Have you ever been talking to a teenager and they’re looking at their phone, shifting eyes at other things, or they suddenly walk away? Yeah, me neither. It can be really awkward to talk to a teen when they don’t have the social skills to carry on a conversation.
Social skills don’t always come naturally to people, they need to be taught. So, what can we, as parents, teach our kids to help them socially in the present and for the future?
Teach them how to have a conversation.
Many different elements come with having a conversation. Some of those include making eye contact with the person they are talking to. Try using the 50/70 rule. Holding eye contact 50% of the time when you’re talking and 70% of the time when you’re listening. Practice active listening. Short responses, such as, “mhmm” or head nods, show someone that you are listening. Asking questions at the appropriate time is also another way to show someone that you are listening. Teach them how to read body language. A facial expression or the position of your body can tell a lot about how a person is feeling. This includes being aware of what kind of body language and facial expressions you are using as well.
Teach them empathy.
Talk to your teen about sincerely caring for other people. Asking questions about someone else’s life might show empathy and sympathy towards the other person sharing about a trial. Our kids will also learn empathy by watching us. The way that we interact with others and show compassion towards people in our lives, sets a good example for them to learn from.
Talk about social anxiety in your home.
Social anxiety could be something your child already deals with, but it might be something new you are facing after the pandemic. Give them room to talk about their feelings. Help them identify these nervous or anxious feelings that may arise when they are around other people or having a conversation. Be patient with them and create a safe space in your home for open communication.
Play games that might help in a social environment at home.
Games that will induce interesting conversations, such as the board game “Say Anything.” This game asks a slew of questions and gets people talking. Or try the game “Awkward Moment,” which may help in just that. This game gives you scenarios of awkward moments and what you could do in those moments. Practicing social scenarios can be fun and build on family comradery too!
This generation of kids has lived in a world of social media and cell phones. They may not have practiced their social skills all that much or have needed to. Let’s help our kids learn these simple communication skills. As awkward as it may be to practice or teach these things with your teen, you’ll be giving them tools to have face-to-face conversations in the future. The very near future.
Director of Soul Exercises