A family feud can cause a special family event to fall apart.

How to Handle Family Feuds

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Family feuds can persist for generations until no one really knows what started it. Ending a family feud requires cooperation on both sides, and the only response your can control is yours. If you aren’t shooting at family members as did the Hatfields and McCoys, there is hope that you can all bury the hatchet. It can take time and cooperation and may even require family counseling.

Determine Your Path

When your family is torn by a feud, you have some options. You can ignore those on the other side and estrange yourself from them, enter the fray and choose a side, or you can work to end the feud. If the family members you are feuding with are toxic, distancing yourself from them may be the most safe and healthy option. Joining the fight never solves the problem, so consider ways to resolve the feud. Although you may feel uncomfortable, you may need to take the initiative and make the first move.

Reach Out

Barbara LeBey, author of "Family Estrangements,” encourages those who are looking to resolve a family feud to reach out and contact those on the other side. Let them know that you want to resolve the feud. If your family member doesn’t respond, give it some time and then try again. Explain to your family member that you care more about the family than the feud. Ask them to forgive you for whatever part you have in starting or continuing the situation. For your part, decide to forgive, as well, so that you can find peace within the family. Always keep your words and manners respectful and loving.


In dealing with your family members, accept them for who and what they are. You can’t change them or make them accept your apology. But you can speak with them openly about the issues that separate you. If you are met with resistance, let the issues from the past go and focus on the current status of your family. Be careful to acknowledge your family member's feelings without digging too deep into the history of the feud.


A professional counselor can help resolve issues with your feuding family members. If your family members are willing to enter counseling with you, the counselor can provide suggestions and tools for making peace. If your family members refuse counseling, seek counseling for yourself as a way to heal from the hurtful division within your family in a healthy way.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images