Help! We’re Getting on Each Other’s Nerves

Family chaos and conflict

Boston Parents PaperThis article originally appeared on Boston Parents Paper, as a guest contribution from Prepared Parents co-founder and executive director Mira Browne.

I’ll admit it. I’ve had a few days in the last month when I’ve lost it. I’ve been stuck in this house with my husband and my two boys. I love them with all my heart, but our togetherness is unrelenting, and there are moments when we’re having conflicts.

I know the same is true for moms and dads across the country who are trying to make a tough situation work. We want to help. Prepared Parents brings the science of fulfillment directly to parents through bite-sized tips and activities you can do in your home with resources you already have. We’re applying the best research, psychology, and learning science into knowing what kids need to develop into successful adults, even in these uncertain times.

Because we want to get along well with each other when we get to the other side of this, here are three tips for managing clashes right now.

Write a Family Mission Statement

Start by setting goals and boundaries as a family for how you are going to cope during this time. Call it a family mission statement or simply write down a set of goals. Either way, it’s a discussion that should include everyone. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Who are we as a family?
  • What do we care about?
  • How do we want to treat each other?

Once you’ve got your answers, write out a family statement, memorialize it and display it prominently as a daily reminder when things get tough that you’re in this together and this is our mission right now.

Redesign Your Living Space

The space you used to eat breakfast at 8:00am is now a home office and the living room couch is a classroom. When the whole family is home day and night, rooms will morph and change depending on what’s happening.

A space usage plan is an easy way to designate zones that avoid conflict. Start each day answering these questions (the answers may be different on Monday than on Thursday).

  • What time does family space become a work space?
  • What does each person need to accomplish today?
  • How much privacy does each person need to avoid distractions?

Your kids can have fun with this by making signs to designate work space, study space, play space, and even an art area. They can design Do Not Disturb cards each family member can post when they should not be interrupted. At the end of the day, shut down the work space and turn it back into family space.

Acknowledge Conflict

No matter how much we try, we are going to have disagreements. So, when a fight happens, take a breath, shut your mouth, and just listen. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. We have big feelings right now and we’re going to need to get those out. Help your kids understand what’s happening through reflection. This isn’t the time to lecture or reprimand. Instead have a conversation that can lead to a better day tomorrow using open-ended questions like:

  • What do you want from this situation?
  • What emotions do you have?
  • What behaviors are you exhibiting?
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – what do you think their perspective is?
  • What role can you play in getting to your desired outcome?
  • Is there anything you need to do to make the relationship right?

The ability to reflect is the one of the most valuable skills we can nurture in our kids. Reflection prompts your kids to think about who they are, what they care about, how they feel, and, ultimately, what they should do as a result – not because we told them to do it, but because it’s a choice they made for themselves. That’s when true learning and growth happen.


Mira Browne is the Co-founder & Executive Director of Prepared Parents, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents raise kids to be independent, kind, and resilient using the best learning science and research. More tips and tools are available at