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Social skills

Helping your teen develop the 7 essential social skills

Did you know that there are seven social skills in teens that have been associated with good health, overall well-being, and academic success? They are important for equipping young people to cope with the challenges of everyday life.

Starting in early childhood, young people develop these skills at their own pace. Family, school staff, and community workers play a key role in this process. Day in and day out, these adults offer support, create learning opportunities, and provide positive environments that allow teens to achieve their full potential. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it remains true for teenagers!


Major life changes are especially good learning opportunities for young people, for example, starting at a new school, moving, meeting new friends, starting a first job, etc. But these situations can also be very stressful for teens, which is why it’s important to pay special attention to them during these times. The lessons they learn will stay with them for their rest of their lives!


Allowing young people to develop their social skills means giving them the opportunity to live up to their full potential!

1. Self-awareness

The teen’s ability to recognize who they really are (physical traits, interests, emotions, needs, talents, good qualities and flaws, limits, etc.)

To better support

  • Help your teen recognize their interests, strengths, and weaknesses in different situations.
  • Help them have realistic expectations for themselves.
  • Encourage them to try different activities to help them figure out who they are.

2. Managing emotions and stress

The teen’s ability to respond appropriately to stressful or difficult situations (e.g., exams, injustices, break-ups), intolerable situations (e.g., violence, bullying), or adversity (e.g., grief, illness).

To better support

  • Help them identify the main sources of stress and anxiety in their life.
  • Offer to talk to them about strategies for dealing with different situations.
  • Suggest activities that help with managing emotions and stress: writing, art, sports, yoga, music, etc.
  • Offer to help them identify possible solutions. Let your teen apply the solutions that they think are best.

3. Asking for help for themselves or others

The teen’s ability to ask another person for help (for themselves or for others) when they find themselves in an overwhelming situation.

To better support

  • Help your teen recognize situations in which they may need help, i.e., situations that are beyond their abilities to cope.
    • We need help from the moment that we are unable to find a solution to a problem. Everyone is different, and there are no small problems. For example, someone may need help solving a math problem, whereas another person may need help dealing with a bully.
  • Help them figure out what prevents them from asking for help (e.g., fear? discomfort? pride? not knowing where to turn?) and find solutions to these obstacles.
  • Point your teen toward sources of information and support services, as needed, or offer to help find them.

4. Adopting prosocial behaviours

The teen’s ability to feel empathy and concern for the people around them and behave in ways that help or benefit other people.

To better support

  • Help your teen distinguish good and bad friendships: which make them happy versus which make them nervous, angry or sad.
  • Praise them for their kind gestures toward others.
  • Talk to them about their day-to-day relationships with their friends (what they do, what they think).
  • Do not condone violence of any kind (verbal, psychological, or physical).
  • In the event of a conflict, help your teen identify solutions which they can apply on their own.

5. Making informed lifestyle choices

The teen’s ability to make the best choices for their health, their overall well-being, and their academic success. These choices usually relate to diet, sleep, physical activity, hygiene, substance use (smoking, alcohol, drugs), and sexual activity.

To better support

  • Talk to your teen about the benefits of healthy lifestyle habits and safe behaviours.
  • Inform them about the risks associated with different behaviours: substance use (e.g., smoking, vaping, alcohol, drugs), unprotected sex, a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, etc.
  • Help your teen identify the consequences of making certain choices as opposed to others.
  • Encourage your teen to set goals and to take realistic steps to achieve them.
  • Provide a home environment conducive to making healthy choices (healthy foods, sports).

6. Managing social influences

The teen’s ability to withstand negative influences and act as a positive role model.

To better support

  • Help your teen:
    • recognize various influences (e.g., society, parents, media, friends, etc.) and their consequences.
    • distinguish between positive and negative influences.
    • develop their ability to think critically about the messages that surround them.
    • identify situations that call for strategies to withstand negative influences and practice applying them in everyday life.

7. Social involvement

The teen’s ability to actively participate in decision-making and actions that have a positive impact on their health, overall well-being, and academic success. These actions should have a positive impact on both themselves and on other teens in their community.

To better support

  • Encourage your teen to get involved in various school and community activities (e.g., cultural and sports activities, student committees, volunteering, youth centre activities, etc.).
  • Talk to your teen about social rules and conventions and the importance of respecting them.
  • Involve them in household decisions (e.g., sharing responsibilities).

Resources and practical tools

Helpful books

by Céline Boisvert, CHU Sainte-Justine collection for parents

by Michel Delagrave, CHU Sainte-Justine collection for parents

by Germain Duclos, Danielle Laporte and Jacques Ross, CHU Sainte-Justine collection for parents

Guide pratique à l’intention des parents, by Germain Duclos, Danielle Laporte and Jacques Ross

The definitions on this page are inspired by the website:
Faire ÉKIP pour la santé, le bien-être et la réussite des jeunes.

Latest updates : February 2020

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