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How to Successfully Teach Teens Conflict Resolution Skills
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Don’t know how to help teens manage conflicts? Check out proven strategies for teaching effective conflict resolution skills to teens!
This blog post explores successful strategies for normalizing conflict and how to teach conflict resolution skills as an essential life skill for the socio-emotional health of young people.
Conflict resolution activities for teens are a great way to help them develop the skills to handle and resolve difficult conversations.
I aim to give teenagers helpful methods to resolve conflicts. Over the past two decades, I have worked with teens on strategies to use their voices in difficult situations and practice activities promoting conflict resolution.
Exercises range from role-play scenarios and interactive games to icebreakers and brainstorming sessions. These activities offer teens opportunities to practice communication, empathize with others, problem-solving, and collaboration.
By engaging in these practices in a safe and supportive environment, teens develop their understanding of conflict resolution.
Benefits of Conflict Resolution Skills for Teens
Conflict is a natural and necessary part of life.
As we experience conflict we learn and grow.
Learning conflict is natural and a normal experience throughout life is important for young people.
Starting with little kids and then elementary school, conflict scenarios and conflict resolution activities with role-playing in fun ways teach children conflict resolution techniques.
Middle school students and high school students learn effective conflict resolution skills by practicing scnarios with difficult situations.
Conflict skills are important, and teaching young students helps them prepare for their adolescent years. Many teens experience a hard time navigating family stress levels, peer relationships, intense emotions, and emotional changes.
- Conflict situations test our limits and determine what we are truly made of.
- Without conflict, we would be stuck in a static, unchanging state, unable to progress or develop in any meaningful way.
Conflict resolution activities for teens and effective conflict resolution strategies greatly enhance students’ capacities through character education in social-emotional skills, emotional development, and communication skills.
Defining Conflict Situations
A conflict situation is a disagreement between two people or groups. It includes everything from everyday matters to important decisions.
Sometimes everyday conflicts lead to personal attacks and violence, but it doesn’t have to. A conflict situation is an opportunity to learn and grow with positive outcomes.
Conflict is often seen as a negative experience. Still, it is an opportunity to learn different ways of problem solving. Finding common ground and respecting each person’s point of view is the foundation of conflict resolution.
When parties experience a conflict situation, it is because they share interests and needs not being met.
By resolving the issues of interpersonal conflicts, parties learn to manage strong emotions, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship in a respectful way.
Family systems, school systems, and societal systems benefit from respectful conflict resolution.
The interpersonal, relational factor creates the intensity of a conflict situation and generates big emotions from the parties involved.
Conflict Promotes Learning
A conflict situation is not necessarily a bad thing. It is an opportunity for growth and learning.
Once a conflict is resolved, disputants learn about different points of view and what is important to others and find common ground.
With violence, however, these opportunities are lost. We need to remember conflict and violence are not the same. Each has its own symptomatic behaviours.
Recognizing positive aspects of conflict helps us resolve them peacefully.
Differentiating Between Conflict and Violence
Of course, not all conflict is good. When violence emerges, people get hurt – sometimes very badly. This makes it important to distinguish between conflict and violence, and recognize they are not the same thing.
- Violence is a symptomatic behavior arising from deeper systemic issues. Conflict provides opportunities for growth and resolution.
In our world, violence is often portrayed as the only way to resolve a conflict. This is not true! There are many other ways to handle conflict peacefully. We need to learn these skills to live together in harmony.
The media often glorifies violence. It is more important than ever for us to embrace the positive aspects of conflict and see it as a tool for learning and development.
With this understanding, we use conflict constructively instead of destructively.
Gain Momentum with Conflict Resolution Skills for Teens
Conflict drives movement, positive or negative.
Identifying and addressing the areas of conflict in our lives, then using the conflict constructively to find solutions, improves relationships and lives. By accomplishing this, the mental, emotional, and physical health of those involved in the conflict improves.
Understanding the healthy functioning of conflict helps teens handle the painful, negative emotions, and dynamics of conflict in their lives.
Thus, conflict is an essential element of change.
How one goes about pulling these elements out of the conflict is, in fact, the real purpose of conflict resolution strategies.
Help Teens Build Context in Conflict
The term conflict is used in many contexts. The following are examples of different types of conflict.
- Interpersonal conflict. Interpersonal conflict takes place between two individuals. For example, between employees at work or between a parent and a child.
- Group conflict. Conflict occurs between two or more individuals who share a common interest. Families, sports teams, or club memberships are examples of group conflict.
Teach Teens the Source of Conflict Situations
There is always common ground beneath every conflict we experience.
This is because shared interests and needs create a foundation for relationships. These shared interests and needs lead to conflict when they are not met.
In other words, conflict arises from a lack of communication in relationships. This is seen in family systems, school systems, and societal systems.
The interpersonal, relational factor is what creates the intensity of the conflict and generates deep feelings from the parties involved. In these cases, finding common ground is essential to conflict resolution.
The intensity of the conflict that generates strong emotions from the parties involved is addressed and managed effectively from the common ground.
