Many Naperville parents are aware of it, and just as many are likely do their best to help: A teen is struggling with social and interpersonal skills.
In many cases, a young person would rather stay buried in their phone than look someone in the eye to address something difficult or forge a deeper personal bond. What the youth doesn’t yet understand is that an inability to engage with others can create major life hurdles from making friends to solving problems to succeeding at a job.
Just a few signs of underdeveloped interpersonal skills a parent might notice include:
failing to greet others properly
short attention span when speaking with others
inability to express emotions and interpret other people’s
uncertainty of how to relate to others who are different
insecurity or a lack of desire to proceed with something uncertain
It’s easy to observe and interpret the social contexts many young people now occupy. The next time you see a few teens together – perhaps including your own – note how much time passes before one or more of them is on their phone, often for a while.
Technology now often provides escapes from difficult interactions we don’t care to confront. However, in spite of the times, we can still support our teens’ interpersonal skill-building that can serve them for a lifetime.
Naperville (IL) Teen Mental Health & Interpersonal Skills: It Starts with Us
While it might not always be the first thing we think of, guiding a young person’s interpersonal skills begins with the behavior of us, the parents or guardians.
For example, how long or short are we with our young people when they approach us with a question or a concern? Do we pause from our schedule to listen and respond, or do we communicate at our convenience with an inner stopwatch? Do we keep an open mind to what is shared, or do we give cues that we are judgmental or not interested?
We can also be mindful of how we speak to and about other people. Do we communicate with others with interest, respect and empathy, or are we sometimes rude and short with those we view as different or difficult? When we make a mistake or say something embarrassing, do we own it with grace, pivot from it and move on?
Using the shield of technology, young people can avoid much of the uncomfortable but vital sharpening of interpersonal tools. If we show by example that we too carry, use and refine those same tools, we give our children an immediate reference for growth.
Naperville (IL) Teen Mental Health & Interpersonal Skills: How We Can Help
We can help to shape our teens’ interpersonal skills in the following ways.
Listen more than talk. Giving proper time to others to let them speak without interrupting or overriding them is a vital communicative skill. People want to know they are being heard in an equal exchange. Young people (and we!) will always fare better when we let others know we are focused on them and that we’re processing their input before we respond.
Know the audience (i.e. read the room). On the two-way lane of communication, we cannot be one vehicle that makes only one sound and travels at just one speed. For example, we can reinforce that when a young person is speaking to a teacher, their choices of wording and topics may often differ from those shared with their peers.
Be aware of body language. Other people are not informed solely by our speech – our movements and cues are communicating as well. We can emphasize with our teens that if we are constantly fidgeting or looking away while conversing with someone, it probably won’t matter how articulate we might be. Eye contact, nodding, smiling and an upright posture all convey to others that we are involved and sincere.
De-emphasize relentless competition and achievement. Having ambition is important in life. At the same time, if we achieve a sense of well-being by always one-upping and outpacing others, our circle of friends will be empty or small. We can also find ourselves lonely, unfulfilled and burned-out. We can help our teens recognize that success is also defined by how well we relate with others and ourselves.
Think and check before hitting “send.” Sometimes, a teen’s thoughts and feelings might be burning and demand expression. However, that doesn’t always mean another person has to know them. In some cases we should pause and re-read what we’re expressing. A teen might feel better after writing something and still gain by it even if they don’t send it.
Set limits on screen times. Our teens really don’t need to be on their phones and social media for up to eight hours a day. Establishing turn-off times for technology returns our teens to personal interaction with us and others.
As parents, we should also remind ourselves that it’s one thing for our Naperville teens to know of these skills – it’s another to practice and use them. We can encourage our children to apply them, even if little by little.
Naperville (IL) Teen Mental Health & Interpersonal Skills: Working with ADHD
Interpersonal skills can face extra challenges if a teen has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In these cases, a young person’s innate condition can override their immediate social focus, leading others to perceive a slight where one was not intended.
Young people with ADHD can easily feel different or estranged from others because of impulses they feel in themselves but don’t see in others. They might also be perceived as blunt, disruptive and emotionally underdeveloped.
Supporting a teen with ADHD includes helping the youth be aware of their condition and its influence in the moment. They may not always be able to cancel its effects on their thoughts and behavior, but by recognizing and accepting it within themselves, they can manage its impact on their social ties.
The following are meaningful ways you can help a teen with ADHD develop greater interpersonal skills.
Encourage them to invite people over as well as visit or go out with others. Being social will give them opportunities to learn from interaction and establish personal bonds.
Discuss and practice social skills at home, such as impulse control, reading others’ body language and thinking before speaking.
Inspire other family members to be part of the teen’s skill-building team at home.
Be intuitive about the teen’s social engagements. For example, if you believe it is proper and helpful, share a discreet word about your teen’s ADHD with a friend’s parent or an event host. Let them know about your teen’s occasional challenges and discuss them in a positive light.
Aim to be both fair and properly adaptive with rules. A teen with ADHD will at times require different parenting strategies, but you can still maintain good will among your other children by being consistent with rules, boundaries and consequences whenever possible. It’s also helpful to explain to other family members why the rules must sometimes adapt for a teen with ADHD.
Acknowledge good social skills and behavior shown by your teen. Identify it when you see it.
If you ever wish to discuss a teen’s ADHD with a professional, Eunoia Counseling offers insightful, confidential support. We will listen to you and answer your questions, and if you believe that teen counseling could benefit your child, we can plan and discuss a personal plan of approach.
In certain cases, a personal plan for teen counseling could include dialectical behavior therapy.
What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Naperville (IL) Teens?
DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral talk therapy for teens who might experience emotions with great intensity. Through DBT, a teen can better understand how thoughts influence feelings and behaviors that become increasingly hard to manage.
“Dialectical” refers to the combining of opposite ideas. Concerning teen mental health, this often applies to what a teen might be thinking as compared with what is really happening. DBT can help a young person see and accept the reality of their life and manage their thoughts and behaviors in relation to it.
Feelings can often come in floods for a teen, washing the mind in powerful but contradictory mental impressions. Through DBT, a teen learns to better separate facts from feelings. In this way, DBT also contributes to a teen’s social skills by focusing on:
- distress tolerance
- interpersonal effectiveness (boundaries & self-respect)
- emotional regulation
DBT is often applied for teen mental-health conditions such as:
- substance abuse
- suicidal ideation or behavior
- borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- eating disorders
- disruptive behavior disorder
“Teen Counseling Near Me” in Naperville (IL): Contact Us Today
Eunoia Counseling is a Naperville practice with a sincere desire to support Naperville’s young people with the skills for leading productive and meaningful lives. If you would like to discuss teen mental health or “teen counseling near me” in Naperville, we welcome you to contact us at (630) 340-8747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.