How to Encourage Good Social Skills in Teens
Throughout all of time, the teenage years have been awkward ones for social interaction. But today’s teens face even more barriers when it comes to good social skills.
Teenagers spend so much of their time on phones or electronic devices that it seems many of them don’t know how to handle normal social situations such as meeting new people, having a conversation or just hanging out with friends. All you have to do is look around a group of teens to see them all texting on their phones or on social media instead of interacting with each other.
In a high-tech world that limits face-to-face interaction, here are a few ideas to help parents teach their teens valuable social skills like how to positively interact with others and build healthy relationships.
TEACH THEM BY EXAMPLE
Even when you don’t realize it, your teens are watching you and leaning. That means that what you do is often more important than what you say. It’s up to the parents to consistently model positive social interaction.
When you act kind to neighbors, smile at strangers and treat others with respect, your kids are watching you and learning. When you listen to people without interrupting, show interest in a conversation and make small talk to be friendly, they are watching. And, when you avoid gossip, look for the good in others and try to make the best out of a negative situation, they are learning.
When you model all of these things for your children, you are teaching them that other people are important and that being considerate is always right. Be sure you show respect to others you meet in little ways like listening to their side of the story, saying “please” and “thank you,” or offering your place in line. In addition, help your teen talk through peer problems with positivity and coach them through awkward situations with an optimistic view of others. When you do this, your teens will reflect your actions and attitude with a more positive approach toward social situations.
TEACH THEM BY PRACTICE
Like everything in life, you can only get better at social interaction with practice. While your teens do learn from the actions you model, they also need to have plenty of social opportunities with their peers to practice them.
Research shows that social interaction in teen years is important for both physical health and mental well-being. Social relationships help teens cope with the stress and pressure of teenage life. Encourage and support your teens’ friendships, and help them find activities that involve putting down their phones and connecting with these friends.
The more opportunity they have to fosters these relationships, the better. Look for fun games for teenagers that they can play with their friends like Capture the Flag REDUX, an active and socially interactive outdoor adventure. It’s the classic Capture the Flag game revolutionized with futuristic glow-in-the-dark lights.
Perfect for encouraging strategy and interaction, as players break teammates out of jail, sneak into enemy territory, protect base and steal the glowing flag to win. Each game box includes two glowing orbs to use as the “flags,” color-coded LED bracelets to differentiate team members, glowing jail markers, and a rulebook. As an extra bonus, each kit includes 12 game variation cards that offer even more ways to play Capture the Flag, as well as other games. Capture the Flag REDUX is available here.
TEACH THEM THROUGH SPORTSMANSHIP
Studies show that team athletics are a good way to encourage social skills especially if parents use them to teach good sportsmanship. When you give your teen specific ways to practice good sportsmanship, they develop conflict-resolution and leadership skills.
If your teen likes athletics, help them find a recreational or school sports team that they want to participate in like basketball, soccer, swimming or archery. Letting your teen join athletic teams lets them have social interaction with other teammates and gives you a chance to remind them of good ways to practice good sportsmanship before each game. These can include being a good winner or loser, respecting other teammates, as well as respecting the opposing players and the game officials.
TEACH THEM THROUGH TEAMWORK
In addition to athletic teams, teenagers can learn social skills from other activities that teach teamwork such as games that require cooperation, leadership and decision making skills. These type of games require teens to discuss strategy and tactics and encourage compromise.
The game Glow Battle is a fun way to have healthy battles and release some of the energy and frustration that comes with being a teen. The game encourages players to use strategy, and teamwork to run and take down their opponent using harmless, glowing batons. Teams are designated by different colored LED bracelets and can be played anywhere that you have open space – inside in a dark room or outside after the sun goes down. It’s an exciting way to get active and foster social interaction.
TEACH THEM OPENMINDEDNESS
Good social skills for teens should include an openminded attitude to people that are different from themselves.
Teens should be taught to imagine another person’s perspective and know that there is always more than one way to look at a situation. Aside from telling your teens this, there are also games that can help encourage this and reduce social biases. For example, the Awkward Moment Party Game requires players to find solutions to awkward social situations. The game includes Reaction cards and Decider cards. Players get dealt the Reaction cards that have them face awkward, embarrassing or stressful situations. Then, the one with the Decider cards gets to choose the best response from the players. It helps broaden perspective and reduce social biases.
Another game that helps teens recognize and check their social biases is Buffalo The Name Dropping Game. It requires players to name real or fictional examples of people who fit a random combination of descriptors (like tattooed grandparent, misunderstood vampire, or skinny superhero). Both of these games are available at major retailers like Amazon or Walmart.