It’s really important that before reaching independence, young men and women are used to doing the everyday things they need to in order to take care of themselves. These include the housekeeping or financial skills a teen should learn before they enter college or other independent paths in adulthood (trade school, living by themselves, the professional world, marriage and parenthood, etc.). But there’s more to adulthood than laundry and budgeting.
An important part of adulthood is being able to interact with others and handle new and challenging social situations. While it’s an exaggerated stereotype that homeschoolers don’t possess good social skills, it is true that they don’t have the same everyday interaction with other people they would experience going to a public school. This means that some common and challenging social situations may be somewhat foreign to them.
For that reason, teaching interpersonal skills
should be a point of your homeschooling curriculum. This isn’t to say you’ve done a bad job or that your kids don’t know how to interact with others, but social situations can throw curve balls from angles of authority, professionalism, and peership that kids learn in public schooling situations. The world doesn’t wait for anyone, so it’s important to instill particular social skills in your student sooner than later.
Let’s be clear: Making friends and initiating conversations is a social skill that people of all schooling backgrounds struggle with. Therefore, it’s even more important to give your child opportunities to cooperate and converse with others. This will help them find common ground with people that they meet and start relationships with them.
This socialization can (and should) start at an early age. Putting toddlers in a wide variety of social situations through play dates
can be an excellent way of acclimating them to the different norms for different settings and activities. As your child gets older, this socialization can come in the form of competitive activities, like sports, but sometimes it’s good to focus more on cooperative activities.
Additionally, teaching children to have empathy and listen to others’ points of view will take them far in making friends within these situations. Primarily it comes down to being able to ask questions and listen to people, on top of recognizing others are worth respect.
As a side note, many parents homeschool their children to get them away from toxic social situations
they may not be prepared for yet. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we have to address how to handle bullying when it does happen, because it is unfortunately the way of the world. As much as we wish it stopped as people get older, it tends to only change faces a bit.
Adults can be just as cruel as kids, and while professionals are finally addressing bullying as a public health crisis, it’s still very ingrained in our culture. If making friends has been hard for your child due to bullying, it may be wise to seek counseling on how to help the child brave those kinds of situations and be confident in themselves.
One’s experience in dating can greatly affect their own self-worth, and this can be positive or negative. Before a young adult moves out of the house, it’s good that they’re taught how to treat significant others and how they deserve to be treated as well. They should be taught what partnership means but also how to tell when they’re being used or walked over.
For this reason, you should allow them to be in situations where they have the option to date. Instilling good values in your child is good, but it’s important to give them opportunities to exercise those values. If you don’t feel comfortable about them being in one-on-one dating scenarios yet, start small with group dates or letting them attend dances with friends.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room — sex education. We all teach this differently. It may not be ideal for those of us who teach abstinence to our kids, but college is a hotbed for sexual activity due to that newfound independence that comes from dorm life. This has led to a large amount of diseases and unsafe sex in college circles. For this reason, It’s important that homeschoolers are at least aware of how they can take proper contraceptive actions and how to prevent and get checked for diseases, in case they’re ever in a situation you don’t wish them to be in.
Interpersonal skills are important for networking, which is key in carving one’s own path in their adult life. There are a lot of settings in which networking can happen, but ultimately it’s important that your homeschooler knows how to make each situation into an opportunity. And they need to know how to do this organically and calmly.
First of all, it’s important in the professional world to make an impression. You want them to come across as eager to learn and kind. And of course, this involves instilling a good work ethic in them.
All of these skills are learned by teaching your homeschooler to communicate properly and put their best foot forward. Teach your kids to ask good questions and to think critically, as well as how to read a situation and practice emotional empathy. Having them do volunteer work, get a job, and be in social situations frequently can contribute to this. And hopefully, they’ll have the skills to survive on their own in the professional world afterward. After all, you can’t prevent hard situations — just give them the tools they need to figure it out themselves!
How have you taught your homeschooler proper interpersonal skills? Let us know in the comments below!
Brooke Faulkner is a mom and adventurer in the Pacific Northwest. She loves teaching and learning from her kids. You can see more of her writing on twitter, @faulknercreek