Family Matters: Keeping it in the family?

Conflict resolution expert Shimrit Nothman advises what to do when kids want to spend Independence Day with friends instead of family.

April 15, 2013 12:32
3 minute read.
Independence Day barbecues.

Independence Day barbecue 370. (photo credit: Tanya Sermer)

Dorit asks: “My brother has invited all the family for a barbeque on Independence Day. I was very excited about it until my two kids, aged 14 and 16, have announced they will be spending that day with their friends.

I see great value in spending our holidays together as a family, but I don’t want to force my kids to give up their plans and go unwillingly with mine. What can I do? I am tired of discussing this issue over and over again with them.

If we try hard we may recall how we behaved in a similar way when we were young. Our parents always wanted us to engage in “boring old” activities, and we were busy coming up with the cleverest of explanations about why sadly we won’t be able to take part in their arrangements.

Still, Dorit holds these family gatherings very dear to her and wants her children to take part in it. How can she convince her children to join in willingly?

Creating a win-win solution

Dorit has to indicate to her children that she expects them to respect and go along with what’s important to her, just as they often ask her to respect and go along with what’s important to them.

But what happens when, like in this case, their wishes collide? This might be the perfect time to sit down with the kids and try to come up with a win-win solution.

Dorit should indicate to the children what’s really important for her and try to determine what’s most important for them. For example: Dorit really wants to spend some time together as a family with her children, but she might not mind if it’s only for several hours. In that case the kids can join in for the first part of the day and then be dropped off at their friends’ houses for the second part of it.

In a different example

The kids might not be opposed to spending some time with their family, but they also don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of hanging out with their friends. In this case, Dorit can examine the option of bringing some of their friends along to the family gathering or arranging a small party later on in her place just for her kids’ friends.

Family before friends?

Dorit may decide that this situation is actually a win-lose one, because her brother lives far and so they have to all go for a full day, and the option of brining friends along is off the table.

In such a case, Dorit has to make a choice; either she decides that spending time with the family is the most important thing for her right now, even at the cost of grumpy uncooperative children, or she decides she can skip this one and let the kids have it.

If she decides on the first, it’s important she explain to her children that because of the circumstances there is no room for negotiating a solution that will fit all. She can then ask the kids to respect her decision and promise to do the same the next time such a dilemma comes up.

If she decides to go with the second option, Dorit can let the overjoyed kids know that she was willing to compromise on this point, knowing how important it was for them, and letting them know she’ll be looking for the same understanding on their part, next time around.

Conflicts inside the family are tricky, since they involve emotions and a lot of shared history, which may cloud the resolution attempts. On top of that, family usually stays around, which means future conflicts are just around the corner.

This is why it’s so important to handle each conflict inside the family with special care. This time you may have the upper hand or the ability to get your wishes fulfilled at the expense of others, but next time it may be that someone else will have that privilege. If you want to make sure that you’ll be treated fairly, do everything in your power to introduce fairness this time around. 

Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at

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