Kat Reese, MS Teen Life Coach
Most of us parents probably don’t think much about how our kids are going to connect with other students at school or in the community like church, sports, and other community activities. Most families have a strong sense of belonging to certain activities like sports and religion. But what about those who don’t or have folks that are not involved in anything due to social anxiety which stunts a child’s ability to socialize outside of the home.
Let’s say a teen wanted to start going to the high school chess club but every time the teen goes to sign up for the club the teen starts to think about the questions they will be asked, including experiences, personal opinions, and interests.
Okay, now let’s think about the other side of the coin, what if the parents are outgoing and often doing things in the community but the teen is the introvert and you just want to teach them how to connect with others so that they are successful in adulthood when they don’t have their parents forcing them to get involved in activities.
Let’s say, the teen is going into college and they have a question on how the professor graded the essay. The teen is going to need some tools to be able to handle confrontation even if the teen is in the right.
With both of these scenarios, we can help the teen practice and think about possible reactions to possible rejection, humiliation, disappointment, and so forth. Skeen, McKay, Fanning, and Skeen in their book, “communication skills for teens” states that one should ‘put into the interaction what [they] would like to get out of it’. Simply put, if a teen wants to be included in they have to include themselves in the conversation, be a part of the conversation by adding value and through active listening.
Another tip is to know that we are all human and we all make mistakes. So if your teen is afraid of humiliation, remember someone has already embarrassed themselves doing the same thing. And as parents, you can tell stories about our humiliating experiences and how you dealt with them. Skeen, McKay, Fanning, and Skeen also state ways to allow others to be receptive of you including watching your body language including facial expressions, eye contact, leaning into the person as they talk, staying on topic by asking questions, and giving other gestures of understanding.
There many different types of ways a teen can connect with others but here are a few to start with and you can add more as your teen needs more guidance. As parents, we may need to start the conversation to allow our teens to ask for help when it comes to creating those connections. Sometimes a teen may not know what they need and a simple question like, “How are you doing at school? Are there any groups you’ve been thinking about joining?”