Helping teens deal with conflict
Conflict is tough for all of us, but it can be especially difficult for teens and their developing brains. Adolescent medicine specialist Michael Guyton-Nunley, MD, offered some tips that parents can use when helping teens deal with conflict, as well as encouraging them to develop the skills to withstand and resolve it.
“I think the first part helping teens deal with conflict is telling your children that they are going to face ideas that are different than theirs – and different than the way mom and dad think,” he said.
Here are some things you can do to prepare:
Talk through the “what ifs”
Ask your teen how they would respond if someone said something they didn’t agree with and give them a preview of the conversation. Teen brains can react in ways that may not always make immediate sense to an adult mind.
Previewing the conversation makes them aware of statements they might hear so they can form a thought and respond to it calmly and without escalation.
Communicate that there’s a way to coexist
For everyone, perception is reality. This is even more true for teens, whose physical bodies are still developing and who can be prone to extremes of emotion. Parents are not going to change that very easily through a single discussion.
It’s still important to communicate that among the people who think differently from you – their perception is their reality too. “Different points of view can be held by two different people and depending on the situation, there may be times when neither individual is wrong,” Dr. Guyton-Nunley said.
As long as everyone’s maintaining their own safety, there’s a way to coexist in those realities.
When conflicts take place, make sure your kids know they can talk to you. Discuss how it worked out or ways it could have worked out better. Ask them how they felt throughout the discussion and what they would do differently next time.
Provide space and grace
Set aside some time and space at least once a week to talk about things. Ask them how school is going, who they’re meeting and what they’re hearing. It provides time for kids to build their own value system, taking into account mom and dad’s value system, and apply it within their world.
The best path when helping teens deal with conflict is providing them with the advice, skills and support they need to learn how to resolve conflicts on their own in the future.
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