Teens experiencing big emotions, feeling isolated, and acting out must develop conflict resolution skills to learn about their experiences.
Help Teens See Conflict Differently
Conflict situations must be seen in a different light.
It takes two parties to conflict and what comes out with compromise and differences allows us to find common ground.
A healthy family system needs conflict to work. Families that function without conflict are either dealing with a great deal of overt and covert hostility or trying very hard to be “perfect”.
Conflict provides a chance to resolve differences, make changes, and move on. This is not to say we should become complacent about conflict, but we should view it as a necessary step in a positive direction.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.Jimmy Dean
Life is always in change, so conflicts are inevitable, but this does not mean that all conflicts are bad, negative experiences.
Helping teens see conflict in a different light teaches them they are not flawed or wrong. It shows them the difference between their behaviors and their worthiness.
Teach Teens to Demystify Conflict
Conflict happens for a reason and provides opportunities for learning and growth.
- Conflict gives us the chance to assess where we are and where we want to go next. It also helps us find out what is important to us and what we value.
- It brings out our true feelings, our deepest convictions, and helps us better understand ourselves, our relationships, and our world.
Conflict is a positive force without judgment.
Conflict is not necessarily bad, it is pretty much inevitable.Aristotle
Successful peacemakers see conflict as something positive. Conflict resolution skills for teens teach them conflict is positive and manageable.
Pitfalls of Discouraging Conflict Situations
When we discourage conflict, we rob ourselves of potential opportunities.
Discouraging conflict sometimes leads to violence.
When we try to shut down a conflict, we show our unwillingness to fight for our rights or dreams.
Neither of these strategies helps us grow and learn.
Channel Conflict Positively
So how might we positively channel conflict?
One of the most effective ways is by conflict resolution skills. The principles of stem from a belief that conflict is normal and inevitable.
Conflict is a healthy and productive catalyst for change. We should use our conflict experiences to discover ourselves and become the people we want to be.
An important step in applying this principle is to recognize everyone, at some point in their life will go through conflict.
Whether it is with a family member, a friend, a spouse or a stranger, conflict is everywhere.
We all experience it at one point or another and cannot be avoided.
Accepting this makes it easier for us to develop positive communication strategies and conflict resolution skills.
Conflict Resolution Skills for Teens
A basic presupposition of conflict management is the parties involved desire a mutually acceptable solution.
Conflict resolution is not about winning or losing. It is about finding a solution both parties accept.
Communication is an essential conflict resolution skill. It requires direct and honest conversations. This takes courage and commitment, but it is well worth the effort.
There are no winners or losers in conflict management. The goal of conflict resolution is a win-win outcome.
Finding the Common Ground in Conflict Situations
One way to manage conflict is to look for common ground. This requires reflection to determine what will enhance a relationship and foster communication.
It is important to remember each person needs to decide what they want out of the situation. This is their right in any conflict.
By focusing on the common ground when faced with a difficult situation, we learn more about the other party involved. This leads to acceptable solutions for both sides.
In conflicts between family members, two key factors affect conflict resolution:
- The emotional maturity of the individual family member involved in the dispute.
- The willingness of the individuals involved to disclose their interests and needs.
A very easy and practical example of common ground is the relationship between children and parents. Even if parents and children do not see eye-to-eye on every issue and often feel that they are fundamentally different in their beliefs, they always find common ground. This is because children grow up to be independent individuals who carry on with their lives, even after leaving their parents’ homes.
Conflict Resolution Activities for Teens
Teaching youth conflict management strategies is advocated by ‘Teens and Conflict Together’ (TACT) (Petryshyn, 2011).
This approach combines skill-building with communication and interpersonal skills. Introducing a system of values and principles for resolving conflicts.
This program includes a team-based approach to developing conflict resolution skills. Engaging in conflict management as a team player, sharing, and practicing the approach learned in the sessions.
TACT offers hope and empowerment to youth and adults alike.
The conflict resolution skills presented in this program provide alternative conflict-resolving measures to youth who are faced with conflict in their lives.
Youth have opportunities to promote understanding of how they manage conflict.
Self-awareness is the foundation of conflict resolution skills.
Through the activities and dialogue facilitated in this program, youth are empowered to:
- find different means to create understanding,
- develop healthy communication patterns,
- and acquire valuable life skills that they may use throughout their adulthood.
Conflict Resolution Program for Teens
TACT (Teens and Conflict Together): A Facilitator’s Guide for Empowering Youth to Engage in Creative Problem Solving is a book about conflict resolution skills for teens.
This engaging and fun program includes opportunities to explore conflict and problem-solving to engage teens in a conflict management process.
This is the premise of the book:
- six lessons about conflict resolution skills
- conflict is natural and normal
- positive learning experiences emerge from conflict
It was originally designed for youth between the ages of 12 and 17. By facilitating the program at various community locations across Alberta, Canada youth and adults learned conflict resolution skills.
TACT Program Learning Objectives
Fun, educational games, and conflict resolution activities for teens to reinforce learning about conflict.
In addition, a safe environment for young people to explore conflict to meet the following program objectives:
- To provide participants with a fun, educational learning experience about conflict and conflict in communication.
