Being a teen is wicked challenging as it is. It’s a period of life that is filled with emotional, mental, physical, social, and sometimes, spiritual changes, challenges, and turmoil. Between all of the dances, sports, hobbies, social difficulties, who to trust, who not to trust, social media, balancing your life, and feeling that adults don’t completely understand, despite the fact that every adult has been a teen at some point, shocking I know!
With all that is going on, there is not too much question as to where teen stress comes from. Many of those who are parenting and have parented teenagers can name some of the “normal” teen behaviors of ignoring parents, moodiness, and let’s not forget the lovely teen non-verbals (parents you know what I am talking about). The teen years are not only a challenge for teens but parents too. If you are a parent and have had issues with your teen at some time or another I am sure you have scoured the internet entering “ways to help my teen” in a google search engine looking for some type of help.
Developing skills and an understanding of ways to manage conflicts during this already difficult time is essential. It is something we all need to learn. I am going to give you a few tips, and if you are still having challenges give us a ring as we love bringing teens and parents together in the same room to learn how to dance the dance of communication, listening and understanding. We specialize in the often foreign language of “teenager”.
Conflict is just a standard part of life. It is not something you can protect your child from because it will happen, inevitably. Teens will experience conflicts with you, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. The one thing to stress is that conflict doesn’t have to be a completely awful experience; it can actually be positive and lead to change. Sometimes people get stuck in the patterns of communication they have always known that are somewhat maladaptive and you and your teen end up feeling like hamsters on a hamster’s wheel. Most of us were never taught “how to communicate” rather we do what we have learned or the complete opposite of that. Some families engage in a lot of conflict there is yelling, crying, emotional expression, etc. Other families there might be arguing, avoidance, discomfort in speaking about emotions, etc. Either way parents and teens can definitely enhance their relationship by reading and of course applying the tips below.
Ok, let’s be honest, your teen may not be eager to engage in this conversation with you. But I get it you want to have a better relationship with your teen, and you are probably a bit hesitant as well, possibly worrying that this will come of as “yet another thing Mom or Dad is lecturing about.” Either way, here it goes…
9 Tips About Conflict
- Conflict is Inevitable – There is absolutely nothing we can do about this fact. It is how we deal with it that makes a difference.
- The Pink Elephant Named Penelope – Everyone has some type of pink elephant they are avoiding during some time of their life. Pretending or Ignoring the issue doesn’t work. The conflict will continue to be there. In fact, this sort of thing may make the situation worse because it can be perceived as not caring. Also, the chances of the issue coming up again is pretty high because it was never discussed.
- Focus on the Problem, Not the Person – I will admit… this one’s can be a doozy, but if you do it you will be able to separate yourself from the problem, making it is much easier to keep your feelings in check and work on a solution. A quick example is the difference between, “You are a mess.” (person as the problem) and “You made a mess.” (problem as the problem)
- Listen and Be Respectful – Ok, this one is also not the easiest especially when you don’t feel like you have been heard. But, it is vital that you listen, give eye contact, ask questions to better understand, and NEVER name call. Sometimes seeing the other person’s perspective makes a world of a difference in being able to calm down and respond respectfully. This is where many people get stuck. When working with teens and their parents as well as couple we jump in right here and start to unlearn some of the ways you have been communicating and learn new ways that are effective.
- Speak Up – I do not mean raising your voice in this case! Verbalize what your needs and feelings are and do so calmly and with confidence. In order to feel heard and understood, being able to communicate is crucial! Be clear and sure about what you want to say. Many times as humans we often misuse the word “feel”. Ex: We often say, “I feel that you disrespected me when you didn’t pick up your clothes after I asked you for the 500th time. Why can’t you just do what I ask?” This is often seen as criticism. Instead when we use the word feel the next word right after that needs to be an actual feeling. Ex: “I feel frustrated when I had to ask you to pick up your clothes again.” This is expressing how we feel rather than placing criticising. It is definitely a different style of communication to try and takes some time, but I will tell you it makes ALL the difference.
- Negotiate – This is such an important skill for all avenues of life. Being able to compromise or come up with a solution that works for all parties involved is wonderful, wouldn’t you say?
- Be in the Here & Now – Stay with the present issue. Try to avoid bringing up stuff from last week, last month, or last year. Focus on the issue at hand.
- Perspective Taking – It’s called empathy. Even if you think it’s dumb, give it a go and see how your response is affected. Check out this awesome video by Brene Brown on Empathy vs. Sympathy (so good, love her work!).
- Sorry (It’s never too late, Justin Bieber) – Sometimes we need to acknowledge our mistakes and take a moment to repair. The most common form of repair is, “I’m sorry.” Don’t just stop there though, you want to express exactly what you are sorry for. “I’m sorry I yelled at you I was really bothered by something that happened at school today.” There are many other forms of repair. Things like, “I really want to try to understand you so can you say it in a different way.” “Can we start this over?”
These 9 tips will assist you and your teenager with some basic knowledge to work through conflicts. The great thing is that these are not only useful for the 2 of you but many of your relationships. This dialogue might be met with some resistance, but planting the seed is important as your teen may be taking mental notes between the eye rolls. I mean we were all teens at one point, you may remember doing the same to your parents but the message still stuck anyway!
If you are finding that you are stuck with your teen and want some extra support to work through these issues give us a ring 954.401.9011 we are happy to help!