The teen years usher in a new adult-like take on social skills, where your child is likely to spend more time with her friends than with you and the rest of the family. From her first co-ed party to trips to the mall and other teen hangouts, socialization in teenagers means taking a major step toward independence and moving away from simply staying at home with Mom and Dad.
According to the website of Cleveland Clinic Children's, the teenager's social development includes new -- often challenging -- issues including self-esteem, peer pressure and romantic or sexual relationships. Unlike the earlier years, in which your child gleefully spent his days on the playground with his classmates, the teen time often becomes a much more socially stressful period that is filled with complex relationships. While the teen's social maturity is certainly a plus -- gone are the days when he throws a fit because his BFF won't share a toy car -- your child may now feel more pressure to conform to what other kids are doing or act differently to please a group or clique. Additionally, the independence that your teen seeks out often means that he will want to venture out into social situations that don't involve parents, such as hanging out at the mall with friends.
While your child has probably gone to more than her fair share of parties, when she gets to the teen years these gatherings go from parent-supervised birthday bashes to a more adult-like type of social situation. Although a teen party can provide the kids with a chance to socialize, relax and have out-of-school fun, they can also quickly take a downward turn. The American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org notes that teens may expect a party to include drug or alcohol use. Whether your child is hosting a party or just going to a friend's fete, remind her that socialization during the teen years should never include drinking alcohol and that drug use is always illegal. Discuss ways to handle peer pressure to drink or use drugs, such as saying no or leaving the situation, before the party starts.
Although you may think of the mall as a place to shop, your teen most likely considers this super-sized retail space a more social type of environment. Unlike a private house party that may have no adult supervision, there are always adults around at the mall. Spending the afternoon at the mall provides teens with the chance to socialize with other kids, meet a potential romantic partner and relax in a fairly low-pressure environment.
Academic learning isn't the only form of education that your teen gets during her school day. Schools are a prime center for socialization, creating an environment in which your teen can make new friends and further the relationships that she already has. While it's unlikely that the school staff will smile upon your teen using her bio or algebra class to hang out with her pals, she will have plenty of opportunities to socialize with peers during the before- and after-school times, as well as lunch period and in-between classes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' "American Time Use Survey," American teens spend between 2.9 and 3.8 hours per weekday socializing. The group environment that high schools provide is conducive for socializing and helping teens to develop peer-interaction skills. For example, an after-school art club offers a way for your young artist to meet new friends with similar interests.
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