Want to help your ninth-grader with their social awareness skills? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
Spend quality time with your teen
Your teen’s social world evolves during high school, and it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Try to talk frequently and honestly about your teen’s feelings and friendships. Whether it’s at the dinner table or right before bedtime, have frequent chats with your teen about their social life and their role and responsibilities as a friend. Listen patiently to their stories and concerns. Try not to be too judgmental while having these discussions, as this can cause them to withhold information or not want to talk about these topics. You may want to ask if they’d like your opinion before offering it if you want to keep the doors of communication open.
Help your high-schooler come up with rules for her social life
As your teen becomes more independent, it’s important to give them some say over their social life and activities. Have a discussion with them about their privileges, responsibilities, and curfew, and work together to set rules and consequences for breaking them. This will help your teen feel included and invested in these important social decisions. It can also help guide their behavior once your teen ventures out on their own.
Encourage your teen's interests and future career goals
Many teens have passions and pursuits that are important to them, and it’s helpful to encourage them to find what their “thing” is. Ask about their interests and about potential careers related to their passions. If your teen has a hard time defining their interests, help them by pointing out their talents and how they can use them in their future career. Once you identify your teen’s interests, you may want to help them find a mentor in that particular field or encourage them to participate in groups or activities that foster their talents. If your teen is the first in the family to go to college, you may also want to find a mentor who has gone through the college process to help prepare them for this important life transition.
Talk to your teen about bullying
Bullying is a growing concern in the United States, as children and teens are experiencing and engaging in this negative behavior at alarming rates. This is especially true at the high-school level, where cliques, belonging and popularity are major aspects of a teen’s social world. A recent study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics found that nearly one in three students report being bullied during the school year. Bullying can take many forms, like name-calling, physical harassment, or excluding others, and social media has opened up new avenues for this type of harassment. Often, teens don’t recognize that their own behavior could be considered bullying. Talk to your teen about bullying and ask them if they have been victimized or if they have seen it happen to others. Discuss their feelings about bullying and ask them to consider how it makes others feel. By reminding them of the harmful effects of bullying, you are helping to provide your teen with the knowledge and courage that your teen will need to stand up against this behavior in the future.
Practice respectful assertiveness
Education consultant Jennifer Miller recommends talking to your teen about ways that your child can be assertive in different situations. Miller says that when teens are faced with criticism from peers, they may be tempted to run away or issue a hurtful comment in return. You can help your teen come up with assertive responses like, “I am not interested in that opinion,” to help prepare them to deal with these types of confrontations. You can also try to notice when your teen is assertive. For example, it could be that they're asserting their opinion to you. Point out those circumstances and encourage them to use the same kind of tone and confidence in communicating with peers, and particularly with those who are bullying.
Discuss cyberbullying with your teen
Online bullying occurs frequently in high school, and it’s good to talk to your teen about the importance of being kind to others online. For instance, there have been many news reports about teens who have harmed themselves because of comments on social media. Tell your teen that they should not bully others online or go along with the crowd when someone is being made fun of online. You can also ask them if she’s ever experienced cyberbullying and how it made them feel. New York City-based teacher Anne Morrison adds that if your teen is reluctant to talk about themselves or friends, you may want to bring up stories about cyberbullying from the news, which tend to present both sides of the situation, and are not always so black-and-white in terms of right and wrong. Morrison suggests that you ask your teen what they think about these news stories, as teens know more than their parents about what goes on at school, and it is empowering to acknowledge their expertise in these matters.
To learn more about social awareness for your child, check out our ninth-grade social awareness 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.