3 Steps to Help Your Child Solve Social Conflicts

Enrichment Therapies

February 21, 2024

young girls crafting

By: Bri Hammer, M.A., CCC-SLP

In any relationship, there will be conflict. Learning how to understand and solve social problems is an important life skill that will help your child develop and maintain meaningful and lasting social relationships. 

It is a skill that often isn’t explicitly taught in a classroom. Yet, for many children and adults, the rules of the social world are confusing. Explicitly discussing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they are interrelated builds social perspective-taking skills and will help your child better understand and solve social conflicts. 

Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Cooke developed the Social Thinking Curriculum, and many of the concepts below can be attributed to them.

Step 1: Thoughts and Feelings

The first step in helping your child’s social conflict skills is to make sure they have an understanding of what thoughts and feelings are and how they’re different. 

What Is a Thought? 

Thoughts are quiet words or pictures in our brain. Often we can tell what someone is thinking about by following his/her gaze. Often, people are thinking about whatever they are looking at.

What Is a Feeling? 

Feelings are created by our brain but felt in our body. Act out different emotions (happy, sad, angry) and ask your child to notice how his/her body feels when experiencing each one

Explain that we have thoughts and feelings when we are alone. For example, when reading a favorite story to ourselves, we may be thinking about the story and feeling happy. 

We also have thoughts and feelings when we are with others. We have thoughts and feelings about other people based on what they look like, what they say, and what they do. Other people have thoughts and feelings about us based on what we look like, what we say, and what we do. Those thoughts and feelings can be good, neutral, or bad. To make and keep friends, we want to do and say things that make others feel good and think kind things about us. 

Step 2: Social Perspective Taking

To solve a social conflict, your child needs to be able to guess the thoughts/feelings others may be having. Aspects to discuss and consider when trying to take someone else’s perspective:

  1. What is the situation? Who is involved? What words, behaviors, and facial expressions did you notice? 
  2. What do I already know about the people involved?
  3. Have I had any similar experiences to this one? How did I feel in that situation?

By integrating information we know about the situation, the people involved, and our own life experiences, we can make a smart guess about how someone else might be feeling and what they may be thinking. Use these steps to help your child make guesses about how the other people involved in the conflict might be feeling. 

Step 3: Putting it All Together—The Behavioral Chain Reaction

Our actions/behaviors toward others influence their thoughts and feelings, which then influence their behavior toward us, which then influences how we feel about ourselves. 

Help your child identify his/her behavior that led to the conflict, and put that in the first column. Then, help them fill out this chart so they understand the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that were involved in the conflict. 

Then, fill out the chart again, this time putting potential solutions in the “my behavior” column. Help them brainstorm potential behaviors they could use to solve the conflict. Put each potential solution in the first column. Help them fill out the rest of the chart for each potential solution and select the best one.

flow chart for social skills

Looking for More Support to Help Your Child? Contact ETLC

If you’ve tried these steps at home, but feel like your child could use more help understanding thoughts, feelings, and how to maintain strong relationships, reach out to our team at Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center! Our specialists will work with your child to provide direct instruction on how to better solve social conflicts, plus give your child the opportunity to practice these learned skills in a supportive environment.

Schedule a free consultation today to begin your child’s journey to healthy social relationships!

info@enrichmenttherapies.com

740 Community Drive, Unit A 

North Liberty, IA 52317 

319-626-2553 

infodm@enrichmenttherapies.com

5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300 

Johnston, IA 50131 

515-419-4270

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