Helping Kids Combat Social Unease

Building communication skills in our kids is this week’s Screenagers Tech Talk Tuesday’s topic. These days, one of the most common things I hear from youth is that they still feel unsure of their social worlds even after all these months back in school.  It is key to giving them little ways to find understanding in all of this uncertainty. 

I was delighted that many of you found a Screenagers’ past blog titled Failure To Close the Loop, Or Ghosted?  useful. It was about how we decide when a string of back and forths has reached a satisfactory endpoint. Recently a new communication skill has been rumbling in my head, something I call  “Check My Landing.”

Checking my landing is my brain-talk following a conversation with someone, whether in person or over email or social media. It has to do with my brain wondering if something I said did not get interpreted in a way I meant it to,  “She might have interpreted what I said, like this….and yet I didn’t mean it that way.”

When I find that this question keeps rumbling in my head, I know it is time to Check My Landing.

I might have some self-conscious hesitation before doing so, but I work to focus on the upsides of being able to talk with the person and work to get clarity — something that will surely strengthen our ties. That is what matters the most. 

One example happened not that long ago when a high school friend, let’s call her Claire,  who I had not seen in years, brought over her high school sophomore daughter, let’s call her Susie. I told Claire how glad I was that she brought Susie, and she said, “Yeah, we are always together. She is my BFF.”

We were all smiling, and then a few minutes later, in a joking voice, I said something like, “Oh well, you don’t want to be too enmeshed….no, no, I am joking,” And we all continued talking. 

Then later, I was talking about how I was always so in awe of Claire’s writing when we were in high school. Claire’s daughter, Susie, mentioned how her mom helped her with a paper, but she got a worse grade than if her mom had not helped her.

The next day, I felt a bit concerned that my comment about being enmeshed had landed the wrong way with Claire. She and I had already spoken a few weeks ago about how things were really good with her and her daughter, and they had a very healthy relationship. Still, I was worried that maybe it would seem that I harbored some negative judgment about her and her daughter, which I did not. 

I decided to call Claire and “Check My Landing” with her. After recounting the incident, she said that she was glad that I did check in with her. She had not felt put down by that at all. 

Yet one thing had transpired that she was a bit perplexed by: Claire had mentioned a medical intervention that I seemed to laugh at dismissively. I remembered that interchange and could see my reaction getting interpreted that way. I was not proud of my little laugh and glad that I could tell her how I wished I had responded with a more open mind. 

Then Claire said Susie had felt a bit bad in that she was worried that I thought her mom was always helping her with her papers and that she wanted me to know that was not the case. I never thought that. It was great that Claire could go back to Susie and let her know that I never thought that and that I was glad that she expressed her concern and we could clear this up. 

By the end of the call with Claire, we were having such fun — laughing at funny memories involving relationships and communication. I felt so connected to her. Through the process of checking landings, I love that we often get closer to people.

Communication is challenging, especially given our online worlds. We question things like, ”I wonder what she thought my emoji meant?  I wonder if she knew that line was intended to be funny? Hmm, maybe she took that as a put-down?”

I shared this whole exchange with Tessa and Chase, and of course, Susie knew of it. 

When we share examples of when we checked our landings with our kids, we are modeling our grit and bravery in being willing to do the work that meaningful relationships require. I think our world would be much better off if we deeply valued this because human skills are our hardest skills. It is key we give our kids all sorts of ways to boost their communication chops. 

Ideas to get the conversation started:

  1. Is there a time recently any of us checked our landing with someone?
  2. What are some of the character strengths needed to check our landings?
  3. What are some of the upsides of being able to check our landings? 
  4. How about with our family? Has anyone here wondered how something landed recently?