How to Help Kids Cope with Disagreements
Children and teens in school have the potential for a difference of opinion, and due to the pandemic, we’ve seen an unfortunate increase in disagreements on many fronts.
Most children will emulate their parents’ views on topics like wearing masks or getting vaccinated. But parents can help their kids address these type of issues – as well as disagreements in general. We can all disagree with respect.
COVID has increased anxiety and mental health concerns for many kids. Children may feel anxious about conflict due to wearing a mask when others are not. They might worry about catching the virus.
You can help your child find ways to cope, such as exercise, breathing activities and mindfulness practices.
Dealing with Conflicts
So what should you tell your child who is having issues with disagreements? How can they stand up for themselves in a way that shows others respect?
Here are some ideas:
- Talk to your child about their opinions and feelings. Ask them how they feel, and don’t dismiss their feelings. Let them realize you hear them. Keep lines of communication open.
- Practice dealing with conflict at home. What do you say to someone who has differing beliefs? We can teach children empathy and compassion, even when other people’s point of views are different, if we teach them to look at issues from the other person’s perspective.
- If your child is feeling bullied for any reason, encourage them to bring concerns to a trusted adult at school, such as a teacher or counselor. Explain what bullying is, and that every time someone says something that hurts our feelings, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are bullies. Bullying is repetitive in nature and is aimed at the same person.
Talk to them about intentional and unintentional consequences of what we say and do.
Set the Example for Children
Model how to handle conflict. Kids and teens watch how we handle it, so we need to model empathy if we want our kids to understand it – and do the same.
Respect the choices of others. Remind your child that masks aren’t required in many schools, and that it’s up to moms and dads to make the best choice for their family. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine and treatment.
In making your own decision about masks, it’s worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend masks in schools.
The CDC states: “Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, universal indoor masking by all students age 2 and older, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status is recommended.”
At a young age, a person who learns to deal with a difference of opinion – without becoming angry or getting upset – can have later success in many aspects of their lives. Kids often are actually very adept at problem-solving, and they come up with solutions when we give them the opportunity to do so, as well as support and our attention when they need it.
By modeling conflict-resolving and coping skills, we can help our children learn to deal with a multitude of disagreements.
By Patricia Bates, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center