Conflict Resolution for Tweens and Teens

Coping and managing conflict is one of the most important lessons your children will ever learn. All day long, children confront conflict –they disagree with their parents, their siblings, their friends, their teachers – so it is impossible to protect them from it…but you can help them learn how to deal with it.

It is imperative to teach your child how to live well with others. Thus, conflict resolution is both a positive and often successful approach for the child who masters it. Not only will he get along better with others, but he will feel better about himself, while gaining a certain sense of control over himself and his environment.

Adults do many things to cope with conflict. However, your child will take his lead from you… his parent. When your child is little, his problems seem more contained, but as he moves into his tweens and teens, his problems loom large and can lead to emotional issues, such as eating disorders, depression, aggression and suicide. Therefore, teaching conflict resolution is part of your child’s emotional development. Giving your child the skills to get along in society gives him the tools to successfully relate to others. This builds confidence, competence and self-esteem.

Here are 6 tips for conflict resolution:

Conflict resolution begins at home.
Your child models his behavior after you…his parents. So, I can’t say it often enough: be what you want to see.

An important part of conflict resolution is empathy, and interestingly enough, it’s the one skill that can actually be taught. My empathic process clearly and concisely lays out a model for conflict resolution. Remembering that the body moves into stress created changes, it is important to teach your child how to delay reactive behavior.

I call this “time-in” instead of time-out. Stress increases cortisol, and cortisol increases emotional behavior and impedes logical thinking. Learning breathing techniques and calming techniques apply in step number three – including meditation and progressive relaxation. By cooling down, the executive function has a chance to kick in and emotions have a chance to slow down.

Know the rules of engagement
The empathic process is a dialogue meant to occur in a neutral space, where each person gets to speak an equal amount of time, while confronting his problem. Neither party is allowed to defend his/her position, but rather to express his/her feelings, while the other participant actively listens and then paraphrases back what their counterpart has stated.

Together in the last block of time each party collaborates and negotiates a solution to the problem. This invests each party in the consequences and responsibility for his actions.

Be respectful
It is important to be respectful, to be assertive rather than aggressive, and to use your voice in a calm, clear, and descriptive manner. You can never change the injury, but together you can try to do better in the future. Friendship is all about commitment, obligation and responsibility. When you approach conflict resolution in a positive and constructive way, you can create an approach that will serve you well for the rest of your life. My empathic process is a win-win approach and creates a safe space for each party to return to again and again.