4 Ways to Reduce Conflict with Your Teen
Screaming matches, slamming doors, and shouting, “You don’t understand!” Sound familiar? Teenagers and parents can sometimes have contentious relationships, but Ashley Waknine — a licensed mental health counselor based in Florida — feels it’s high time we get rid of the “teens who hate their parents” trope. Waknine specializes in helping equip young people with skills to cope with coming-of-age obstacles. She also helps provide communication skills for parents and teens so they can better resolve conflicts.
CircleAround asked Waknine to provide parents with a few strategies on how to better handle conflicts with their teens. Such strategies can help parents and their kids foster healthier, stronger bonds.
Pause Before Reacting
When people get emotional or confrontational, it’s instinctive to react immediately. This can escalate issues further, creating a larger gap between parents and teens.
Waknine emphasizes that people have a lot more control over their thoughts and actions than it sometimes feels. Taking a moment to collect yourself, or evaluate the issue(s) presented, can shift the conversation into something productive and less combative.
“When a mindset is unhelpful, we can step back, notice our thinking, and consider who we become if we breathe life into those thoughts,” Waknine says. “The more we can do this, the more empowered we will feel.”
Learn to Adapt and Flow
“Mindsets and emotions are a lot like the weather,” Waknine says. “Always changing and sometimes dark and stormy. The weather is normal and not the problem. The problem is not knowing how to adapt.”
Teenagers go through many changes that parents don’t often see on the surface. While this can cause friction, parents who are open to adapting to change and going with the flow can form stronger relationships with their children. Teaching teens adaptation skills by modeling them is more valuable than forcing a particular pattern or mindset onto them.
Create a Daily Motivation Practice
Procrastinating on chores, homework, or something else is an issue that often causes conflict. “Don’t wait for motivation to come,” Waknine tells CircleAround. “The impact of procrastination will likely de-motivate you further.” Instead, focus on persistence and motivation.
Motivation can be cultivated by setting small goals as individuals and as a family. Pick things that are 90 percent achievable, even when your energy is low. Waknine says there's no shame in “renegotiating in 10 minutes if motivation does not appear,” but that once the task is started, the momentum usually keeps it going.
Don’t Rush the Process
It’s great for teens and families to seek outside resources to help mediate their issues but results won’t appear overnight. “The biggest challenge occurs when a teenager is not open to participating in counseling,” Waknine advises. “Parents are understandably looking for immediate outcomes, but lasting change is a process that takes time and can only arise from the client’s own desire to change.”
“When a client is reluctant, it takes time to build trust and help them see the benefits of addressing the issue,” she adds. “We must create the kind of environment that encourages change but also accepts [teens] where they are at.”
The Bottom Line
Arguments between teenagers and parents inevitably happen. While these moments aren’t pleasant, families can approach the issues constructively by applying a few simple communication tactics. These strategies will ultimately help form stronger bonds between teens and their parents and, hopefully, prevent future conflicts before they begin.