Interpersonal skills are the skills your teen will need throughout all aspects of her life, from making friends in the classroom, to a part-time job in college, to career success in adulthood. You can use her hobbies and interests, and everyday opportunities to help equip your teen with a repertoire of interpersonal know-hows to ensure she has the best chance at reaching her personal and professional best.
Your teen’s interpersonal skills start with his self-perception; how your teen views himself will help to determine how well he works, plays and interacts with others. If he’s confident, he’ll be less susceptible to peer pressure. If he has high self-esteem, he’ll work better in group settings. Help your teen bolster his self-confidence by encouraging him to get involved in extracurricular activities that he enjoys, volunteer work or even a part-time job.
Help your teen sharpen her conflict resolution skills so she’ll be able to maintain a calm and cool demeanor in the face of friction and look for compromises or mutually agreeable solutions. If you’re working one-on-one together, choose a topic to debate and have each of you defend your chosen sides until there are no more arguments left to pose. Next, create some problems for your teen to solve, recommends the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability in their article "Helping Youth Build Work Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families," such as the school has run out of money for the year-end trip, no one is planning to attend the next school dance or her two best friends are in conflict over a boy. Encourage your teen to sum up conflicts she sees around her every day, in the media, among her friends and between her siblings, and then brainstorm solutions to the issues.
Effective communication is a vital component of interpersonal skills. Your teen needs to learn to speak or convey his message effectively and listen attentively. You can help him role-play scenarios to become comfortable and assertive in social situations, play charades to use pictorial cues and body language to communicate or conduct an interview with a friend, sibling or family member to practice active listening. Help your teen and her friends see firsthand how messages get muddled when they're passed from person to person to exemplify the importance of communication. Start by whispering a story to your teen, have her whisper the same story to the teen next to her and continue on until everyone has heard the story. Have the last teen recite the story aloud and then talk about how it changed as it went around the circle.
Taking the Lead
Helping your teen develop her leadership skills can teach her to work well with others and improve her decision-making abilities -- not to mention bolster her college application. Have your teen take charge for a while, coming up with a task to guide you through, suggests the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability; a computer program task is ideal if she’s tech savvy and you’re a newbie. Encourage her to get involved in the student body government at school or serve on a youth council. Alternatively, she can organize an event on her own, such as a yard sale, car wash or bake sale, and donate the proceeds to her favorite charity.