Be a positive role model for your children.
You as the parent/caregiver play an important role in helping your child manage conflict. They pay attention to everything you do and reflect that into how they manage life. If they see you yelling at others, calling them names or using intimidation tactics with others, then that’s how they are going to act during conflict. However, if they see that you are calm, collected and respectful, then that’s how they will learn how to respond.
Another important aspect to role model for your child is empathy. Listening and empathizing not only helps your child feel heard and understood but it also teaches them how to empathize with others. Start with getting down to their eye level and reflect how your child feels back to them. For example, “it sounds like you’re frustrated and disappointed that they didn’t want to play with you.”
Help your child learn to identify feelings.
A big part of managing conflict is being able to manage your own feelings. When children aren’t able to properly identify their feelings, they begin to act out. By teaching your child about feelings and practicing with them how to verbalize their feelings, they will begin to incorporate that into the moments when there is conflict or disagreements.
Other ways to help children learn about feelings are
- Visual feelings charts - typically feelings faces/expressions to demonstrate different emotions.
- The stoplight - use red, yellow and green stoplight to identify the intensity level that each feeling is at.
- Emotional thermometer - this can be used to determine how “heated” they are and decide whether they need to calm down before proceeding.
Identify the source of the conflict.
Only after your child has calmed down, do you want to begin to identify the problem. For younger children, this can be very difficult due to not having the emotional awareness to identify the source. As the parent/caregiver, you will need to assist them in understanding why they are arguing or fighting. Helping your child get to the root of the problem will help them begin to identify ways to solve the problem.
Teach effective communication skills.
Help your child learn how to express their feelings, wants and needs to others in a respectful manner.
Teach them to:
- Use “I feel” statements to help express their feelings to others. For example “I feel sad when you don’t want to play with me.”
- Avoid name calling, hurtful words or aggressive behaviors
- Talk opening and directly to the other person
- Listen carefully to the other person by making eye contact and avoiding interrupting
- Understand others by repeating back what they other person said to them
Build Problem Solving Skills.
Often parents/caregivers tend to struggle with allowing their children to solve their problems. It’s easier as a parent to tell your child how to fix the issue because oftentimes it is an easy solution. However, it’s important to not deprive your child of learning how to solve their own problems. For younger children, they may need a little more help but you can still allow space for them to try to identify how to solve the problem.
There are many different ways to help your child with problem solving. Below are some of those strategies.
- Brainstorm a big list of solutions - trying not to eliminate any possible idea even if you know it won’t work.
- Using the list of solutions, help them think out each one to see if it will really work and what the possible consequence or outcome might occur from it.
- Talk to them about being flexible and identifying ways to compromise.
- Ask them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and see if any of the solutions wouldn’t work for the other person.
- Help them put the solution into action, emphasizing that they may need to try a few different solutions before finding the right one.
As with adults, kids will experience ups and downs with their friendships. By teaching them how to manage those moments, they will be better equipped to resolve them quickly and be able to move forward and preserve the friendship.