We email, text, book holidays, meet partners, shop and maintain friendships online – never before have our kids and teens needed help connecting face to face.
There are many positives to social media but unfortunately fewer opportunities to connect face to face, which can leave many kids and teens confused, upset, lonely and isolated on a daily basis.
Kids learn by watching what is going on around them. They will learn by trial and error, just as we did. The more effort we make in teaching them social skills and the more they see us connecting face to face with our peers they better for them.
Kids generally start out as being self-centred. It’s important for their development to understand where they fit in the world. Social Media instil a constant need for kids to think about themselves, how they look, what they are doing, how many friends they have etc. At some stage they need to move this awareness to outside of themselves and notice the world and the people around them. To become less self-centred.
Here are some ways to guide them along;
Let them speak
Give them the opportunities to be ‘fully’ listened to. Give them time, let them understand the benefits of someone giving ‘time’ to a family member or friend. Let them know the feeling of having your full and undivided attention, this will teach them the skills of listening to others. They are living in a world where everything is rushed and patience is a becoming a thing of the past. Being in the ‘now’ with you once in a while will show them the importance of opening up and talking about their feelings face to face. It will give them the skills to talk to others.
Gently help them to open their minds to other opinions
Encourage their opinions, even if they are different to your own. Try not to interrupt them and jump in with your own opinions. To be able to appreciate another’s point of view is an essential life skill. Show them how to open up to other people and other opinions by helping them to open up to their own.
Let them see you take a stand.
It is an important lesson kids realise that they don’t have to connect with everyone or like everyone, but if they are going to pull away, they need to do it respectfully and not for the sake of it or just because that person may be different. Let them see you make a stand with people and situations, explain to them the reasons why you made a stand and how you made your stand.
Help them to connect with beauty in all its versions.
When we see or experience beauty in any form, we connect with it – whether its in nature, music, art or people. Beautiful was never meant to mean perfect. Beauty is flawed, different , quirky, interesting, non-conforming, ragged, unique. Help them to set their lens to a diverse definition of ‘beautiful’ by pointing it out when you see it. They are bombarded by a false unreal definition of beauty daily online, let them borrow your lens and learn from your lens – what you see, they will see too.
Expand their awareness of other people and what others might be feeling, by encouraging them to look at people from a different point of view. They are living in a very fast paced world where people can be viewed and judged in a matter of seconds, without any thought for the actual person and what they may be feeling and/or what they might be going through at that time. Empathy is a necessary social skill to make and keep friendships and relationships throughout life.
When they tell you about something that has happened try to encourage a different point of view…’What do you think she was feeling when that happened?’ ‘What do you think would have been a nice thing to happen next?’ ‘How would you feel if that happened you?’ ‘If that was you, what could someone say to help you feel better?’
The best lessons we will give our kids is through real life situations.
They are important, but so is everyone else.
We want to build our kids self-confidence and let them know how amazing they are and how important they are to us, but without letting them believe they are ‘more’ important, more deserving or more entitled that anyone else. Arrogance is the enemy of connection. Nurture their open, warm hearts and their capacity to connect and be seen, by encouraging them to see the strengths and the goodness in others as well as themselves.
Being able to connect with others easily is not always a given but these skills can always be learned. It does take deliberate teaching and we, as parents, grandparents, carers, teachers, are in a powerful position to do that. Relationships are such an important part of life and being able to initiate and maintain healthy ones is a vital life skill. All kids will learn most from the adults around them. We have the privileged and vital role of guiding and nurturing them alone the way.
“The single biggest problem in COMMUNICATION is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard ShawShare Blog