Communication is a key tool, among others, that is vital to forming and maintaining nurturing, respectful, and solid relationships.

To communicate is to make a thing known. It is to cause one to partake or own a part of something with others in an idea or thought. Talking is communication by words alone. True communication is emotion packed and thought provoking words. That being said, one must guard against the emotion of anger ruling during the exchange, otherwise, angry words prevent the listener from 'hearing'. The speaker's intent is to 'provoke thought'.

Often there is the tenancy to go silent when parents and teens attempt conversation and find themselves constantly in verbal battles. In such cases, silence is not golden—it’s festering. Just because all is quiet on the home front doesn’t mean a storm isn’t brewing.

So what’s the solution? It’s as simple as a teen or a parent for that matter, approaching with an “out of the blue” question such as: “Do you believe a nine-year-old step-daughter should be spanked because she’s mean and sassy to her step-mother?” There’s slim chance that the question won’t be responded to by either party.

The question in and of itself sparks more questions. For instance, where is the child’s biological mother? Is she in the child’s life? Are there other children, and what are their ages? Such questions elicit emotional answers. And, because the questions, and the answers that follow have to do with a minor and an adult's relationship, you find yourselves engaging one another in conversation. Therefore, answers are of interest to both the teen and the parent. If there has been a longing on the part of either party for a peaceful relationship, at least momentarily, past hostilities, are put to rest. By engaging one another with answers to the above questions, who knows where the conversation may end up?

Consider how two people, engaged in conversation, often start out talking on one subject and by the time it ends, the conversation could have gone from: how the two of you first met, to, inmates on death row--topics that are poles apart.

Where parent and teen have not been gettng along but, are willing to reconcile, the step-daughter question above is an invitation to share in something. It is possible, even where there has been festering silence or open conflict, to engage one another in meaningful dialog. There is a saying: “anything is possible.” Trust that this is also possible. The idea is to start communicating-- to truly, and thoroughly absorb one another, at least for the time being.

Remember it was said earlier that a conversation can unconsciously take several turns during its course and end up going from the sassy nine-year-old and the conflict with her step-mother, to freely expressing one’s thoughts on discipline, respect, responsibility, expectations, and the list goes on.

We all have our opinions about all of these things. Those opinions, for the most part govern our behavior. As questions are answered and more probing takes place, a light bulb goes on that true communication is taking place.

By way of example: a teen may be more inclined to defend the nine-year-old if only because she’s closer to being one of his own “kind”. To his surprise, the parent may tend to agree that the child must be hurting terribly from the absence of her mother. Bingo! In that moment there is agreement. The problem has not been solved; however, major progress has been made.

If there are other family members, this might be a good time to bring them into the discussion as household conflict, even when seemingly between only two people, affects everyone.

In seeking ways to bring peace between stepmother and stepdaughter, you come to better know yourself and the person with whom you have conflict. You’ll also find it refreshing and empowering to honestly express yourself without stifling or taking away the rights and power of another.
© 2008 Vanessa Winters

Author's Bio: 

For more than thirteen years, Vanessa Winters has led discussion groups in public high school settings, at Boys/Girls Club, youth detention centers and in private homes with family members.
Ms Winters studied Psychology at Normandale College where she received encouragement to use her natural ability and desire to create settings where students and family members could speak freely and have their concerns heard.
Ms Winters is the author of: MISSION: Conflict Resolution, a booklet of three short stories of characters dealing with conflict. Each story can be read in five to seven minutes. And each contain end of story questions to stimulate lively discussions, or your own private contemplation of the events and characters. A handy Facilitator's Guide is also included.
Visit her website at: to read the short story that will inspire you to get involved in the characters situations. Their lives are not so different from our own. So, guess what? As you challenge yourself to find solutions and justice for them, you'll come up with answers to many of your own questions.