Social Skills for Teenagers.And Children of All Ages

By Koplewicz, Harold S. | Work & Family Life, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Social Skills for Teenagers.And Children of All Ages


Koplewicz, Harold S., Work & Family Life


Whether our children are 5 or 15, part of our job as parents is to show them how not to feel defeated by their shortcomings, whether it's a learning disability, social awkwardness, limited ability in athletics, imperfections in their physical appearance or anything else. We need to give our sons and daughters protective armor-not only to help them get through childhood and adolescence but also to help them accept and like themselves when they become adults. It's a matter of complimenting their assets and joining them in facing their deficits head-on. That doesn't mean giving false praise or denying the obvious. Rather, empathy and support are what is needed.

The importance of social skills A lack of social skills is one of the things that provokes anxiety in children of all ages. Teenagers who don't have friends, for example, or are ostracized by their peers are more likely to be depressed. That's no surprise, but it's more complicated than you think.

PEOPLE WHO ARE SOCIALLY ENGAGING FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THEMSELVES. They see themselves in a positive light and feel they have something to offer other people. They are good listeners and can relate easily to strangers and find out what interests they share. They are not supersensitive, not thrown by little things and are able to go with the flow.

PEOPLE WHO ARE SOCIALLY INEPT DON'T FEEL AS COMFORTABLE WITH THEMSELVES. They feel inadequate and exaggerate their flaws. Because they feel bad about themselves, they have trouble empathizing with others and are apt to say the wrong things at the wrong time. They are not good listeners, and tend to be hypersensitive and overreact to criticism. They can even be cruel to others, sometimes to make themselves feel better, other times simply not being aware of their social awkwardness.

Judgments have lasting effects

Once a teenager is considered a "loser" by his peers, it's hard to change that. Adults can reinvent themselves by changing careers or moving, but most teenagers are stuck in their own world, staying with many of the same people in grade after grade. The stress of not being able to create a social network makes life more complicated for teens and can also be a trigger for depression.

Teach social skills early

What can a parent do to help a child with poor social skills? First, it's important to recognize that social skills can be encouraged and modeled, just like language. …

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