4 Communication Problem Solving Activities Recommended By Therapist

4 Communication Problem Solving Activities Recommended By Therapist

Conflict in relationships is inevitable. And in the case of parent-teenager relationships, it is not only inevitable but frequent and likely heated at times. If you are the parent a troubled teen who is struggling at home or school, the situation is even more precarious.

Instead of trying to avoid conflict entirely, it's better to focus on developing strategies to tackle these situations. Adopting better communication skills and engaging in problem solving activities will not only help you de-escalate fights, it will teach your teen important life skills. A teen who learns how to effectively solve a disagreement with a parent is a teen who is more equipped to thrive in all types of relationships: siblings, friends, co-workers, marriage, etc. The New York Times describes it like this: "The nature of family quarrels can also drive how adolescents manage their relationships with people beyond the home."

Here are three problem solving activities recommended by therapists.

1. Seek to understand the issue from both sides.

Stephen Covey, one of the world's most renowned thinkers and writers, coined the phrase: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood. This powerful idea is best transmitted to teenagers by example. So when you are arguing about curfew, instead of immediately launching into all the reasons why are you right and they are wrong, or simply stating that you are in charge and not them — consider their perspective. This might sound like this: "I know you want to stay out until 12:30 like your friends are allowed to do. I get that it is annoying to be the only one who has to go home earlier. I can see how it might make you feel awkward and that it feels unfair."

Even if you ultimately stick to your guns, the verbal exercise of "seeking to understand" your teenager's thoughts and feelings will make them feel validated and heard. The American Psychological Association has studied this theory and has found evidence that while younger children lack the neurological capacity to see another's point of view, the adolescent years are when abstract reasoning and comprehension for competing viewpoints is possible.

Plus, taking the time to acknowledge your teen's point of view may prompt them to do the same for you.

2. Take deep breaths and practice emotional control.

Teenage brains are not fully developed. They are still learning how to manage intense emotions. Which is why it is so important for parents to model how to keep emotions in check. So when your teen say something completely ridiculous, like "I hate you, you are the worst mom/dad ever!", take a deep breath and hold your tongue. Take a moment to neutralize your reactive emotions and try to respond as calmly as possible. If you explode too it will only get more out of hand. This is a tip that is easier said than done and can require monumental amounts of zen at times.

3. Avoid triggering words and phrases.

Even if your teen seem is completely brazen and unapologetically rude, refrain from using hurtful words that can be triggering. Words like "always" and "forever" are rarely warranted and when used can make a teen feel helpless For example, saying something like "You are always ungrateful and you never do what I ask" is not helpful. It actually communicates to your teen that you have already made up your mind about their behavior and any positive future positive efforts will likely be futile. Comparing, labeling or "because I said so" are other things to avoid. They don't move the argument closer to resolution and can be emotionally damaging.

4. Bring in reinforcements when necessary.

Sometimes a relationship needs help from a neutral third party to successfully resolve conflicts and move forward. Family counselors, therapists and therapeutic boarding schools are great options for specialized assistance in these areas. If you feel like you have tried everything and nothing is working, get the help you are your teen deserve!

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