Peacebuilding organization offers stay-at-home coping techniques

Four questions posted on your refrigerator door could help families deal with conflicts at home that arise during the stress of parents and kids being cooped up for weeks on end.

  • What happened?
  • What was the impact or harm?
  • What needs to be done to repair the harm?
  • How can we keep it from happening again?
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These are questions that the River Phoenix Center for PeaceBuilding Director of Programs (RPCP) and Curriculum Development Ben Howort posed to participants of two Zoom workshops held on April 8th and 9th. The workshop was aimed at parents and others who might need skills to resolve conflicts that arise during the stress of waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic.

Howort encouraged participants which included parents, teachers and school counselors to address the root of many of the situations: Fear.

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“They are smart, they know what is going on,” Howort said about kids’ level of understanding.

“When we feel safe, we can connect to creativity,” he said and urged participants to “Look for ways to create a sense of safety, talk about safety and fear with kids.”

“Ask kids about what’s going on and speak to their level,” he said. “Let them know that they are safe, that (COVID-19) doesn’t affect a lot of kids.

“Remind them why it’s necessary to keep (socially) distant. People who are co-parenting need to make sure what is being said (by both parents) is the same. Acknowledge kids’ emotions. Ask them how they feel, validate how they feel.”

Howort gave the example that for a child, missing a friend’s birthday party or not being able to see the class hamster could create greater stress than it might for an adult. 

Howort also emphasized establishing agreements versus rules. 

“Agreements are more effective than rules,” Howort said. “Sit down and share values to create the agreement. It takes longer, but it’s worth it. Rules require an authority figure.”

Howort also discussed equity in the sense that if you have children of different ages establish why the older sibling might get extra time on the computer for harder homework assignments.

“Equity is not about everyone getting the same thing,” he said. “It’s about everybody getting what they need.

He offered this document to help organize families’ agreements: 

And finally, Howort reminded participants to take care of the adults’ needs. “Adults are often forgotten in our caretaking.

Pull Quote

“When we feel safe, we can connect to creativity. Look for ways to create a sense of safety, talk about safety and fear with kids.”

–Ben Howort

“Adults who are not taking care of their own needs are likely to react in exacerbating conflict.”

Howort recommended two books that can provide more information on the topic. “Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason” and “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

The RPCP is a nonprofit organization guided by the life and activism of Gainesville native River Phoenix. The Center honors his dedication and courageous contribution to the field of entertainment, as well as the well-being of all life on our planet. His approach was “solution-based” and RPCP is dedicated to following this path. For more information about the workshop email

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