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At Family Gatherings

​Does your teen know how to act at family gatherings? Have you been happy with his or her behavior in the past? Family tensions can be lessened or even eliminated when you all remember some key skills before you leave for that Thanksgiving visit or invite relatives to your home. Practice common sense parenting and take some time to go over these basic skills with your teen.

Presenting an appropriate appearance
Setting the dress expectations ahead of time will get the day off to a positive start.

1.       Use appropriate hygiene skills.

2.       Comb your hair.

3.       Choose clean clothing that will match the occasion.

4.       Use a moderate amount of make-up, perfume or cologne.

5.       Ask for advice if you are unsure what is proper.

6.       Maintain your appearance throughout the day.

Introducing others
Will your teen have a friend there that others don't know?

1.       Position yourself near or between the people you are introducing.

2.       Use a clear, enthusiastic tone of voice.

3.       Introduce two people by saying each person's first and last names. For example, say, "Bruce, I'd like you to meet Marco Garcia. Marco, this is Bruce Thomas."

4.       Allow time for each person to shake hands, greet each other, etc.

5.       You also may provide more information about each person to the other ("He's in my math class." "He's my mom's brother from Boston.")

Table etiquette
Knowing what to do will help your teen feel more confident at a table full of people. 

1.       Sit quietly at the table with your hands in your lap.

2.       Place your napkin in your lap.

3.       Offer food and beverages to guests first. 

4.       Pass food to the right.

5.       When requesting food, remember to say "Please" and "Thank you."

6.       Engage in appropriate mealtime conversation topics.

7.       Speak only when your mouth is empty.

8.       When you have finished your meal, sit patiently while others finish.

Listening to others
There is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means you happen to be in the vicinity. Listening is active and shows respect for others.

1.       Look at the person who is talking.

2.       Sit or stand quietly; avoid fidgeting, yawning or giggling.

3.       Wait until the person has finished before you speak.

4.       Show that you understand ("OK," "Thanks," "I understand.")

Joining in the conversation

1.       Look at the person who is speaking.

2.       Wait for a point when no one else is talking.

3.       Make a short, appropriate comment that relates to the topic being discussed.

4.       Choose words that will not be offensive or confusing to others.

5.       Add your comments that fit the current topic, but be careful not to dominate the conversation or exaggerate.

Coping with conflict
It happens. Aunt Mary and Uncle Ed start in on their favorite argument.

1.       Remain calm and relaxed, even if you have to concentrate on breathing evenly.

2.       Listen to what the conflicting parties are saying.

3.       Think of helpful options.

4.       If appropriate, offer options to those people who are having a conflict.

5.       If the situation becomes aggressive or dangerous, remove yourself.

Saying good-bye

1.       If your family is hosting, stand up and accompany guests to the door.

2.       Look at each person.

3.       Use a pleasant tone of voice.

4.       Extend your hand, and shake hands firmly.

5.       Say "Good-bye, thank you for visiting" or "Good-bye __________; it was nice to meet you." 

6.       Ask the guests to come again.

7.       If you are the guest, thank your hosts for the meal and the hospitality.

If you are interested in finding more practical skills for your teen,  Teaching Social Skills to Youth is available from Boys Town Press.