Supporting Social & Emotional Development in High Schoolers

Fostering social and emotional development in your high schooler is incredibly important. Read some expert tips on how to help your child.


Self-awareness is knowing your emotions, strengths and challenges, and how your emotions affect your behavior and decisions.

Model self-awareness by talking about your own feelings often.

You can say, "I’m getting a bit anxious for the holidays already. While I’m excited to spend time with the family, I’m nervous about taking time away from work and having even more to do when I get back. Has this ever happened to you?"

Talk to your high schooler about their plans for the future.

Ask them questions like, "Which class is your favorite right now? Do you think you’d like to explore careers where you could use what you’re learning in that class every day? What are your strengths?" Also talk about personal goals by asking "Who do you look up to and what makes them admirable?"


Self-management is controlling emotions and the behaviors they spark in order to overcome challenges and pursue goals.

Reward your child’s effort.

"I noticed how hard you’re working on your math homework, and I’m really proud of you," rather than "You’re going to get an A on that test because, you’re really smart."

Take the time to point out moments in your teen’s life when they struggled and persevered.

"When you were learning to walk, it took you some time to learn to stand on your own two feet, but you eventually picked it up and you were running within a few months. I understand that you feel frustrated right now, but it takes some time to learn a new skill. Be patient and don’t give up, and before you know it, you will accomplish your goal."

Social Awareness

Social awareness is understanding and respecting the perspectives of others, and applying this knowledge to social interactions with people from diverse backgrounds.

Discuss the role that empathy plays in college and in the workplace.

You can say, "I know you will be going to college soon, and it’s important to be able to deal with different personalities and understand where they’re coming from. Has this ever happened to you while working on group projects at school? How did you deal with different personalities?"

How to talk about differences and stereotypes:

"The world is made up of people with different personalities, backgrounds, beliefs, religions, genders, sexual preferences and socioeconomic statuses, and all of these groups have encountered stereotypes. Has anyone ever said something like this to you? What can you do to be more accepting and tolerant of others?"


The ability to interact meaningfully with others and to maintain healthy relationships with diverse individuals and groups contributes to overall success.

Discuss your teen’s platonic and romantic relationships.

"What do your friends do after school?" You can use this as an opportunity to get them to open up about their dating life. For instance, you may want to ask them, "Who do want to go to the school dance with?" or "Is there anyone in your class that you like hanging out with?

Talk to your teen about their personal ‘brand.’

You can say, "A person’s social behavior has a major impact on how they relate to others, and it’s important to remember that when you are out in the world, you are representing yourself and your ‘brand.’ How do you want to be perceived by others?"

Try to de-escalate conflicts.

If you feel frustrated with your teen, you tell them, "I don’t feel that this is going anywhere right now. I need to cool down and think and we can continue this in an hour." Not only do you decrease the risk of saying something you will regret later, but you have also modeled a vital skill for your teen, which is to avoid making decisions in the heat of the moment.

Responsible Decision-Making

Responsible decision-making is the ability to make choices that are good for you and for others. It is also taking into account your wishes and the wishes of others.

Talk to your teen about accountability.

You can say, "People who are responsible behave in ways that makes others trust them, and they take ownership for their actions. They also don’t make excuses for bad behavior or blame others when something goes wrong. How often do you try to take responsibility for your actions?"

Discuss adult responsibilities with your teen.

"When you’re out in the real world and making a living, you should set a monthly budget, and use it as a guide to pay bills, save, buy grocery and spend on clothes, outings or gifts. This will also help you when you’re in college. What are some things you can do to make sure you follow your budget?"

Social & Emotional Development

Research shows that those with higher social-emotional skills have better attention skills and fewer learning problems, and are generally more successful in academic and workplace settings. Like any math or English skills, these skills can be taught and grow over time.

Explore Social & Emotional Development