In this era of smart phones at the dinner table, texting instead of talking, self-indulgence and social media, how do we make sure our children are not losing the ability to conduct polite conversations and consider the needs of others?

Like most skills, basic social skills need to be taught. As children enter school, and later the work world, manners and social skills are a requirement, not an option. The problem is parents try to teach these skills to kids who roll their eyes or don’t listen. This is where outside help is beneficial. The Fredericksburg Area Service League’s Junior Cotillion of Fredericksburg is an affordable nonprofit program that provides instruction in manners and etiquette for 6-8th grade students. Alea Bryar, President of the Fredericksburg Area Service League says, “Junior Cotillion provides invaluable instruction for middle schoolers by teaching them proper etiquette, good manners and ballroom dance. The students will have fun while also learning how to show respect and how to value themselves and others in a variety of social situations. Learning these social skills will help garner confidence in the students and will be a benefit to them not only now but throughout their lives.” All funds raised through Junior Cotillion of Fredericksburg benefit local children’s charities such as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Head Start, Fairy Godmother Project, Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, Rappahannock Refuge, Inc., Hope House and Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters. At Junior Cotillion, students learn and are given plenty of opportunities to practice practical skills such as:

• How to introduce themselves and shake handsjunior_cotillion_manners
• Ways to engage in polite conversation and gracefully exit a conversation when needed
• Writing “thank you” notes
• How to receive compliments and react to unkind remarks
• Telephone and computer etiquette
• Table manners
• Familiarity with formal and informal place settings
• How to respond to an invitation

Research shows that teaching children manners and having them practice those manners will result in more empathetic and socially aware children. This is necessary for school success, but is also an important component in future job success. Lorrie Hummer, M.Ed., career coach at Parrish Learning Zone emphasizes, “Interview skills can be one of the most valuable skills students can learn. Most of their big life changes usually begin with an interview: for their first job, college interviews, scholarship interviews, and school counseling interviews for classes and internships. Confidence is the most important element you can bring to an interview.” This is not just manners instruction; it is crucial life skills instruction.

For more information on Junior Cotillion of Fredericksburg visit Fredericksburg Area Service League at

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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