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Even the most socially skilled adolescents find this time
of life to be challenging. AD/HD combined types may be more at risk for social
rejection because they misread social cues or interrupt conversations
frequently. One of the sources of this kind of "relationship stress" is the inability to understand the complexities of social interaction. Take, for example, social cliques. The rules for various cliques are often complex, and sometimes invitations to join a clique is merely a ruse to humiliate someone. The movie "Heathers" and "Mean Girls" depict this type of behavior in a skillful manner. Additionally, there may be other issues that cause many teens report feeling feeling anxious, depressed or afraid of the school environment. Bullying may be the reason why this is so.
The urge to "fit in" and be part of a group is what the world of most adolescents is all about. To achieve this goal, some teens are pressured to conform to group standards that they might not typically be drawn to. Feeling like part of the group is very important to teens, and they are often willing to be psychologically uncomfortable in order to achieve this goal. And then there is bullying.
Bullying is a significant source of concern for students, schools, and parents alike. Teens who experience verbal taunts or find abusive writing on the school locker can feel very insecure and become anxious about returning to an environment that feels risky. Schools can help by establishing programs about bullying, encouraging pro-social behavior, and create clear rules about preventing and managing this type of behavior and its consequences. Further, schools can teach students how to distinguish between teasing, normal conflicts, and bullying. Bullying is very serious and understanding the reasons behind the behavior help teens make good decisions about how to manage an event.
Parents can help by teaching that bullying is about many things, including: an inability to manage frustration, abuse at home, a lack of interpersonal skills for conveying feelings, poor role models or no role models, neglect, unchecked aggression, undue influence, or perhaps conduct disorder. The goal is education, not diagnosis. Sometimes teens can walk away, other times they cannot. Parents can reassure their teen that bullying is a very significant problem and that the teen is not expected to "go it alone." Be concerned and responsive. Let your child know that you will be proactive on this issue.
Now more than ever parental support and encouragement will make a
difference. Here are some activities that may appeal to your child and build prosocial skills at the same time. These might include:
Joining the Drama Club . Even if acting isn't their intention they can put their artistic and carpentry skills to good use. If acting is a goal then finding successful techniques for memorizing lines will be useful in working with short-term memory. Learning to read plays, public speaking, following set and script directions, and working as a team member to produce an evening's entertainment is a fun way to master many social skills.
Youth groups are often associated with places of worship. These kinds of groups offer an opportunity to "come as you are," which is useful for learning the "how tos" of social interaction in a place where expectations for behavior are clearly established.
Some communities have professionally supervised organizations that specifically teach social skills and promote social interaction. Check the Internet to see if this kind of organization is in or near your community.
Scout Troops are a great way for your younger teen to "find a place" of belonging. School resource offices may have a list of the troops in your area.
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