Want to help your ninth-grader with their relationship skills? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
Discuss the dos and don'ts of relationships
Your teen’s social world is evolving during the high school years, and it’s good to talk to them regularly about their friendships and possible romantic partners. Ask your teen about their relationships frequently and talk to them about the qualities that make up a strong and healthy bond, such as respect, trust, empathy, and kindness. For example, you may want to inquire about what their friends are like, or about the new teen in their class your child just brought into their social circle. You can ask them questions like, “What do your friends do after school?” You can use this as an opportunity to get them to open up about their dating life. For instance, you may want to ask them, “Who do you want to go to the school dance with?” or “Is there anyone in your class that you like hanging out with?” Education consultant Jennifer Miller adds that you shouldn’t be too discouraged if your teen doesn’t want to share right away. If you’ve opened the door to a discussion, then your teen may come back when they are ready to talk about it with you. Miller recommends finding online resources, like the Mayo Clinic’s website, that can help you discuss sexuality and focus on the facts.
Discuss jealousy and envy in friendships
Talk to your teen about jealousy and envy and how these emotions can present themselves in their interactions and relationships. Explain that no one is better than anyone else, and jealousy and envy can only ruin friendships. You can also give them suggestions on how your child can cope with these negative tendencies. For example, if your child feels jealous, you can ask them to take a deep breath and consider the other person’s intentions before jumping to conclusions.
Use the "sandwich" technique
Author and consultant Faye de Muyshondt suggests employing this technique when teaching your high-schooler how to approach certain conversations, especially when providing feedback or addressing an issue. In basic terms, this method involves “sandwiching” the feedback or problem in between a compliment and a positive conclusion. For example, if your teen feels that a friend treated them unkindly, your child could start with a positive comment like, “I value your friendship, and you’re always so nice to me,” then continuing with, “The other day when we were at lunch, you yelled at me and that made me sad.” This can be followed with, “I really want to keep being friends, so next time, just tell me if I’m doing something that bothers you and we can fix it before we start yelling at each other.”
Talk about the qualities needed in the workplace
Your teen will be entering the workforce before you know it, and you can help prepare them by talking about their interests and jobs that may involve them. Discuss these options and the people skills that your child would need. If they're interested in a journalism career, you can tell them that your child will need to be empathetic, to collaborate with others, and to work well under pressure. You may want to explain to your teen that in any job they will need to deal with different personalities. You can also share your own work experiences with them and describe how you have dealt with some of your office relationships. Neurologist and teacher Judy Willis adds that you may want to invite friends who are in career fields that interest your teen to dinner to talk to them about what your teen should expect.
Talk to your teen about responsible online behavior
Most teenagers use electronic devices and social media, and it’s important to teach them how to behave appropriately online. Take this as an opportunity to discuss how the digital age has improved our lives, and then remind your teen how a person’s online footprint lives on in the virtual world, and that almost nothing can be erased once it’s posted. For example, you can talk to your teen about people who have lost their jobs because they posted something inappropriate, and tell them that many recruiters look at online profiles when making hiring decisions.
To learn more about relationships for your child, check out our ninth-grade relationships page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.