Teaching Our Children to Resolve ConflictsPosted: January 13, 2021
By Rossana Villaflor, Teacher & Former Overcoming Obstacles Student
Imagine these all-too-common scenarios:
- Two young people want to watch two different TV shows at the same time in their living room.
- A younger sibling wants to join in an older sibling’s activities when the older sibling wants to be left alone.
- There is only one laptop or computer available for three children and they all need to attend school remotely.
How often do we find children—and ourselves—in situations like these? Situations that can lead to slammed doors, frustrations, angry emotions, and hurtful words that cannot be taken back? Facing conflicts with others is a natural part of life, but it shouldn’t have to catch us off guard. How can we teach young people to resolve conflicts on their own?
It is imperative that we take the time to teach young people the conflict resolution skills they need to see their way out of a conflict in a safe and healthy way, especially in this time of quarantine and social distancing. What they don’t always realize is that conflict often consists of several stages. The Overcoming Obstacles “Stages of Conflict” activity sheet, found in the Resolving Conflicts Module of the High School curricula, provides a visual map of how a conflict can escalate. Teaching young people the different stages of conflict can empower them with the knowledge and skills to prevent a problem from escalating. In some unfortunate circumstances, conflicts can spiral out of control in just seconds. Having this activity sheet visually available in their home as well as at school can help students pause, take a deep breath, and garner some self-control before anger takes over.
A CDC study on youth violence states that more than 1,300 cases of youth violence are reported in emergency facilities every 24 hours. Social rejection and poverty are just two of the risk factors involved in youth violence. The current COVID-19 pandemic does not make it easy for us to navigate through our conflicts, especially when going outside or taking a walk is not always a practical solution. However, a huge factor that protects young people from violence is teaching them problem solving and conflict resolution skills, which are taught in the Overcoming Obstacles curriculum. These skills help young people develop positive relationships with their peers and families.
Being able to identify one’s “conflict triggers” also plays a major role in understanding how to resolve a conflict. In the Overcoming Obstacles resource on “Resolving Conflicts,” a child will learn how to assess recurring conflict situations and recognize the patterns of emotions and behaviors that lead them to those situations. In the activity called “Freeze Frame,” they can role-play different scenarios that will allow them to be the “director” or “writer” of different endings for each story—a positive outcome and a negative outcome. This activity helps children practice taking control of a conflict situation and learn that their decisions can lead to different outcomes.
It is inevitable for people living under the same roof to disagree from time to time, but that does not mean we should ever allow conflicts to escalate. Understanding the stages of conflict and our own "conflict triggers" is crucial and will not only help get us through the quarantine period, but will always be useful. Resolving conflict allows us to work together to solve problems and make our world a better place.
Overcoming Obstacles offers hundreds of free K-12 life skills lessons designed to prepare young people for all of the challenges life presents. It’s free now and forever and available for download by creating an account at overcomingobstacles.org.