Monday | 18 May | 2020
By Wilma Bedford
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 lockdown not only brings the best qualities of family members and characteristics of healthy family dynamics to the fore, but it also unleashes conflict between children and teens who long for freedom and their friends on the one hand, and parents who have to maintain discipline and harmony on the other.
No matter how difficult it may be, the conflict must be addressed and the best way to do so, is to convent an official meeting with your family – it could serve as an introduction to meeting procedures in the corporate world.
Ask yourself what it is you want to achieve with this meeting. Are your expectations realistic? How will you show that you regard yourself and others with respect and dignity?
Convene the meeting. Determine a time and place, for example around the dining room table. Describe the problem that has emerged in the family, for example failing to perform duties, inconsiderate conduct or unequal distribution of chores. Set a timespan for the meeting, for example a maximum of 45 minutes. Ask that cell phones be left in bedrooms; each person’s full attention will be required. Expect opposition and excuses from your teens, but keep to the decision and give enough notice regarding for when the meeting is planned. Be accommodating to your teens and ask them when the meeting will not interfere with their social media appointments or their favourite TV programmes, but put it to them that everyone will have to make time or sacrifice something they enjoy doing to attend the meeting. If possible, notify everyone in writing or by email of the meeting – parents included.
Chairperson and agenda. Act as chairperson of the meeting and make it clear what is on the agenda: that as a result of the lockdown everyone is trying to handle stress in his/her own way, but that it is normal to start getting on each other’s nerves and start to get lax. Let your family feel safe by saying that everyone is entitled to an opinion, that you will listen and take your children’s and your spouse’s opinions seriously and that you expect the same from them. Make it clear that you are not going to preach, repeat yourself or judge anyone – and stick to it.
Lay down the rules for the meeting:
- No-one may speak out of turn.
- No-one may say the other person is wrong and he/she is right.
- Insulting behaviour such as rolling of eyes and sighs and negative body language will not be tolerated.
- Everyone in the family will have to change at least one thing to improve the situation for all concerned.
- We have to live together in a limited space, so try to arrive at a harmonious destination.
Procedure: Give everyone a sheet of paper and ask that they write down their responses to the following questions; give a specified time to do so. Children who are too young to write can dictate to you what they want to say.
- Describe specifically what frustrates you.
- What change would you like to see pertaining thereto?
- Is there something you do that contributes to the problem? If so, is there something you will be prepared to change?
- Will your proposed changes be viable or not? Why do you think so?
Bring participants back to the table within a specified period of time and ask each one to read his/her response; participants can make notes to ask questions later or to answer them.
Participants can then make comments, adhering to the above rules, but may only speak through the “chairperson”. Decide on a viable solution to the named problems and try to as far as possible let everything make a commitment thereto.Summary and conclusion:
Each person takes one minute to say 1) what he/she would like the others to remember of what he/she said; 2) what he/she heard from the other persons that would be important to remember.
It would be unrealistic to resolve conflict with one meeting; quickly go through a check-list of everything the following day and have another meeting to discuss the success of the undertakings or to find better solutions.
At the moment your aim is a close existence with no conflict: in time you and your family will be able to look back with gratitude and respect at how you came through an unprecedented and difficult time as a team.
You and Your Kids Can’t Stand Each Other: Now What?
Wiseman, R. April 2020. The New York Times http://www.nyt.com
How Coronavirus Shifted the Stakes of Teenage Rebellion
Niederhoffer, Galt. May 2020. The New York Times http://www.nyt.com
* All information was correct at the time of publication.