The teenage years can be awkward, as children try to tackle more adult responsibilities and relationships. Arming your teen with strong people skills can help her feel more confident in social situations and have stronger friendships. It can also give her the tools she needs to resolve conflicts effectively in school, play and work situations.
They way your family interacts can help your teen develop personal skills that she can use throughout her life with friends and colleagues. According to ChildTrends.org, teens who have positive relationships with their parents, siblings and extended family members, such as grandparents, develop better interpersonal skills. They use the same skills with their friends that they use with their family members. For example, if your teen is comfortable commiserating with a sibling about how many chores they both have to do, it can help him learn how camaraderie works. Or watching you encourage communication at dinnertime gives your teen the tools to start and carry on conversations with others.
Communication is an essential personal skill your teen needs to be successful in school, relationships and work. Having frequent and in-depth conversations with your teen can help him learn how to start, participate in and end conversations easily. Teach your teen about active listening -- when you can snag his attention for long enough. Body language and facial expressions are key in active listening, and modeling bad listening behavior, as well as good listening behavior, can be a fun and educational activity with your teen.
Dealing with conflict is difficult for adults, but it's often harder for teens. They don't magically become equipped with the personal skills necessary to handle conflict effectively, but you can give your teen those tools. Part of the process is modeling proper conflict resolution behavior at home. When family conflicts arise, don't yell or allow other family members to yell. Discuss the issue fairly, giving both parties a chance to share thoughts and feelings. Often, it becomes obvious to both people what the right course is, even if one doesn't like the answer.
Sometimes it's simply a matter of being in charge and calmly but firmly demanding appropriate behavior. For example, if your teen misses curfew by 10 minutes, she has still missed curfew. Instead of getting into a shouting match with her, calmly ask her what time her curfew was. Then ask her what time she got home. Finally, ask her what the punishment is for missing curfew. Because she can answer all those questions, she must admit that you aren't being unfair by enforcing punishment. Yelling won't change the fact that she knew the rules and consequences, then chose not to adhere to the rules.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and understand how that person feels in different circumstances. This is often difficult for teens, who tend to be self-centered by nature. Teens who are self-confident and have strong religious beliefs are usually more likely to be empathic, according to ChildTrends.org. However, you can help build empathy in your teen with role-playing activities. When he says things that hurt your feelings, for example, take the opportunity to role-play. Have your teen pretend to be the parent while you play his role. After you reply in a disrespectful way, ask your teen how it made him feel. Then tell him that you feel the same way when he says hurtful things to you.