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Friday, February 27, 2009

Conflict Resolution

This week we have seen truly historic events in the stock market causing everyone from wealthy Wall-Street types to those of us with more modest means no small amount of concern over where our economy is headed. I should state at the outset that I am not, nor do I wish to be, an expert in either economics or financial planning; however, I wish to pass on some tips to help families get closer and maybe save a little money at the same time.
Until the 1950’s, entertainment in the family was largely of our own making. Many people played musical instruments or sang, and parlor games of all types were popular. In the 50’s movies became much more affordable to most people and of course TVs found their way into every home. From the 1990’s until now, the number of electronic devices in our homes and the amount of extracurricular events for school-agers has increased exponentially. These have had the effect of greatly diminishing the amount of time families spend together.
The economy, for all the negative effect people have seen and are likely to see, may have the positive effect of bringing us all closer to home for a time. I suggest we use this time wisely, but if we are to do that please keep these things in mind:
1. The stress you are feeling is felt by everyone in your family and is best dealt with by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, and getting more exercise, but mainly talking about the challenges you face as a family.
2. There are inexpensive alternatives to going to the latest blockbuster, TV, and the Internet; such as popping popcorn and watching a movie at home, doing a family art project or just looking over old family pictures and telling the stories that go with those pictures.
3. If that is not enough interaction for you, then how about picking a classic play by Shakespeare, Arthur Miller or any other favorite play that has a few parts. You can simply read the play with everyone taking a part or you can actually act it out.
4. I have suggested you hold family meetings every week or so, and during difficult times these meetings are even more helpful. I am not suggesting unloading parental budgetary problems on the elementary age kids with the admonishment, “Sell more pencils on your corners kids!” However, an age appropriate conversation about national economics or even scaling back on family spending and reassuring your kids that finances have been tough before but everything will be fine can certainly be helpful.
Crisis tend to either pull us apart or pull us together no matter what organization we are in; work, family, community, etc. One of the biggest factors in the direction we go is how directly, how honestly, and how compassionately we talk to each other. Make this a time all of you look back and remember a time when your family pulled together and became closer.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He can be reached at

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