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Easing Day to Day Conflict

April 20, 2020
by John Coffey

All close relationships are going to have conflicts. Sometimes they are useful or necessary, but even those are stressful and uncomfortable. Yet, there is an easy way to reduce the way a conflict impacts your child (or other people).

In a new study (Coffey, Xia, & Fosco, in press), we asked teenagers how loved they felt by their parents on that day for 21-straight days. On those same 21 days, parents told us how much warmth they provided and how much conflict they had with their kids. Unsurprisingly, warmth made children feel more loved and conflict made them feel less loved on those days. More importantly, we found that conflict with the parent didn’t make the child feel less loved on days the parent also provided high levels of warmth.

Parents can provide warmth by showing love or affection, trying to understand their children, or praising/complimenting them. Notably, this warmth did not have to come during the conflict. Although we studied this in teens, this likely applies to all ages.

As one final tip, if your child (or partner) seems particularly needy, you might be able to recharge their batteries by giving them 5-15 minutes of focused attention in whatever they are doing. Often (not always) this recharge may be enough for them to be more independent, meaning they don’t require as much attention for an hour or more.

John K. Coffey, PhD, is an Arnold Gesell Visiting Scholar of Parent and Child Development at the Yale Child Study Center and assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee: The University of the South. Dr. Coffey’s training and research explore ways to help people thrive. Specifically, his research focuses on childhood and family factors related to long-term resiliency and well-being.

Submitted by Jill Max on April 18, 2020