Most parents agree: Teenagers aren’t known for their reasonable attitudes and level heads! All too often, a simple disagreement with your adolescent — or even just a discussion — can quickly snowball into shouting, door slamming and tears.
That’s why it’s important for parents and others who work closely with teens to learn the fine art of de-escalation. Using strategies to diffuse the intensity of a situation can help you communicate better and keep a conversation from becoming an emotional argument.
First, take a timeout. By stepping back and allowing both you and your teen a chance to calm down, you will be better prepared to work through the original issue together. Stop talking, stop trying to prove a point, and take a break. In addition, don’t be afraid to take some actual space from the situation. Sometimes, kids need physical distance to calm down. Make sure they are safe and supervised, but try to back off and allow them the freedom to pace, punch pillows and vent.
If other children, friends or extended family members are present, remove your teen quickly and quietly from the audience. Or, if the teen won’t budge, and it’s more efficient, ask the others in the room to step out. Young people are natural performers and inherently want to “play to the crowd.” In addition, witnesses may cause them to feel the need to save face, often leading to more extreme and emotional behavior.
Don’t fall into a confrontational pattern — pitting yourself against a combative teen is a lose-lose situation. It’s more productive to try to adopt a “you and me against the problem” attitude, and your teen can see you as an ally rather than an enemy.
It’s tempting to wound our teens with our words, especially when they’ve been especially venomous themselves. Avoid sarcasm and belittling comments; they will only make the situation worse. Instead, keep comments respectful and calm.
In addition, use reflective listening. Repeat back your teen’s words — not only is it soothing, but it will make her feel heard. But don’t just reflect the content of what she’s saying — use it as an opportunity to sort through her emotions. One of the biggest hurdles in adult-teen communication is the teen feeling misunderstood, so a simple comment like, “You sound really frustrated,” or “That must have made you angry,” can go a long way.
Resist the compulsion to get the last word, and save the lessons for another time. Don’t worry about driving any points home while teens are visibly upset. Wait until the heat of the moment has passed, and calmly revisit the situation later.
Finally, don’t be afraid to tag in another adult. Sometimes, teenagers personalize an emotional escalation and can’t resolve the problem with the offending parent or caregiver. Calling in the reserves may provide a needed break for both you and your teen.
To learn more ways to de-escalate a conflict with your teen, contact us today.