five young people walking along street happy

Parents play a critical role in modelling the behaviours they would like to see their children enact. The behaviours children learn at home are a big part of what they’ll take with them into later life. So it’s important to think about how you can demonstrate the skill of positively relating and communicating with others, so your child learns from you.

How to model positive relating and communicating

Here are some ways that you can model positive behaviours for your teenager:

  • Show respect and caring for others, even people you don’t like or disagree with. You should ask family members to do the same, and make an effort to be respectful and caring inside the family home, when with friends or out shopping – any place you interact with others.
  • Express anger or negative emotions in constructive ways. For example, if you’re angry, make an effort to say something like ‘I feel really angry at the moment. Can we talk later when I’ve calmed myself down?'
  • Encourage self-reflection. Reflect on your own behaviour at home, and share those reflections with your child. If you react negatively to something, consider why that might be - you might be tired, or overworked and stressed - and express that. This can encourage your child to consider the reasons behind their own actions.
  • If you’re having conflict with your child, use it as a learning opportunity. Demonstrate how to resolve conflicts constructively. For example, if your child breaks the rules or does something that upsets you, try not to react in anger. Talk through what happened and involve them in coming up with ways to resolve the issue.
  • Avoid behaving aggressively and handle discipline fairly. Sometimes young people learn that negative events can only be handled in physical and aggressive ways. Or they learn avoidance, or to make negative and undermining comments. Try to be fair and constructive at all times, and avoid teasing or insulting people.

Let your child know that it is okay to have negative feelings, but that it is better to talk about them rather than acting on them.

Social and emotional intelligence for relating to others

Developing social and emotional intelligence involves increasing your sensitivity to how others feel, as well as self-awareness of your own thoughts and feelings. This affects your:

  • conversation skills
  • knowledge of social rules and cues
  • listening skills
  • relating to situations, other people and the world around you.

Developing social and emotional intelligence can help your child feel more connected to the people around them and help them understand their feelings, as well as their own.

How to build social and emotional intelligence

You can help your child learn the skills of emotional intelligence by:

  • Reducing negative emotions, by helping them reframe a situation to see a broader perspective, and avoid jumping to a negative conclusion right away.
  • Helping them be assertive and express difficult emotions. A good approach to teach them is the 'XYZ technique'. That is, ‘I feel X when you do Y in situation Z’. This avoids starting with ‘You’, which can incite defensiveness and make the recipient less open to hearing what they have to say.
  • Helping your child learn how to stay cool in challenging situations and manage stress.

You can help your child learn skills of social intelligence and empathy (being able to sense and understand the feelings/emotions of others) by:

  • Talking openly and regularly about feelings in real-life situations or examples in television shows, movies etc.
  • Ask your child what they notice, and what they believe people are feeling based on their facial expressions, their body language and tone of voice. Putting labels on the feelings of others will help them think about, notice and understand others in day-to-day life.
  • Giving your full attention to your child. This will model the behaviours of genuinely engaging and connecting with others. Really tune in, and listen.

Teenagers that get along well with others are often those that show self-aware behaviours. This includes expressing their emotions in appropriate ways and maintaining control over themselves and how they treat others. These qualities will also help them to understand and respond to bullying more constructively, and help them develop networks of friends that will give them social support.

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