By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension District Agent
I’ve recently completed a series of sessions on healthy relationships with teens in the Frontier Extension District. A couple of the lessons that I think are really important are on communication challenges and conflict management skills.
The teens have a workbook that helps them apply the concepts we talk about to their own lives. One workbook activity I find particularly helpful is, Communication Patterns: What to Take, What to Change. The teens reflect upon the communication patterns in their families of origin and identify the patterns they want to work toward for their own lives. You see, without this kind of conscious examination, we all have a tendency to repeat the same patterns we grew up with. Or, we tend to react in totally opposite ways, which can be just as problematic. However, we can develop skills to communicate effectively and to manage conflict in healthy ways.
Negative communication patterns and interaction are what starts to erode relationships. Danger signs include put-downs or invalidation, withdrawal or avoidance, negative interpretation and escalation.