Following social rules

7 Social Situations to Role-Play With Your High-Schooler

By Melissa A. Kay

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The No. 1 goal of many teens is to avoid embarrassment. That requires following basic social rules. You can help your high-schooler build social skills and feel prepared by role-playing common situations like these.

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Teen boy talking to a teen girl outdoors
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Asking Someone on a Date

The time will come when your child wants to ask someone for a date. This can be intimidating, especially if he’s unsure of how to do it. Practice different ways of asking for different types of dates—whether it’s going with a group for pizza after school or going as a couple to the movies. Try switching roles, and include scenarios where he’s turned down. Having open conversations about dating in general can make him more comfortable coming to you for help.

Teen girl talking to a group of adults
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Going on a Job Interview

First job interviews are foreign territory for most teens. Communication and social skills issues can make it even harder to know what to say or do. Tell your child that practice can help build confidence. Ask him typical interview questions like “What are your strengths?” and “Why do you want the job?” Have him listen to each one, decide if it requires a short or expanded answer and practice responding. Brainstorm questions he might ask potential employers.

Group of teens hanging out together
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Being Offered Alcohol or Drugs

Teens often face peer pressure to drink or do drugs. And those who have poor impulse control, weak social skills or low self-esteem may have even more trouble saying “no.” Give your child some simple lines he can use to casually decline, like, “Not right now,” “I really don’t like the taste,” or “I’m not drinking.” Let him know he can call you anytime to pick him up if he feels uncomfortable.

Group of teens talking in the school hallway
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Joining a School Club

Joining a club is a great way for teens to explore new interests. But it can be stressful, especially for kids who have trouble reading situations and working in groups. Role-playing the mechanics can make it easier. Start a family game of charades or cards that your teen has to “join.” Have him practice introductions, asking questions and picking up on social cues. He can also work on being patient when others are talking and picking the right moment to enter the conversation.

Close-up of a teen boy amidst a group of friends
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Starting a Conversation at a Party

Making small talk at a party is difficult and awkward for many adults, let alone teens. Having a script can make it easier. Help your teen prepare some conversation starters to practice on you. He could compliment your outfit, comment on the decorations or say something positive about the host. Create a list of current topics that peers would be interested in. Brainstorm appropriate questions he can ask other guests, then role-play different responses. That way you can help him recognize the social cues that say he needs to change his approach.

Teen girl working on a project with other teens
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Working on a Group Project

Group projects can be fun, but they can also be tricky. Your child may end up in a group where he doesn’t know anyone or where the other kids are part of a clique. Help your child fit in and offer his best talents by acting out scenarios, including ones where he doesn’t agree with the group. Let him practice saying things like, “Let’s try doing this two different ways and then vote which is better” or “We should figure out who’d be best for each task.”

Teen boy shaking hands with an adult
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Greeting Adults at a Gathering

You’ve probably taught your child to politely greet adults from a young age. But if he struggles with social rules, he may need practice doing it on his own. Explain that as a young adult it’s not always enough to shake hands and say, “Good to meet you.” Practice other adult introductions. Have him start with the basics: “Hi, my name is Michael. I’m Mary’s son.” Then have him extend it: “Who are you related to at this party?” Also practice ending the conversation.

You’ll find more tips on how to help your teen learn to interact with adults in Parenting Coach.

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4 Social Situations to Role-Play With Your Grade-Schooler

Kids rehearse for the school play and attend practices between soccer games. Why not rehearse social situations, too? Role-playing can be a fun way to help build social skills and learn about social rules. These mock situations can get you started.

8 Social Situations to Role-Play With Your Middle-Schooler

All tweens want to fit in with their peers. But following basic social rules can be tough for some kids with learning and attention issues. You can help your middle-schooler build social skills and feel more prepared to work with others by role-playing these common situations.

About the Author

Portrait of Melissa Kay

Melissa A. Kay is a writer, editor and content strategist in the areas of family, health, employment, beauty, lifestyle and more.

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Portrait of Jim Rein

Jim Rein, M.A., has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and attention issues.

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