A teenager’s day is often an obstacle course of relationships and emotions. They may need to get through a difficult conversation with a parent, rise above a conflict with a friend, get over a hurtful comment from a teacher or avoid a fight with a bully. Not to mention the added hurdles of peer pressure, social media and even hormones.
Often, these young people lack the skills necessary to best handle these relationships. Through courses taught at The Conflict Center, youth ages 11 through 18 are being given a roadmap to navigate these interactions in healthy, effective ways.
“Addressing Conflict and Anger Effectively for Youth” is held once a week for eight weeks or four, three-hour classes over two weekends. During each course, young people learn how to make informed decisions, better manage their emotions, effectively communicate with others and build and improve relationships.
A parent or guardian is required to attend half of the classes, giving them the opportunity to implement these skills with their child and in their own lives. The Conflict Center also provides space for parents and teenagers to listen to and engage with each other in a healthy and safe environment.
“We can give the space for kids and parents to practice those things together,” said Rachel Protentis, the series classes program coordinator at The Conflict Center.
At its core, the youth classes deal with the same concepts as The Conflict Center’s classes for adults, but the lessons are framed differently. Teens and tweens are taught a six-step method of conflict management, as well as how to recognize their body’s responses to anger and how to communicate what they want, need and feel in healthy ways.
Both classes, for youth and adults, strive to reframe the emotion most often associated with conflict: anger. While anger can be viewed as negative, scary or painful, The Conflict Center teaches that anger can be normal, natural and healthy. Students who went through the course in 2018 reported learning “different ways to handle my anger through communicating in a positive way” and “that anger is natural and the way you handle it has different effects.”
For many youth, the Conflict Center courses offer their first opportunity to talk in depth about healthy relationships and learn their own responsibility in managing their emotions and considering potential consequences.
“You can grow your relationship with other people, but first you really need to focus on understanding yourself,” Protentis said.