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Guiding Your Child Through Conflicts: Tips for Parents of Neurodivergent Kids

Conflicts—those sticky situations that often seem to crop up between kids. No one likes conflict, but it is a part of life. As a parent of a neurodivergent child, you might find helping them navigate conflicts a bit challenging. Teaching your child practical skills to manage conflict in a healthy way will help them navigate friendship fallouts both now and in the future.


Understanding the Issue

First things first, let’s try to understand what’s going on. Your child might be upset because a friend said something hurtful or they’re frustrated about sharing toys. Encourage them to express their feelings and help them identify what’s bothering them. Understanding the problem is the first step towards finding a solution.  


Help Your Child Recognize Emotions

Emotions can be tricky for neurodivergent kids. Help your child recognize and label their feelings. Use simple language and ask questions like, “Are you feeling sad because your friend didn’t want to play with you?” By helping them understand their emotions, you’re giving them the tools to communicate effectively. As they become able, use more advanced lables, such as frustrated instead of mad, or left-out instead of sad. When they are able to fine-tune how they are feeling the solutions for feeling better come more easily.


Encouraging Problem-Solving

Now it’s time to brainstorm solutions together. Sit down with your child and explore different ways to resolve the conflict. Encourage them to come up with ideas and offer gentle guidance if needed. Whether it’s taking turns with toys or talking to their friend, empower your child to find solutions that work for them. Compromise, where everyone gets a little bit of what they want, is often the fastest way to sort out a squabble.


Teaching Effective Communication

Communication is key in resolving conflicts. Teach your child to express their thoughts and feelings using clear and respectful language. Encourage them to use “I” statements, like “I feel upset when…” Also, help them understand the importance of listening to others and considering different perspectives.


Parental Tips for Conflict Resolution:

Stay Calm: Your child looks up to you for guidance, so try to remain calm and composed during conflicts. How you handle yourself sets the tone for how they handle the situation.


Model Empathy: Show empathy towards your child’s feelings and encourage them to consider how others might be feeling too. Empathy goes a long way in resolving conflicts peacefully.


Provide Guidance, Not Solutions: While it’s tempting to swoop in and solve the problem for your child, resist the urge. Instead, offer guidance and support as they work through the conflict themselves.  Tell them a story about when you were in a similar situation.


Be Patient: Conflict resolution takes time, especially for neurodivergent children who might need a little extra support. Be patient and supportive as they navigate through the process.


Reflect and Learn: After the conflict has been resolved, take some time to reflect with your child. What did they learn from the experience? How can they handle similar situations better in the future? Use conflicts as teachable moments for growth and learning.


Conflicts are a natural part of life, but with your guidance, your child can learn valuable skills for resolving them effectively. By understanding their emotions, brainstorming solutions, and communicating respectfully, you’re empowering your child to navigate conflicts with confidence and resilience. Keep supporting them every step of the way, and watch them grow into skilled conflict solvers.

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