Conflict: Help youth effectively work through it

Most adults have learned to work though conflict, however, that may not be the case for youth who are still in developmental stages of learning about themselves and their environment. Learn how adults can help them develop this critical skill.

When a conflict arises, it’s important to encourage youth to brainstorm several possible solutions. It’s easy for youth to fall into a trap of believing that there is no solution or only once choice. However, if you challenge youth to explain three to five different possible solutions they may become accustomed to being open-minded and practicing forward-thinking.

It’s also important to ask questions. To successfully help youth arrive at their own solutions, it’s important to know as much about the situation as possible. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What concerns you the most?” “Why is this issue important to you?” “What pieces of this problem can you control/not control?” “What are three to five possible solutions?” “What are some consequences of each solution?”

Asking questions often reveals the complexity of a situation, opens lines of communication and creates an environment for youth to begin working towards resolution.

The Ohio State University’s Family and Consumer Sciences fact sheet, “Teaching Children to Resolve Conflict,” is a resource that may be helpful in working through conflict resolution or problems solving with youth. They suggest the following six-steps to teaching problem solving skills to children:

  1. Understand the problem and help children see the goal.
  2. Stress the importance of honesty.
  3. Teach reflective listening skills.
  4. Encourage apologies for hurts.
  5. Support an agreement to change actions in the future.
  6. Model caring towards all persons involved.

Remember that violence is never okay and shouldn’t be used as a way to resolve a conflict. In a report by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (NYVPRC) on Facts for Teens- Conflict Resolution, 33 percent of youth said that when they were really angry there was no way they could control themselves; 44 percent of youth said that if they were challenged they would fight; 21 percent said that avoiding fights was a sign of weakness. The NYVPRC suggests that, as adults, we can encourage youth to:

  • Figure out methods to control anger.
  • Talk about the issue with a trusted adult.
  • Consider the consequences.
  • Stay away from weapons and guns.
  • Avoid places or situations where conflicts are common.
  • Show character by accepting compromise.
  • Consider your options for handling the problem.

Remember, youth are still in developmental stages of learning about themselves and their environment. As adults we can help youth to work through their conflicts in a positive, productive way.