Do you remember your transition to high school? The school was much bigger than your elementary school; you went from a student population of 450 to 1500. Just a few short months before you saw your best friend all the time. All of the sudden, you didn’t have any classes together and you hardly ever saw each other at school, except sometimes at lunch. Your best friend might have made a whole new group of friends that you didn’t know. And then one day at lunch, your friend was sitting with new friends. When you walked by with your lunch, your friend seemed to be ignoring you. Your relationship had changed from what it once was to something new.
The transition from elementary school to high school is not a simple transition for most kids. One of the hardest challenges students have to navigate outside of their academics are the various relationships they encounter: new/old friends, teachers, vice principals, guidance counsellors and all the other people that become part of their life during the school year. Perceptions and assumptions can take the place of the reality in a situation for young a student and thus can cause a sense of uncertainty and conflict.
Conflicts can take many forms in a high school student’s life. Friend groups are changing and romantic relationships are becoming increasingly important. Teaching young people how to manage conflict in their lives, especially during the crucial time of high school, is one of the most important things we can offer our youth today. The first thing to ask your teen is, “Is this actually a conflict or is this something that is a perception/assumption you have?”
If it is a conflict, here are five tips on healthy ways to navigate conflict to share with your teens:
- Recognize that a conflict is as a result of actions that a person chooses, not who they are. When navigating a conflict you are solving a problem, not finding the culprit.
- Consider what the conflict is really all about – where did it start, what is it rooted in?
- Ask: How have the actions of that person impacted you?
- Ask: What matters most to you about this conflict and how it gets resolved? How do you want to write the next chapter in the story?
- Remember that the silent treatment or ignoring the conflict doesn’t work in the long run. It causes more harm than good; choose to talk it out.
At its core, restorative practice honours the inherent worth of all human beings, regardless of who they are or what they do. It accepts that people are relational beings whose well-being is nurtured or diminished through our interconnectedness (Pranis, 2007; Vaandering, 2011). Thus, learning how to be in healthy relationships doesn’t mean there is an absence of conflict, instead it means that we are willing to lean into the conflict, repair the harm and transform the conflict from a relational perspective. We must always focus on maintaining the dignity of each person involved.
Most importantly, when you experience conflict with your teen, take the time to help them practice these skills. Experience is the best teacher.
Want more information? Here are some additional resources on becoming more relational savvy:
- “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions of Adulthood” by Lisa Damour
- “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson