Whether they’re starting at a new school or transitioning to face-to-face classes, teens must rely on their social skills to interact with peers and adults throughout the day. What are social skills for young people? Teen social skills include everything from making eye contact and engaging in a conversation to handling an argument and showing empathy for someone else.
At school, social skills such as accountability and empathy empower youth to lead a group project or welcome new students to their lunch table. Building social skills is more important than ever after the last few years, as learning disabilities and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic have had a major impact on young people’s coping skills, conflict resolution, teamwork and other necessary life skills.
When you help a teenager develop social skills, they can envision and aspire to their own great future by:
- Make and maintain healthy friendships
- Learning to collaborate effectively with peers and teachers
- Participate in extracurricular activities for stronger college applications
- Try jobs and grow in a stable career
- Forming a supportive network of peers and adults at school, in the club and beyond
- Maintaining strong mental health and positive self-esteem
- Leading positive changes in their communities
How to help teenagers who are struggling socially
While socializing with friends is an important part of growing up, practicing those same skills in unfamiliar situations will propel teens into becoming socially amphibious adults — capable of adapting to new people and environments, no matter where life takes them . That’s why it’s important for kids and teens to get out of their comfort zone, meet new people, and try activities that encourage growth.
For activities that encourage social and emotional development, here are five ways to build your teen’s social skills.
Join an after-school team, program, or club
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America youth data for 2022 shows that 41% of teens ages 13 and older have difficulty connecting with the ideas of others, and more than a third feel frustrated when they can’t do something their way .
Participating in an extracurricular activity allows teens to connect with peers who share their passions and work together to achieve a common goal. Joining a team or club that puts collaboration before competition will also encourage stronger bonds between teenagers, motivating them to listen and communicate with others respectfully, and to take responsibility for the role they play.
If your teen loves gaming, check out competitive esports leagues. If they write their own stories, look at their school literary journal. They can also become a member of a local Boys & Girls Club and participate in programs that match their hobbies such as sports, arts and volunteering.
The satisfaction felt from doing your best, being recognized for your contributions, and competing in group wins will provide teenagers with greater incentive to practice healthy social skills that last a lifetime.
Connect with a good mentor
On their own journey of self-discovery, teenagers often look to people they care about for inspiration. This may be an adult whose footsteps they would like to follow, a family member they look up to, or a peer of their own age. Any of these individuals could qualify to mentor your teen by demonstrating positive social skills such as:
- honest communication,
- good decision making,
- Offer and receive criticism and
- stand up for yourself and others.
Mentors for young adults do not assume the role of a parent or guardian, but rather a trusting role model who supports them in setting and achieving their goals. Supervised teens can even share their experiences by being peer mentors, e.g. B. by tutoring an elementary school student or serving as a camp counselor. These opportunities are mutually beneficial as they give older teens the opportunity to hone their leadership skills and provide younger children with an empathetic role model that will help inform their social skills development in adolescence.
Balance social connections online and in person
Many teenagers emerging from the pandemic still feel disconnected from their peers. Face-to-face conversations can seem daunting after so much social screen time, as teens need to read facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice in real time.
To strengthen these skills required for social interaction, teenagers need to build their confidence to engage with others both online and in person. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area mixed the best of both worlds by creating a TikTok studio that offers teens a dedicated space and tools to record their own TikToks. This update to their Teen Center encourages their teens’ love of creating videos by giving them the opportunity to collaborate with their peers to produce positive, self-expressing content. Ideas like these encourage teens to use social media to cheer each other up!
Discover new customs and cultures
Another way to improve teenagers’ social skills is to help them accept what is different and what they have in common with others. To inspire your teen to be curious, inclusive, and accepting, open your household to experiences that teach these social skills and encourage the whole family to get involved.
Set aside a day of the week to enjoy music and movies, or prepare a traditional dish inspired by another culture. Discuss other people’s lived experiences and what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, what difficulties they may have, and what makes them strong. These conversations and experiences can help build empathy and understanding, as well as cultural awareness and acceptance. When teens enjoy practicing these social skills at home, they’re likely to model them at school and in their community.
Find your purpose in helping others
Additionally, Greater Good Magazine reports that groups of teens are finding fulfillment in serving their communities during COVID-19.
By getting involved in their community, teens have the opportunity to connect with peers and adults and feel good about making a difference. Sharing meals at panels improves their leadership skills, while writing letters to seniors in retirement homes practices their empathy by identifying with feelings of loneliness and offering support.
This trend can also be seen in Boys & Girls Clubs, where one in five teenagers volunteers in their school, neighborhood or community once a month. Talk to your teen about issues that are important to them and look for opportunities to use their social skills to strengthen their community.
From disruptions in their schooling to missed milestones like graduation ceremonies and high school graduation ceremonies, it’s understandable why many teens feel socially uncomfortable in the wake of COVID-19.
However, being a teenager is also an exciting time when many are beginning to see the path between who they are now and who they will become. For those of us who care about young people and their future, supporting a teen with social skills can make all the difference in pushing them to be their best self.
join the club
Boys & Girls Clubs of America provides mentoring, meals and meaningful life experiences to millions of young people across the country. Boys & Girls Clubs are safe, inclusive places where children learn, grow and have fun. Join us on our mission to help all young people reach their full potential: