Step 3. Debrief and Gain Relief
It goes without saying that teenagers need to process their emotions to help them feel better, and reflect upon their behaviours to help them learn. Here are some great questions to ask teenagers as part of a post-conflict debrief.
What was happening before the conflict ended up online?
Conflict rarely starts out of thin air. Understanding the circumstances surrounding the conflict can be helpful when getting young people to reflect on how things could have been done differently.
What did you do that was helpful? What did you do that wasn’t helpful?
Encouraging kids to reflect on both their positive and negative behaviours is a good strategy for open self-reflection. Sometimes we focus only on the negatives, which can make teenagers, in particular, feel defensive and resistant. Start with the positives, and then move to the negatives. It’s a much more inviting way to encourage communication.
How were you feeling when the conflict was unfolding?
It’s the old classic question, but it’s an important one. Given that developmentally teenagers are emotive rather than logical thinkers, having them reflect on their feelings is important for two reasons. The first is because their feelings should be validated. If there is conflict online, it’s a normal human response to be frustrated, so it’s OK if teens felt this way.
As parents, we can acknowledge this openly by saying ‘So Stacey made a sarcastic joke about you on TikTok and you felt annoyed because you were embarrassed? I understand why you felt that way, I would have been frustrated too in the same situation’. Feeling understood and validated is one of the most important steps in allowing a teenager to process their own feelings and therefore de-escalate them.
The second reason for this question is because parents can then discuss with teens how emotional-reasoning rarely leads to a positive outcome. When we are acting out of emotion, logic tends to go out of the window temporarily, and we can sometimes say things we know won’t be helpful.
Imagine you were a third person looking at the situation unfold. What advice would you give to both you and the other people involved to de-escalate the situation?
This isn’t just about your child reflecting on their own behaviours. Having your child reflect on why the situation unfolded the way it did can help them learn from all angles of the conflict, not just the part they were responsible for.
Finally, remember that online conflict does not make your child 'bad'. Navigating disagreements and negative emotions online can be a tricky business, and an essential skill that all teenagers need to learn.