by MomPower Contributor Jenn Poole

Back to school time can bring conflict for our children. It could be hurt feelings between friends or crushes, fighting on the playground, or even frustration when they don’t understand the assignment. As schools cut back, they are required to focus more on the basics like math and reading and focus less on communication skills.

Our children communicate differently than we do. When communicating face to face, more than 90% of it is done nonverbally. (Think: tone, body stance, facial expression.) Our children are not learning to read the nonverbals because so much of their communicating is through texting, social networking, and email. We know how easy it can be to misunderstand the intent of an email, since we are guessing that tone and emotion of it.

We need to make sure our children are learning to express their feelings appropriately with “I feel” statements and teaching them skills to work through conflict. They need to learn that conflicts are inevitable but they can often make a relationship stronger when they take the time to really work through the issues. Many kids have never been taught how to take ownership of their emotions and find respectful ways to express them. Too often the emotions overflow and the child either starts a fight, or yelling or crying. Schools often will not be able to take the time to get to the heart of the issue and will just punish and suspend the child that acted out.

Peer mediation programs in schools are a wonderful way to help our youth work through conflicts and learn lifelong problem solving skills, but these programs are often the first thing to go when funding is cut. Hopefully they will make a comeback, but no matter what, the ultimate responsibility lies with us as parents. Take the time to ask your child to express how they are feeling about something. Encourage them to use words besides “fine”, “sad”, “mad”.

When an emotionally charged event happens (even something they see on TV) ask them how they could have handled it differently and obtained a more positive outcome. Encourage them to brainstorm a list of possible solutions to conflicts instead of just the standard “all or nothing” answer. Additionally, I challenge you to do the same for yourself with your conflicts in your relationships and/or work.