resolution skills and strategies develop over time. For that reason, it can be helpful to learn some activities that support conflict resolution.

When family members engage in activities together, they work through a process that helps them understand why conflicts occur and how they can be resolved. Activities are hands-on, often collaborative, and appeal to a variety of learning styles, so no one gets left behind.

The activities in this lesson are designed to help families work on conflict resolution. You can modify the exact procedures to meet the skills and needs of the people you're working with.

Conflict Resolution Activities

Know Your Conflict Style

One of the most important conflict resolution skills a person can have is intimate knowledge of his or her instinctive response to conflict. It also helps to understand that other people may have different styles, but that there are no 'right' or 'wrong' approaches.

Try this activity. Hang note cards in four corners of a room with the following animal names written on them: lion, turtle, deer, and fox. Ask everyone in your group to think about which animal most closely approximates their style for handling conflict and have them gather in the relevant corner. In each corner, have people talk about why they chose that animal and what they think it says about them. Ask them to make a mental note of where other family members have gathered. If someone is alone in a corner, have them think about why they chose their corner and how it feels to be alone there.

Then, bring everyone back together. Ask every participant to explain why they chose the animal they did and what it says about their approach to conflict. Ask family members to share what they learned about one another and how this understanding might help their communication style in times of conflict.

Practice I-Statements

When families are dealing with conflict, the tone can often become accusatory. Since this only exacerbates conflict, it can be really helpful for everyone to practice speaking only from their own perspective and experience. This activity focuses on teaching use of I-Statements. An I-Statement is one that begins with the pronoun 'I' and avoids assumptions about another person's feelings and intent. For instance, a parent might reframe 'You're always scaring me by coming home past your curfew!' to 'I feel frightened when you're not home on time.'

To practice I-Statements, give each family a set of cards with accusatory statements on them. Some possible statements include:

  • You never do your share around the house.
  • You hang out with such a troublesome crowd.
  • You're always getting home from work too late.
  • You spend too much money.
  • You aren't trying your best in school.

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