Submitted by: Shirley Cress Dudley
The following is information about managing family stress. It’s from Debbie Lorence, University of Louisville’s Kentucky Autism Training Center, who gave a handout that I thought may help:
Magical thinking and conflict resolution:
- I will try not to avoid conflict altogether: Instead, I will try to not let the little things that bother me BUILD UP until one of us explodes the issue into a large fight; I will try to talk about it with my partner within 48 hours, or let it go; I will try to set an appointment within the next 24 hours to have our discussion if my partner doesn’t want to discuss the matter immediately
- I will try not become defensive: Instead, I will try to listen and hear my partner out; I will try to address my partner’s complaints with objectivity and with a willingness to understand; I will try to remain calm and in control of my emotions.
- I will try not to over generalize: Instead, I will try to lose the words “always” and “never”; I will try to avoid catastrophizing; I will try to avoid the focus on isolated events and assuming all future events will be the same; I will try to stop and think if the things I am saying are really true.
- I will try not to always be right: Instead, I will try to stop looking at things as being “right” or “wrong” and that my opinions are always right and my partner’s are wrong; I will try to recognize that sometimes two points of view are valid; I will try to look for effective ways to compromise; I will try to accept that my partners might have a different opinion that I do and that sometimes we might need to agree to disagree.
- I will try not to read my partner’s mind: Instead, I will try to resist the idea that I “know” what my partner is thinking and that those thoughts are contrary to mine; I will try to avoid assigning motives to my partner’s actions – “You are only saying/doing this because…”; I will try to avoid jumping to conclusions and hear my partner out.
- I will try not to deny the positive: Instead, I will try to refrain from holding the magnifying glass to the negative events while I dismiss the positive – for example, I will focus on the nine things that go right instead of the one thing that goes wrong; I will try to expect positive things to happen rather than thinking of positive things as flukes – this will help me to eliminate those “Yeah, but….” responses when my partner proposes a solution to a problem.
- I will try not to forget to listen: Instead, I will try to listen carefully – don’t think about what I am going to say next while my partner is talking; I will try to reflect back what my partner is saying so he/she feels heard; I will try to avoid interrupting; I will try to look at my partner when we are having a conversation and pay attention to his/her body language; I will try to use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
- I will try not to play the “Blame Game”: Instead, I will try to refrain from criticizing and blaming others for the situation; I will try to avoid trying to “shame” my partner as being “at fault”; I will try to use the opportunity to analyze the situation objectively, assess the needs of both parties, and try to reach a solution that helps both of us; I will try to refrain from personalizing my stressors – blaming myself for things over which I have no control creates more stress for me.
- I will try not to always feel I need to “win”: Instead, I will try to come to a resolution and a mutual understanding that respects the needs of both of us; Healthy communication involves finding a resolution that both parties can be happy with.
- I will try not make character attacks: Instead, I will try to avoid calling each other names; we will refrain from blaming one another or make accusations; I will try to respect my partner even if I don’t like his/her ideas or behavior; I will try to avoid bringing up past conflicts to throw the discussion off-topic.
Some of these rules sound pretty tough, but remember to focus on your kids. This isn’t about trying to hurt your spouse or “get even” – your goal should be to do what’s best for your children.
Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful. Visit her website at Blended Family Advise for more help with your blended family and step parent issues.
For more from Shirley follow her on Twitter @MarriageNFamily