Conflict and family: Getting along during the holidays

(RNN) – Conflict within the family definitely has its way of putting a damper on things during the holidays.

Jermaine Scott recalls Thanksgiving 2005 being awkward for him and his brother Eddie Scott because Eddie had been incarcerated for six years, and they didn't communicate much during that time. Eddie was released in October 2005, a month before Thanksgiving.

"Eddie felt as if no one cared about him while was in prison," Jermaine Scott said. "He got no visitation from family because of the distance the prison was from home."

Eddie Scott served federal time in a different state, and because of multiple trips to prison, he had lost the family's support.

There are endless reasons why conflict happens among family, but Samuel Gladding, professor and chair of counseling at Wake Forest University said, "The most common things that cause conflict in a family is jealously, the need to be recognized and appreciated."

According to Gladding, there are ways for families to avoid conflict during the holidays.

"Set ground rules. Pretend to like the other person and only discuss the good times," he said. "Draw out how they would feel, and draw out how you feel. Writing out what stresses you can help deal with the hurt."

Jermaine Scott said that helped resolve the conflict with his brother.

"Once he [Eddie] got a clear understanding of why the family couldn't visit and his frequent incarcerations didn't help the situation, his relationship with the family was able to be mended," he said. "But Eddie still felt like he should have unconditional love, but I explained he has unconditional love mixed with a little tough love."

It took nearly five months after Eddie Scott was released for the brother's relationship to begin mend.

Gladding said the recognition of good things takes time.

"It takes two to fight like it takes two to tango. If you have resolved that you aren't going let things spiral, you should feel good about what you are doing."

And after the holidays are over, it's imperative that family keep the relationship good with as little conflict as possible, and it does take effort from everyone involved.

"Work at it. It can't be left at chance," Gladding said. "Stay in contact through phone calls."

Jermaine and Eddie Scott are working to strengthen their relationship, by keeping in touch regularly. Although they won't see each other for Thanksgiving, they plan to celebrate Christmas together.

"Eddie started a career in plumbing and he's taking care of his family, and we talk nearly three times a week," Jermaine Scott said.

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