Dealing with it, understanding it, overcoming it
By Teen Coach: Melanie Black
“You don’t understand!” “Ugh. I can’t talk to you.” “You don’t know me.”
Sound familiar? Conflict between parents and teens is normal. It also makes your head hurt and stresses out the whole family. So how do you deal with it? It takes lots of listening, talking, and feeling.
Stephen Covey said it best. “Seek first to understand, then be understood”.
First off, let’s set some ground rules:
- Use each other’s names. (no name calling)
- No swearing.
- Use kind words. (no hurtful words)
- Do not be judgmental. Don’t list out each other’s faults.
- Don’t belittle anyone’s concerns. What might not seem like a big issue to you may be huge to the other person.
- Be helpful. Show interest. “How can I help you?”
- Don’t be negative. Rather than saying, “I don’t like this.” Try: “This makes me feel….I feel like you….”
Start by asking open-ended questions that begin with words like: how, when, where, do, what or is. Asking these types of questions helps start the process of problem-solving rather than escalating the issue.
If the conflict escalates and both of you are not calm, then separate for 15 minutes. Go breathe. After the break, both of you may still be too angry to talk. One option is writing a letter to each other. Give it to one another along with the time and space to read it. After you have both read each other’s letters ask the question, “What would you like to see happen?” From here, the problem solving process can engage.
FEELING vs. THINKING & HEAD vs. HEART
Suppose your teenage daughter says, “I hate school. My teachers hate me. I want to switch to a virtual school. “
What does she mean? Notice that she used only “thinking” words rather than “feeling” words. To understand where she is coming from you have to get her to speak from her heart instead of her head.
When your teen expresses what they think, instead of what they feel, you can ask, “Are you saying you feel your teachers are not giving you the help you need?” With this question you show that you not only listened to her words, but are also interested in what is in her heart. You have demonstrated that you recognize the real issue is she is not getting the help she needs in school.
People feel cared for when they feel emotionally understood. Effective communication occurs when the speakers are listening and speaking with the heart. Always ask yourself, “What is this person feeling?” This empathy will help when conflict arises.