How to Support Your Teen’s Social and Emotional Needs

At Inside SEL, our mission is to act as a megaphone, amplifying the great work being done by leaders in education and social-emotional learning across the country.

The following piece was authored by Charlie Fletcher, a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.

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You were a teenager once, so we don’t have to tell you how tough that stage of life can be. Teens are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be all while going through hormonal changes, trying to maintain a social life, and dealing with pressure in school and extracurricular activities.

As a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that teens are likely to feel heightened emotions.

It’s important for parents to be there for their teenagers – not just to make sure their basic needs are met, but to support their social and emotional well-being, too. By implementing social and emotional learning strategies at home, you can be a strong support system while educating your teenager on how to manage their emotions on their own as they get ready to step into the real world.

You might even find that these strategies are beneficial for your whole family.

So, how can you get started?

Have More Conversations

This might seem obvious, but one of the best ways to boost social learning is to communicate more as a family. How often does it feel like most of your family members are like two ships passing in the night? Between work, school, extracurricular activities, a social life, and taking care of younger kids, it’s easy for busy schedules to get in the way of family communication.

However, you shouldn’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Be intentional with the time you have with your teen. Schedule a “date night” once a week without distractions where you can converse with them freely. Better yet, have family dinner together as many nights a week as possible. Cook together, eat together, wash dishes, and enjoy one another’s company.

Most people are more relaxed around the dinner table, and your family members might open up more if they’re enjoying a good meal and good conversation. It’s natural, casual, and a wonderful way to make everyone in your family (including your teenager) feel socially supported.

Be an Active Listener

As a parent, it’s important to guide your teenager. You should be able to give them advice, point them in the right direction, and show fair discipline when it’s needed.

However, it’s also important to respect your teen enough to listen to them. For example, if they’re going through a rebellious phase, they might be acting out because they need your support. Stay calm and offer open communication. Most importantly, listen to what they have to say and validate their feelings. There are a few characteristics of active listening you can use to check yourself, including making sure:

  • You’re paying attention
  • Your body language shows you’re listening
  • You provide feedback
  • You defer judgment
  • Your responses are appropriate

No matter what your teen is dealing with, they don’t always need a lecture. Instead, talk to them about their struggles and choose to listen more than you speak. You’ll understand more than you ever thought possible, which will give you the ability to provide the support your teen really needs.

Make Your Mental Health a Priority

There’s no denying teenagers have a lot on their plate, and it’s not always easy for them to manage their mental health with so much going on.

If you want to support their emotional needs, lead by example.

Just as your child looked at everything you did when they were little, your teenager is still always watching you, wanting to model themselves after you – even if it doesn’t seem like it.

When you make your mental health and self-care priorities, they’re more likely to do the same. When they see how you handle things, they’re more likely to reach out. If your teen is mature enough to handle it, consider talking about any mental health struggles you might face.

Talking about feelings of anxiety or depression used to be “taboo.” Now, it’s something that can be educational and informative for your child, especially when they’re interacting with other kids.

Whether your teenager is just entering high school or they’re about to graduate and be out on their own for the first time, it’s never too early (or too late) to support their social and emotional needs. Keep some of these ideas in mind to help your teenager get through this difficult stage of life.

Categories SEL in K-12

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