- To provide participants with an awareness of their own conflict management and communication styles.
- To promote change and to provide participants with the skills needed to enable change.
Bibliotherapy in the TACT Program
TACT includes a literacy component supported through a narrative approach using traditional storytelling.
This concept encourages participants to use their own creativity in processing what meaning conflict management has in their own lives.
From the villain’s perspective, the teens write classic fairy tales to provide a familiar example. This conflict resolution activity demonstrates how perception and assumptions influence conflict management and problem-solving.
Participants write their own perception stories in one of the six conflict resolution activities.
For this activity, they use stories like:
- Peter Pan
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- 101 Dalmatians
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Snow White
- Hansel and Gretel
- Lion King
Some participants prefer songs to express the villain’s perspective in a conflict situation.
The exercise is not limited to a specific format but rather encourages teens to think creatively about the villain’s perspective. They write the story from both sides, helping them see there are always two sides to every story.
One of the participants chose Spiderman and the Green Goblin for their story.
- The Green Goblin felt he was left out of superhero stuff because he didn’t look all buff like all the other superheroes.
- The only way he was noticed was to do bad things.
This is an example of the potential for life lessons. The participants share these stories and discover they feel safe and connected.
Examples of the TACT Program
Here is a blog post about TACT with high-risk youth in a detention center:
Benefits of the TACT Program
TACT is a group activity and offers both opportunity and possibility for youth to witness the effects of their behaviour on others.
- The group setting is designed for natural learning to take place. This offers insight into the conflict resolution skills explored.
- The youth gain conflict management skills and conflict resolution skills.
- Teens learn strategies to process and deal with conflict in a constructive manner.
Helping Teens Discover Opportunities
With focused opportunities for teens to develop conflict resolution, TACT is effective and engaging.
The versatility of the program helps teens learn through practical experience.
Various needs and issues of the youth who have attended the program include:
- Behavioral, emotional, and social issues.
- Experiences with social, cultural, and spiritual uniqueness.
- Barriers to formal education.
- Relationship issues with authority figures, peers, and families.
- Communication issues.
- Experiences with incarceration.
A flexible program helps a range of youth in various communities and supports various social networks.
This program complements and enhances existing conflict management initiatives, anger management programs, communication skills programs, anti-violence programs, and anti-bullying initiatives.
Emphasis on Building Conflict Resolution Skills for Teens
The emphasis of TACT is on self-confidence. It explores concepts related to conflict, conflict resolution skills, and practice applying models for conflict management.
The program offers strategies to separate the people from the issue and find more effective communication methods.
The chapters promote conflict resolution skills, conflict management systems, and problem-solving.
The theory and concepts of each chapter are reinforced using educational learning tools through teamwork and role-play.
TACT Program Book
Conflict resolution skills are useful for older children and adolescents.
One of the best ways to teach teens how to resolve conflicts is by emphasizing what strategies to use. This helps teens to develop a sense of personal responsibility.
TACT includes conflict resolution activities for teens to help them discover their potential. By not feeling wrong, they develop confidence for self-expression and problem-solving.
This program is composed of six chapters:
- Chapter 1: Conflict Defined
- Chapter 2: Conflict Styles
- Chapter 3: Communication in Conflict
- Chapter 4: Perceptions in Conflict
- Chapter 5: Managing Conflict
- Chapter 6: Designs for Conflict Management
Facilitators should complete the chapters to scaffold learning experiences.
Communication is central to resolving conflict.
Barriers to communication will evolve into a conflict marred by misunderstanding and indifference.
To effectively resolve a conflict:
- It’s crucial to communicate directly about why the topic of the conflict is important.
- Uncovering what needs and interests are important to build connections.
- Exploring emotions and feelings about the conflict and the relationship help to foster respect and understanding.
Outcomes of Direct Communication
- Everyone learns why the topic of the conflict is important.
- Develops understanding of how conflicts affect others.
- Communication skills and self-expression are valued.
- Conflict resolution is a natural outcome with willingness, commitment, and skills.
A proven resource like TACT helps students learn how to get along with their peers and deal with conflicts in a healthy way.
Teens must be taught how to express themselves, their thoughts, and feelings, without causing harm to another person.
The best way for teens to learn conflict resolution skills is through interacting with one another in safe environments. Safe environments allow teens to express themselves and solve their problems together.
Conflict management and conflict resolution skills are essential for teens.
These skills help teens understand and cope with difficult people and situations. They are skills promoting collaboration and conflict resolution.
Teaching teens conflict resolution skills helps them with their social-emotional development and communication skills throughout life.
Conflict resolution activities encourage teens to think through disputes and come up with solutions collaboratively.
In addition, conflict resolution activities help students understand and resolve conflicts with peers, school staff, family members, and other community members.
Thanks for stopping by!
Until next time,
TACT (Teens and Conflict Together): A Facilitator’s Guide for Empowering Youth to Engage in Creative Problem Solving: Petryshyn, MA., Chartered Mediator, Suzanne: 9781451516593: Books – Amazon.ca. (2022). Amazon.ca.