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Set Your Teen up to Be a Great Communicator

10/24/2016 10:48:44 PM

When I first set foot on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I realized for the first time what life was about. Money? No. A successful career? No. Any guesses?
I grew up in a smallish town in Wisconsin, where I knew everyone and they all knew me. Most of my relatives lived close by, too. Most of my friends were within walking distance (none of this having to arrange play dates!). It was quite the feeling of security.
After my parents dropped me off on that first day of my freshman year, I quickly realized my life would never be the same. Now, my future would be more influenced by the new people I would meet. Most of my friends had scattered to other colleges, and my family was now a six-hour drive or a three-dollar per minute long distance call away. On a campus of 12,000, I knew only three and felt like the letter “D” in a bowl of alphabet soup. My only consolation was that everyone else was in the same boat, trying to figure it out just like me. 
Even now, with inventions like FaceTime and Skype so easily accessible, it still can feel hard to stay connected in a real way.
That’s why it’s imperative that we help develop strong relational skills in our teens. This will prepare them for this major adjustment and new reality. Their happiness and success, both personally and professionally, will be heavily influenced by their networks, relationships and communications with others. Consider the host of new relational spheres they’ll be experiencing in coming years:
  • College—fellow students and faculty
  • Career—supervisors, peers, subordinates, clients, prospects, service providers
  • Friends—preserving long-term relationships and building new ones
  • Love—a potential spouse along with his/her family
  • Community—service and recreational organizations
Clearly, many new relationships will be formed! And, as we become a more mobile workforce with shorter career stints, that means more relocations, more transitions, and more relationships to build. “Starting over” multiple times in one’s life is rapidly becoming the new normal. All of this puts relationship-building skills at a premium.
These first monumental transitions after leaving home and when we enter the workforce can be brutal, especially for those who’ve had nothing but stability. With that in mind, here are some key skills that will help your teen immensely.
  • Meeting new people with confidence and making a great first impression (Encourage positive body language, curiosity in others, nice manners, and great listening skills.)
  • Developing friendships patiently with people who share their values and interests (Encourage your teen to join clubs, causes, or faith groups, as this will surround him/her with like-minded people)
  • Understanding that everyone isn’t meant to be their friend and if they have to compromise their values to be someone’s “friend,” the friendship is not worth it
  • Being a positive and encouraging team player who can disagree respectfully after first understanding the views of others
  • Being able to accurately read the non-verbal cues of others; what expressions indicate boredom or irritation versus engagement and enjoyment?
  • Demonstrating an ability to express feelings and emotions in healthy ways (Instill in your teen the importance of self-control, self-worth, and building relationship capital based on trust before sharing too much with others.
It’s important that we help our children build solid relationship foundations, as it will set them up for interpersonal success as they embark on college, career and beyond. Remember, once they leave the nest and the community that came with it, their ability to communicate well and form new relationships will be critical to success in their new transition.

Tagged as: college, communication, relationships, teens, parenting, parenting for the launch, first impressions, interviews, career

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