Managing conflict: Exercises for young people

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Concerns over personal safety are a critical reason that may drive a young person to carry a knife.

This resource focuses on helping young people develop conflict resolution skills to help them deal with conflict and reduce the chances of a situation becoming violent. There are links to further resources at the bottom of the page.

What is conflict?

Conflict is a normal part of life. It occurs when two or more people fail to find a way to resolve a disagreement peacefully. It can be a minor dispute or a much longer-running feud. Without an amicable resolution, it can lead to bullying, breakups of friendships and families, or even violence.

What is conflict resolution?

It’s important not to avoid conflict, but to develop the skills to work through it. Conflict resolution is a method to resolve disagreements peacefully and stop them from escalating. Key components of conflict resolution include:

  • Empathy: Understanding another person or group’s viewpoint and needs in addition to your own.
  • Communication: Openly discussing your thoughts and feelings and respectfully listening to the other person when they do the same.
  • Finding common ground: It’s easy to find differences in conflict, but what unites everyone?
  • Agreeing solutions: Working together to agree solutions that respect everyone’s needs, even if this requires compromise.

These can apply to minor everyday disagreements between siblings, or even larger scale international conflicts.

Conflict resolution and young people

Adolescence is a time of immense emotional and social growth. Conflict resolution is an essential life skill for all young people to learn. It can help them handle social challenges, build empathy, and develop effective communication and problem-solving skills.

Conflict management exercises

These exercises are designed to help adults teach young people aged 11-16 about the core components of conflict resolution. They can be done between a parent or guardian and child, or as part of a larger youth group setting.

Exercise 1: Roleplay – The party dispute

Objective: Learn to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation.

Scenario: Two individuals at a party are having a disagreement, and the situation is escalating towards violence.


  1. In groups, act out the scenario.
  2. Another person acts as a mediator, trying to de-escalate the situation.
  3. Discuss how the mediator can use skills like empathy, listening, and finding common ground to prevent the situation escalating.

If you’re uncomfortable roleplaying, you can discuss the scenario and write your thoughts in a mind map.

Exercise 2: Group discussion – The blame game

Objective: Learn the impact of blame and how to communicate effectively.


  1. Discuss a scenario where someone was unfairly blamed for something at home or school.
  2. Talk about how blame can affect a person’s feelings and make a situation worse.
  3. Explore the different ways you can discuss problems without pointing the finger and blaming another person.

It may help to write down your ideas and solutions.

Exercise 3: The emotion circle

Objective: Recognise and respect different emotions in a conflict.


  1. Break into pairs. One person states an emotion common during conflict, e.g. anger and fear.
  2. The other person describes a time they felt that emotion and how it influenced their actions.
  3. Switch roles and repeat.

Exercise 4: The perspective swap

Objective: Develop empathy by seeing a conflict from another’s point of view.


  1. Think of a common conflict situation (e.g. a disagreement between a parent and child over household chores after a tiring day).
  2. Discuss the perspectives of each person in the situation. Then, discuss how each person may view the other person’s perspective. Ask yourself: How does each person feel?
  3. Discuss how they can come to a compromise that understands each person’s perspective and needs.

Exercise 5: The solution scatter diagram

Objective: Encourage creative problem-solving in conflicts


  1. Think of a conflict situation or one you may have experienced in the past.
  2. Create a mind map or scatter diagram to find solutions in groups or pairs, and write down your thoughts.
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of each solution.

Further resources on conflict management

  • Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball Foundation: Works with schools, communities, police and local authorities, helping individuals and groups to resolve conflict through dialogue and conflict resolution techniques.
  • CRESST: empowers young people and the adults who work with them with the skills to resolve conflict constructively.
  • YoungMinds: Provides mental health resources for young people, including handling disagreements.
  • The Mix: Offers support for under 25s on various issues, including conflict management.
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Option for a little long-form, which probably won’t be needed, but handy to have the option all the same.