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Be sure to practice these 6 social skills with your teen before big family gatherings

Be sure to practice these 6 social skills with your teen before big family gatherings

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Family dinner

Does your teen know how to act at family gatherings? Have you been happy with his or her behavior in the past, or have you ended up with a surly beast at the family celebration?

You can lower or even eliminate family tension when you remember to go over some key skills before you leave for that Easter visit or invite relatives to your home. Practice common sense parenting and take some time to set your teen (and the rest of your family) up for holiday joy and success.

It's important for your teen or tween to present an appropriate appearance. Parents should set the dress expectations ahead of time so the day will get off to a positive start. Below are some expectations to include.

— Use appropriate hygiene skills.

— Comb your hair.

— Choose clean clothing that will match the occasion.

— Use a moderate amount of make-up, perfume or cologne.

— Ask for advice if you are unsure what is proper.

Will your teen have a friend there that others don't know? Make sure they introduce their friend to the family by positioning themselves near or between the people they are introducing. They should use a clear and enthusiastic tone of voice. Below are more tips. 

— Introduce two people by saying each person's first and last names. For example, say, "Bruce, I'd like you to meet Marco Garcia. Marco, this is Bruce Thomas."

— Allow time for each person to shake hands, greet each other, etc.

— You also may provide more information about each person to the other ("He's in my math class." "He's my mom's brother from Boston.")

Talk to your child about table etiquette. Knowing what to do will help your teen feel more confident at a table full of people. Make sure they:

— Sit quietly at the table with your hands in your lap.

— Place your napkin in your lap.

— Offer food and beverages to guests first.

— Pass food to the right.

— When requesting food, remember to say "Please" and "Thank you."

— Engage in appropriate mealtime conversation topics.

— Speak only when your mouth is empty.

— When you have finished your meal, sit patiently while others finish.

It's always good to practice listening to others. But there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means you happen to be in the vicinity. Listening is active and shows respect for others. Make sure your child knows to look at the person who is talking. They should sit or stand quietly, and avoid fidgeting, yawning or giggling. Be sure they wait until the person has finished before they speak.

They should remember to never interrupt someone so they can join the conversation. They need to look at the person who is speaking and wait for a point when no one else is talking.

It's also important to choose words that will not be offensive or confusing to others. 

While you’re at it, make sure to let your teen know that the family celebration is a cell-phone-free zone. Remind your teens they’re a big deal to their relatives, and everyone will want to enjoy their company and catch up on their news. That’s tough to do when a teen spends the entire gathering hunched over and staring at an electronic device.

Encouraging your teen to practice these skills at family functions will allow them to practice before they need to use the skills as adults. It is your job to prepare them for life after they leave the nest.

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Omaha World-Herald: Momaha

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