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Five ways to improve family interactions

When home sweet home starts turning sour 


 Child 1: (with anger) MOM!! You said you would help me with my math 5 minutes ago!!

Child 2: (with frustration) You are so annoying…I am trying to help mom figure out how to video conference on her laptop!

Mom: (to child 1, with what she hopes sounds like patience, but does not) I will be there in 2 more minutes!

Child 2: (rolls eyes and says to self “there is no way mom will get this in 2 minutes”)

Dad: (with an angry voice as he comes running down the stairs) Would everyone PLEASE be quiet…my entire video conferencing group can hear all of you!!

Sound familiar? At CFCE, we have years of experience in helping families manage conflict and “hear” each other differently in stressful times.

 Here are some things family members can do to stop fighting and start connecting during quarantine:

  1.  Take at least one full, deep breath before speaking in an argument
    -Even that short pause can help you from saying words or using a tone that is going to make the atmosphere at home worse.
  2. When someone complains – about you or your actions – get curious about their feelings
    -Say something like “you are angry with me for asking if your schoolwork is done?”  “It is difficult to feel like your parent is watching everything you do, isn’t it?”
    -Sometimes just saying that helps the other person calm down. Sometimes just hearing yourself say it out loud helps you calm down.
  3. Shift your perspective
    -It is so easy to see our own side of an issue. Imagine for just a few minutes that you have to make an argument for the other side. Can you see the other person’s point of view, even a little?
    -Can you accept that the other person has a different perspective even if you can’t understand it? This can go a long way in making a more peaceful environment!
  4. Validate all feelings (not behaviors)
    -This is a stressful time for all of us. Expect that your family members may be more irritable.

    Instead of –  screaming with frustration “I asked you to take out the trash three times and now you’re giving me attitude, are you kidding!”

    Try – “You are really annoyed at having to take out the trash, that makes sense, no one likes that job. It still needs to be done and I know you are unhappy about it.”
    Instead of “ You are all getting on my nerves right now!!”

    Try – “It sounds like everyone is getting on each other’s nerves, that is pretty normal for a situation like this, this is really difficult for all of us!”

    Instead of -“Don’t you dare speak to me like that!”

    Try – “It looks like you are really upset!   Even when you’re upset, please try to be respectful to me with your tone and words.  I will hear you better that way.”

  5. Find the humor, point out the positives

    -Tell jokes, riddles, puns

    -Tell funny family stories  “remember the time when….” This not only adds humor to the day but also reinforces your bond, your connection as a family.

    -Notice when a family member gets something right, does something nice, or even just does what they are supposed to do. Compliments and small acts of appreciation can ease and prevent tension.

 We know trying to make these changes is not easy when your emotions are high. Think about this during a calmer time and see if you can practice a little of this whenever you can!  We are here for you!

 What is the biggest stressor for your family right now?  If you have tried these ideas and it’s not working, or if things are so hard at home that you don’t feel able to try these things, talk to us! Contact CFCE at  We can provide online therapy sessions for parents, children, or families.