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Happy Families

Ways to tackle conflict in families

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


 To encourage students to consider their role in resolving family disagreements (SEAL theme: Managing Feelings).

Preparation and materials

  • Choose readers (they may need to rehearse the simultaneous section of the script)
  • Download the TrueTube video 'Getting the Band Back Together'

  • Be sensitive to those students who, for one reason or another, don't have close family ties.


  1. Leader: Let's play a game of Happy Families.

    Reader 1 (adult male): I'm Daddy Band. I've got the loudest voice in the family and I want things done my way. I'm the boss.

    Reader 2 (adult female): I'm Mummy Band. Sometimes I feel a little bit frightened of Daddy Band because of his loud voice. However, I've got my own ideas and sometimes I just have to say them. That doesn't make Daddy Band very happy.

    Reader 3 (student male): I'm Boy Band. I want to do things my way. I'm untidy, scruffy and I don't want to talk about it.

    Reader 4 (student female): I'm Girl Band. Nobody listens to me, and I always get the blame, so I sulk some of the time and scream my head off the rest of the time.

    All four Readers simultaneously repeat their scripts, getting louder and louder as they try to compete with each other

  2. Leader: They don't sound too happy to me. I think there's a lot of potential for disagreement among those four. In fact you may recognize one or two of the characteristics from your own family.

    All families have their moments when they become dysfunctional. It can be for a variety of reasons: stress, illness, age, the time of year, the time of the month, guilt, suspicion, falling out of love, the list is endless. Each person in their own way probably feels that they're getting the worst treatment. Can anything be done about it? Maybe it's a bit like this:

    (Play TrueTube video 'Getting the Band Back Together')

  3. Leader: Any band or team needs to work as a unit. Families are no different. When one person is too loud and another isn't heard, the family's not together. When one person is always critical and another feels they always take the blame, the family's not together. When one person dominates and another is ignored, the family's not together. When one person refuses to talk and the others keep nagging, the family's not together. It happens in most families at some time or another. So what can we do about it? The video made some useful suggestions.

    First, it's a good idea to accept that the problem is everyone's. No one is innocent. Everyone contributes to what's going on by what they do, or don't, say or do. Rather than looking critically at others, it's a good idea to start by looking at ourselves. Why? Because we can't alter what anyone else does or says, but we are in full control of what we choose to do and say. That could make a massive difference in what happens.

    Second, any resolution of the issues will happen only when everyone gets the chance to speak honestly about how he or she feels, knowing that the rest of the family is properly hearing and listening. By that I mean not merely taking in the words but also trying hard to understand. In the video it needed a third party, the record producer, to enable this. If conflict's a problem in your family, it might be good to invite in a close friend or a relative to do this. Grandparents are often a good choice.

    Finally, the video talked about having hope for the future. Family conflict can only be resolved when it's agreed that something better needs to be created and that the family can have a future together.

Time for reflection

The Christian faith has the family at the heart of its understanding of what makes a close and creative community. Children are advised to have respect for their parents, even when they disagree with them. Men and women are instructed to love one another in a sacrificial way, not simply asserting their personal wants and rights. The love of a mother or father for their child is used as a powerful illustration of how God loves the people of his world. Families are a fundamental building block of society, and shouldn't be allowed to fragment.

So where does that leave you and me? In simple terms, when conflict occurs in our families, let's try to listen more, admit when we're wrong and respond to what we hear others honestly say.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for families and the security they provide.
May we take seriously our responsibility for the health and creativity of the family unit of which we're a part.
May we be honest about ourselves and others, always aiming for a peaceful resolution when there's a disagreement.


Leader: Our closing music is a family song (pause) with maybe a bit of a feminist edge!

‘We are family’ by Sister Sledge

Publication date: June 2015   (Vol.17 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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