Ever feel like it’s a losing battle to get your teen to interact socially?
Do you constantly feel like you are fighting against their social online world?

As a parent, we all want our teenagers to learn the social skills to cooperate, negotiate conflicts, develop perspective, as well as make new friends whilst treating others with fairness and compassion. This may sound simple right? But teenagers lack the awareness and comprehension to naturally take on these actions.

We live in a world where the majority of a teenager’s social interaction happens online. At this age their peers and their social interactions guide their perceptions of self and the world. If they are missing the skills to navigate and adapt to challenging social situations, it can be a very distressing time. It can cause multiple issues, not only with friends, but also flow on to their home and school life.

So how do I engage, teach and reinforce the skills my teen needs to thrive socially?

Clinical psychologists are skilled in using a closed small group environment, together with an engaging and exciting game format to guide teens to effectively develop their skills. Close guidance, monitoring of peer interactions and support allows the teen to find their voice, develop their capabilities, all whilst laughing and sharing with like-minded peers. Without this peer group to practice newly learnt techniques, they are soon forgotten by the average teen. Success in a small group creates confidence and results in generalisation to their greater life situations.

It is in these social skills groups, they learn the following skills:

  1. Learn to take the perspectives of others

When we have the ability to take on the perspectives of other people, we can predict, understand, and appropriately respond to other people’s behaviours. We can also choose our own behaviours with an understanding of how it will be interpreted. Perspective-taking allows us to understand non-verbal communication and to become more self-aware. In the table-top games used in our social skills groups, players are playing a character with a different background and set of life experiences than themselves, which means that the character also has a different set of thoughts, feelings, and judgments. Every choice the player makes in the game is based on their character’s perspective and requires the player to act from that perspective. Players also witness how their peers and the psychologist model these skills.

  1. Improve their frustration tolerance

In life, we are destined to be unsuccessful as we learn new skills and overcome challenges. Resilience lies in our ability to successfully navigate mistakes, losses and challenging situations, not in how we avoid them. By increasing teen’s ability to tolerate adverse situations, and give them the skills to persevere through them, we are preparing them to handle life’s critical successes and critical fumbles with the same resolve. Table-top games, like Dungeons and Dragons, have a built-in system where there is always a risk of failure, and these experiences are turned into opportunities for building frustration tolerance and resilience, as players are constantly encouraged to not just ‘give up’. This is carefully moderated to ensure that players feel challenged, get frustrated, and then push through to a resolution.

  1. Develop their creative problem-solving skills

Research shows that creative problem-solving and spontaneity help reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem and self-belief that they can succeed. People with creative problem-solving skills are happier because when they face a challenge that they don’t know how to overcome, they come up with new ways to solve it, or ways to use previous successes to approach new challenges with an open mind. They believe in their own ability to overcome obstacles. Table-top role-playing games provide opportunities for players to set goals, make plans, and execute them to the best of their ability, and then when things don’t go according to plan, how to adapt and change.

  1. Foster communication and collaboration skills

Players need to communicate with each other and collaborate effectively for their plans and gaming experience to go smoothly. In order to be effective within the game, players have to build upon each other’s ideas in order to overcome challenges – the better they do this and the more often, the better the results. They need to communicate their suggestions, listen to each other’s points, and construct plans to manage the situations and environments engineered by the psychologist.

Your teenager doesn’t automatically develop these types of skills or understand the process of how to tackle challenges that come their way. They need to be taught and guided – something that can be tricky for parents with limited time and/or expertise. Empowering teens to know how to initiate social engagement, learn to make new friends and create connections will ensure they feel a sense of belonging. We all know how tough these teenage years can be, so why not give them a helping hand?

#Socialsquad is your local Hills District social skills group available for teenagers, and is lots of fun!

If you feel your child would benefit from a group program such as #Socialsquad, encourage them to attend, play some games, and make some new friends in the process.

Read more on #Socialsquad here.

Written by Child & Adolescent Psychologist Peta Williams – www.creatingchange.net.au

Teenager withdrawn socially