Staying Cool When Things Heat Up

Developed for young adolescents, this brochure acknowledges the common experience of conflict and encourages teenagers to think about and use methods of resolving conflict that do not involve fighting. Particularly violent youths are unable to identify alternative methods of conflict beyond either fighting or running. This brochure attempts to introduce some basic concepts.

The core message is that it takes more courage to walk away than to fight, and teens (both male and female) need to learn when and how to walk away. The information is a digest of many commonly used conflict resolution curricula designed for high schools. If the local high schools use a conflict resolution curriculum (they go by many different names), this material may seem redundant to patients. Even so, hearing it from a clinician is an important reinforcement. For older high school students or more sophisticated teenagers, the information may seem basic.

Additionally, there is important information for bystanders (those who encourage their peers to fight). Bystanders play an important role in promoting violence, and programs designed for reducing the participation of bystanders appear to be effective in reducing violence.

How to Use This Tool

  • During the initial assessment of a teenager, use the FISTS (Fighting. Injuries. Sex. Threats. Self-Defense.) mnemonic to assess an adolescent's risk for involvement in violence. For those teenagers who report participating in violent behavior (being in more than one fight in the past 12 months), the clinician could say, "Your physical exam shows that you're very healthy, but I'm worried about all of the fights you're getting into."
  • For those patients who do not report violent behavior, the clinician might say, "Your physical exam looks good. I'm also glad to hear that you haven't been getting in a lot of fights. I would like you to have a look at this brochure, it may help you in the future."
Note: Youths who are often involved as bystanders in fights may find themselves more directly involved in the future. The safest behavior for a young person is to try to avoid being in or around fights.
  • This brochure could be introduced at a time when talking about the teenager's after-school activities or other community involvements. It is often very easy to have teenagers open up with their concerns about the level of violence present in their community.
  • The brochure is also helpful for patients to identify ways of helping to stop a fight without placing themselves in physical danger. Those youths who try to separate others physically often find themselves involved in a fight.
Helpful Hints

  • The advice given is largely derived from teenagers living in rural and suburban areas. In that way, the advice is field proven. When introducing the brochure, it is worthwhile to say that the information comes from other teenagers.
  • Some clinicians like to leave this brochure out in the waiting room so patients can read it prior to seeing them.
  • It is appropriate to arrange a follow-up visit for some patients.
  • This brochure is especially good to use when talking with school or youth groups. It provides a safe way of introducing the concepts involved in preventing peer violence.

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