Has Lack of Interaction Stunted Your Teen’s Social Development?

NDFYA Staff

Not everyone learns how to interact with other people well early on in their lives. Some children are shy or prefer to explore the world on their own while others are afflicted with syndromes such as autism that prevent them from learning interpersonal skills successfully. There are also many people, such as Tim Bryce of M. Bryce & Associates, who believe many young adults haven’t learned proper interpersonal skills due to spending too much time working on or with electronic devices.

For others, such as those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they may have not always been socially awkward. Instead, they may have withdrawn after years of having trouble holding conversations. Now, after years of negative encounters with other people, your child may even experience anxiety about interacting with others.

Lack of Interaction Stunts Their Independence

No matter what your adult child’s story is, you have probably noticed by now that his or her lack of interpersonal skills is an obstacle to being an independent young adult. Lack of these skills means your child does not pass interviews to obtain jobs. He or she may often have conflicts with roommates that result in your child returning to living with you. Your young adult may not be willing to finish his or her education because of difficulties communicating with the instructors or fellow students.

Bring Your Young Adult Out and About

Once you recognize these signs, there are ways to help your young adult learn how to handle the world at large. First, you’ll need to get your young adult going out amongst unfamiliar people more regularly, even if that time is spent helping you run errands.

According to the National Resource Center on ADIHD, “Social skills are generally learned by watching people, copying the behaviors of others, practicing and getting feedback.” This means your goal now is to get your young adult to observe and understand how the people around he or she are speaking with each other.

Understanding the Conversation

Listening is the first in its list of interpersonal skills that SkillsYouNeed.com has listed on its website, and is one that many, not just young adults, have a problem mastering. The website points out that most people hear what is being said to them, but don’t really take the time to comprehend what they’re heard. You may want to have your young adult explain to you, in his or her own way, what was said to them to show they truly understood what was being said.

You also may need to teach your child that it is okay, and even preferred in some situations, to speak up and ask questions when they don’t fully understand what was said in a conversation. Knowing they can do so may help them perform their work better, or improve their relationships with other people.

Simple Courtesy

If your young adult is unable to greet others, he or she may always have difficulty meeting others. Bryce says, “A good, basic greeting can work wonders in building cooperation between people.” Instruct your young adult on appropriate ways to approach and start a conversation with others, whether they need to speak to hiring managers for interviews or customers at work.

An adult who is shy or doesn’t like to engage may be considered rude by anyone they come into contact with through the day. Greeting people helps with this, but remembering basic manners such as saying “please” and “thank you” is good, too.

Look for Help

During this time, you may need the assistance of a counselor or other professional to help you truly understand what your child is experiencing. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to consult someone about how to approach changes in your young adult’s interpersonal skills. Counselors, especially those who predominantly work with young adults, are very experienced with these problems and will be able to help your young adult obtain independence much more quickly.

Learn more about NDFYA's Social Skills Program