How to Deal With Teenage Drama: Mediation or Teen Counseling for Teenage Problems?

Sticky Note That Says "Impossible" with "IM" crossed out - mediation may be better than teen counseling to make possible teen conflict resolution

Understatement of the year: teenagers are tough to parent.

Tell me something you don’t know, right?

Some conventional ways parents deal with their intransigent teens involve arguing, punishing, ignoring, avoiding, and when push comes to shove, therapy.

I recently had success with an unconventional approach with two “heated” teenagers who almost fought on the bus.

A Different Way to Deal with Teenager Conflicts

Kate, a 17-year-old girl, was upset because she believed that Larry, a 15 year old boy was talking badly about her with other kids. She had heard that he called her a b****, made sexual innuendos, talked trash about her family, and to boot, had thrown an apple at her six-year old brother.

Larry was infuriated after hearing that she called his mother “crazy” and made fun of him with other kids. He was scared her talk would lead to losing respect in the neighborhood.

I recommended they participate in mediation even though both were referred to me for school-based teen counseling,

So, I brought these two students who were at each other’s throat in to mediation…raising more than a few eyebrows from skeptical colleagues.

It began with both kids sitting back with their arms folded and facial expressions tense. He spoke so softly he could barely be heard and she was curt.

The walls were up, the tension palpable, and thus began the mediation.

Did Sparks Fly? Did it Come to Blows?

Forty minutes later they were leaning forward, looking relaxed. They were asking each other questions. An occasional smile cracked through. He was speaking with a normal volume. She with compassion and humor.

They mended fences, made an agreement about how they would talk about any future concerns, and even scripted how to respond to friend who was tangentially involved.

So what happened?

Mediation Happened to These Teenage Problems!

Specifically:

  • After agreeing to keep the discussion confidential they immediately began to share information more freely
  • I reflected and reframed what Kate was saying so Larry had a better understanding of her perspective. This led him to take responsibility for something that he did not previously realize was hurtful to her.
  • They moved beyond the issues of the past and figured out how to co-exist in the present and the future.

In other words, with the help of a neutral facilitator and a safe and confidential environment, two teens who were so caught up in their high school teenage drama they were ready to go to blows experienced the power of effective communication, practiced listening skills, and engaged in problem solving.

Teen Counseling or Family Counseling May Be Helpful But…

…with teen counseling it is unlikely the conflict with Larry and Kate would have resolved as quickly or efficiently.

Conflicts involving teenagers abound. In school. On the streets.

And especially at home with their parents and siblings.

Too often the teenager is identified as a “problem child,” referred to counseling. Now don’t get me wrong — there is a time and place for teen therapy. I am a licensed social worker, after all.

But sometimes the acting-out teen is a product of the conflict — if the conflict resolves the acting-out may disappear. Without someone to mediate, the dispute will likely continue to simmer, and occasionally boil over.

If you live or work with a teenager please consider mediating conflict between teens or between teens and adults. Call on a friend. A parent-teen mediator. A relative. A school counselor.

Mediating the problem now can save a lot of heartache later. Unless, of course, you really like living with teenage drama!

Please REPLY below with your experiences with mediating teenage problems?

The students’ names and ages were changed to protect confidentiality.

CLICK HERE TO RECEIVE FUTURE POSTS FROM BEN’S BLOG

LINKEDIN USERS: LinkedIn does not have the capability for your comments on LinkedIn groups to appear on the original blog post. if you are commenting on a LinkedIn group would you mind copying the comment directly on to the blog so my other readers can benefit from your ideas and reactions? Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

 

Tags: , ,

About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator's blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.

Enter your email address to subscribe to Ben's blog:
Privacy guaranteed. We never share your info.

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Zach Boone says:

    Nice post. I couldn’t help but think of the explosion of facebook and other social media conflict among teens, and how mediation could be a nice way to approach those types of conflict.

    • Ben Stich says:

      Interesting you mention that, Zach. There is a growing movement related to virtual mediation, particularly when those in conflict live in different geographic areas. I wonder if anyone is facilitating virtual mediation with teens? Might be a useful application in some situations…Thanks for contributing, Zach!

      • Zach Boone says:

        I hadn’t heard of virtual mediation thanks for sharing. I am aware of some teletherapy sites that are just starting including WeCounsel. Might be a good target population for these teletherapy platforms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *