Change is hard. Relationships are hard. When you put the two together, conflict often arises. With incarceration being such a big change in a person’s life, the stress can put a strain on relationships with friends and family. Research has shown that staying in contact with an incarcerated loved one has many benefits affecting behavior and mental health. It is important to try and keep your bond strong. Follow these tips to resolve conflict with your incarcerated loved one, and to relieve stress during your time spent apart.
Communication and Understanding
Compassion: Put yourself in each other’s shoes.
A common exercise in resolving conflicts of any kind is to put yourself in the other’s shoes. Although incarceration is a different type of situation than most, it is important to recognize that both parties are going through a lot of stress in different ways. The person behind bars is having to adjust to a whole new environment with many freedoms taken away. The person on the outside has to deal with the absence of their loved one and how that affects them financially, mentally and emotionally. Understanding how the other person feels can help you on the road to conflict resolution.
Consideration: Is the topic worth arguing over?
Incarceration causes a major shift in the course of your lives, and can put things in perspective. Some issues you used to argue over may not matter anymore, and you can prioritize what to talk about in your limited communication time. On the other hand, some issues may be out of your incarcerated loved one’s control. It is best to take a step back, take a deep breath, and consider whether or not the problem can be resolved right now.
Compromise: Try to resolve the problem, not win.
As you are both going through a difficult period, there is no point in trying to “win” an argument. Instead, aim to resolve the issue at hand. Brainstorming positive solutions and communicating them calmly with one another can help you to reach a compromise that both parties are happy with.
Utilize Resources Available
There are many books and other publications available that are specifically written for the friends and family of incarcerated individuals. Reading tips from experts and stories from others in similar situations can help you figure out the best way to handle your situation. A list of relevant books can be found here.
Although the incarcerated person’s mental health is a high priority, it is very important to make sure that you are taking care of your own mental health, too. If you have the resources available to you, talking to a counselor or therapist can help you work through any issues that arise. Other mental health tips include practicing meditation, exercising, journaling, and getting outdoors.
Organizations for Families of Incarcerated Individuals
Many organizations, like the AFOI (Assisting Families of Inmates), were created to help the families of incarcerated individuals get through this difficult time. Using their services can help ease the stress of incarceration and work through the conflicts you might be having with your loved one.
Continue to Stay In Contact
Even if you feel negative feelings of anger or resentment towards your incarcerated loved one, staying in contact with them can be beneficial to you both. It is best to contact them when you are not feeling upset, as arguments can easily arise when emotions are heightened. Phone calls and in-person visits can be a good time to try and resolve issues, as the conversations occur in real time. However, sending letters or photos through Pelipost is a great way to show your incarcerated loved one that you care, even when tensions are high.