4 mins read

How to Successfully Navigate Conflict at School

11 May 2022   |   by Explore Careers

We’ll let you in on a (not so) big secret: conflict happens.

Yup. At home, in the workplace, at the gym – and at school. Nowhere is safe!

We’re kidding, but knowing that conflict is a part of life is only one puzzle piece. Understanding how to handle and navigate these scenarios when they arise is a vital life skill.

Not all conflict is bad, and not all conflict has to end with a fight, severed relationships or bad feelings.

Whether it’s getting heated during a sports game on the oval, annoyed with someone being loud in the classroom, or someone taking your favourite pen without asking; no matter how big, small, silly or essential – here are a few tips on how to handle conflict like a pro.

5 Tips for Successfully Navigate Conflict at School

Before we dive in, it’s worth knowing that different things work for different people. So while you read through this list, it’s okay to think, ‘I would never do that!’.

What’s more important is that you think about the things you would and can do to help you better navigate conflict.

Let’s dive in:

1. Before you react, hit PAUSE!

It’s easy to get heated in the moment over silly things, especially if you’ve had one of those days where nothing seems to go right.

So many things influence our mood on any given day, and our mood will usually dictate how we respond in the moment. Something that wouldn’t get to us on any other day might feel huge on a day when we’ve forgotten breakfast, had a row with a parent and got a poor score on a test.

So, whether it’s you reacting to a situation or another person – hit PAUSE – give yourself a moment to level up your awareness on why this might be getting to you right now.

2. Ask yourself: How big is this problem really?

Following on from hitting pause, ask yourself how big is this problem or situation really? And is my reaction to it proportionate?

Flying off the handle and screaming because someone accidentally knocked into you or a friend is way out of proportion for the scenario. Consider what would be appropriate, and that’s the point you start from.

MANAGING CONFLICT ACTIVITY: This is an excellent exercise to think about before facing conflict. Think of all the scenarios that might cause conflict or trigger you in school. Write down what an out of proportion reaction and what an appropriate one would look like. This can help you respond better in the moment.

3. Set clear boundaries and expectations.

If someone attempts to start a conflict with you, be very clear in how you will or won’t engage with them. It’s totally okay to set firm boundaries and act on them if someone continually violates them.

To set a boundary, first, think about how you want to be treated – what you are prepared to put up with and what you are not – and then the alternative to that behaviour. Also, think about what you want to happen or will do if they keep breaking your boundary.

For example, if someone keeps raising their voice and becoming physical with you anytime there’s a hint of conflict, try telling them, ‘I want to resolve this with you, but I won’t tolerate being shouted at or hit. You can go and take your frustration out in the gym and come back and talk to me calmly when you’re ready. If you can’t do this, I don’t want to hang out with you anymore.”

MANAGING CONFLICT ACTIVITY: Think about the best ways you want to be treated by your peers and others around you – what does that look like, sound like, feel like? How can you communicate this to others in positive ways before conflict arises? Write down your ideas and share them with the people close to you.

4. Walk away when you need to.

It can be the hardest thing to do when conflict arises, and you feel wronged, unheard or misunderstood somehow – or worse when someone is actively trying to get you worked up! But it can also be one of the most important ways to manage conflict.

Walking away isn’t about weakness or ‘losing’ – it’s about putting into practice all the tips above, knowing that sometimes conflict isn’t worth the drama and energy.

5. Seek help and support.

Conflicts can take over your mental energy and sense of wellness if you let it drag on for too long. We often think we have to manage everything ourselves, but if you’re continually worrying about a particular situation or experience, reach out to those who can help.

Whether your friends, teachers, parents or school counsellors – they’re all there to help. Even just talking through it aloud with a neutral party can help you figure out how you might resolve things.

Don’t suffer in silence; make sure you reach out, no matter what.

Some Helpful Resources

To help you learn more about managing conflict, now or in the future, we’ve compiled a few handy resources:

  • Kids Helpline – A great article on navigating conflict.
  • Headspace – Here, you’ll find a great selection of resources to help with navigating life, including managing stress, conflict and bullying.
  • Bite Back – A free, self-guided online wellbeing and resilience program to help with big life issues, including school, relationships, and bullying.
  • Brave Program – An online program to help better manage anxiety, with resources and guidance on how to tackle common causes of anxiety and worries.
  • MoodGYM – An interactive program that helps you identify and overcome problem emotions and develop good coping skills for the future.

We know not every conflict can be handled quickly or smoothly, and if you’re experiencing any form of bullying or harassment – always speak with a trusted adult or get a friend to help you reach out.

It doesn’t matter how ‘silly’ you think it is; if it’s making you feel uncomfortable, worried or scared, speak up sooner rather than later so you can get the support you need to manage the situation.


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