Are you ever caught in the middle of family conflict, trying to keep the peace between family members who just don’t get along?
Are you the mediator, who is always put under a lot of stress, anxiety, heartache and even pain when you hear complaints from both sides? Whatever the cause of the conflict, you seem to be put in the awkward position to placate the distressed parties. While you may love them all, their fighting leaves you unhappy, frustrated and exhausted. You wonder, why can’t everyone just get along?
One of my clients is in just this position, trying to mediate between her young adult daughter, daughter’s step-dad and her ex-husband. Each one is using my client to make their point and putting her in the middle of tremendous conflict, where she doesn’t know who’s right, who’s wrong or even if she cares! The enormous stress caused her to get sick and now she needs medication to cope with the anxiety.
If you find yourself in the middle, here are some suggestions to help you cope:
- First and foremost, you don’t want to take sides. You are not the mouthpiece for either of your relatives nor are you the venting board.
- If possible, keep contact to a minimal, so you won’t be put in the position to have to temper things.
- If applicable, explain to all parties that you love them, but being caught in between causes you to walk on eggshells, hoping things don’t escalate – and you don’t enjoy having to change your behavior for them.
- When the family is together, be sure to have a list of topics to switch to when conflict arises. It’s best to avoid conversations that are controversial and to keep things as neutral as possible. You can try to redirect them both towards compromise solutions.
- Anticipate any conflicts that may arise and draw the family members towards things that would bring them together, like a common philanthropic cause, sporting event, television show, etc.
- Declare reasonable boundaries that both parties must respect when they are together.
With determination and persistence, my client was able to turn her family situation around, making sure all parties knew she was no longer the mediator or peacekeeper.
If you find yourself in the “middle”, set reasonable guidelines that will support peace within the home and harmony among the members.
Do what you can to slowly break down the barriers that are causing the conflict and initiate options that restore and renew family togetherness. There’s no room for animosity in a healthy home.
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