Awesome Tips for New Moms: 5 Tips to Handle Conflict as You Transition from Couple to Parents
Today the Awesome Tips for New Moms series is looking at handling conflict among new parents.
Could you imagine how having a baby would affect your relationships before you were in at the deep end?
In the book Purple Leaves, Red Cherries, Salena writes about her relationship with her partner in the weeks following the birth of her
first two children:
“We struggled under the influence of that insane post-natal cocktail – mutual fatigue, my raging hormones, the intensity of the new mother-baby bond, his increased sense of responsibility and the action replay of me birthing our child – all shaken not stirred.” – Purple Leaves, Red Cherries, p.61
It is quite a cocktail, often surprising, especially following the birth of our first child. But in the post below, help is at hand from the wonderful Wokie Nwabueze, a certified mediator and conflict coach with almost 20 years of experience handling family, workplace, organizational and community conflict.
Please share this post with new and expectant moms. Wokie provides some invaluable tips to help handle conflict as we move through the disruptive wonder of early parenthood.
Dance by Nomi Melul Ohad
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5 Tips to Handle Conflict as You Transition from Couple to Parents
Becoming a new mom is magical. It’s a beautiful, precious time in life that has to be experienced to be understood. I remember the first days after my first child was born – surrounded by fresh smelling baby clothes and tiny diapers – and wanting to capture in my mind every precious, fleeting moment possible. The last thing that I thought about was that we, my husband and I were in transition, one unlike anything we’d ever known. With all of the planning we did for our child, we never REALLY talked about what becoming parents would mean for us as individuals and for us in our relationship.
Transition is hard. Transition coupled with sleepless nights and the steep learning curve associated with caring for a newborn baby sets the perfect stage for conflict, in even the healthiest of relationships. Before you panic, it is important to remember that a conflict is simply a disagreement or the convergence of competing needs. Conflict is completely natural and frankly, inevitable.
Below are some tips to help you manage conflict effectively:
1. Recognize that conflict CAN lead to positive outcomes.
A conflict, handled well, can result in many positive outcomes including better understanding, compromise, change, setting needed boundaries and sharing perspectives. When in conflict, determine and remain mindful of the possibilities inherent in your situation and work towards that outcome. This simple shift in perspective can help you to focus on resolution rather than fighting.
2. Address conflicts as soon as possible.
Find early opportunities to address conflict. Conflict left unresolved allows us to make assumptions and builds resentment. While it’s important to make sure that both of you are emotionally ready to discuss the issues, it’s important not to avoid talking things through. Remember, hurt feelings don’t go away just because you try to ignore them.
3. Understand that each person has an essential piece of the story.
It is very easy and common to feel like you have the whole picture when you are in conflict with another person. Remember that there are AT LEAST two sides to every story. Take the time to understand the other person’s point of view. Listen and share openly to understand how each side sees the situation, how each side feels and what is important to everyone involved.
4. Communicate your needs.
Conflict is essentially a result of feeling like one (or more) of our needs has not been met. Basic human needs include respect, autonomy, security, rest and love. Communicate your needs clearly when explaining your concerns or when you make specific requests. Try not to assume that the other person understands you.
Here is an example of an effective way to communicate a need: “I am upset that our finances are unstable because I need to feel secure.”
5. Avoid blaming or judging.
It’s very easy to point fingers when in conflict, especially when feelings are hurt and tension is high. Unfortunately, when people feel blamed or judged, they often become defensive and have a harder time hearing what’s being said. Communicate your point of view by describing specific behavior and the impact it had on you. Avoid using words like “always” and “never” and try not to assume you understand the reasons for someone’s actions. Saying – “You never wake up to care for our baby because you don’t care that I’m exhausted.” is less effective than saying “Last night, you did not pitch in for overnight feedings. I am upset because I need rest.”
Handling conflict well is not always easy but it’s a skill that everyone can learn. The upside – moving past disagreements gives you more time to enjoy the magic that parenthood brings.
Wokie Nwabueze is a certified mediator and conflict coach with 19 years of experience handling family, workplace, organizational and community conflict. She is the host of Make Peace at Home, a weekly radio show dedicated to helping families turn conflict into understanding.
Wokie is the mom of two – a preschooler and a toddler – and still in love with her prom date. She believes that the way we handle conflict shapes the way we and our children see the world. You can find her at www.makepeaceathome.com.