Friendships play a big part in a teen’s life. Having friends can boost confidence and be a big help with almost every aspect growing up.
But, not all teens find it easy to make friends. Pew Research Center found that 2% of teens don’t have close friends.
That may be tough to hear, if socializing with new people and confidently approaching social situations doesn’t come easy for your teen.
The good news? You can help a lot. Here’s how you can guide them.
1. Encourage Extracurricular Activities
Teenagers often bond over shared interests and activities. Encouraging your teen to participate in sports, clubs, or groups at school based on their interests can be a great way for them to connect with their peers. These activities provide a natural setting for your teen to interact with others who share similar interests, promoting a sense of belonging and understanding.
- Identify your teen’s interests and strengths, and suggest relevant activities or clubs.
- Help them understand the value of teamwork and cooperation often required in these activities.
- Encourage consistent participation to help them nurture long-term friendships.
2. Limit Screen Time
Although technology has its benefits, excessive screen time can limit your teen’s opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Encourage your teen to partake in activities that require cooperation and interaction with others. This can boost their communication skills and provide opportunities for spontaneous friendships to bloom.
- Implement reasonable limits on TV and internet usage.
- Encourage them to participate in offline activities that involve social interaction.
- Discuss the importance of face-to-face communication and interaction.
3. Promote Online Interaction
If your teen finds it difficult to open up in person, interacting online can be a good starting point. Online platforms like gaming communities and forums can provide a less intimidating environment for your teen to express themselves and build their confidence. These can often lead to offline friendships.
- Guide them towards safe online platforms that align with their interests.
- Teach them about online safety and etiquette.
- Encourage them to transition these online friendships to in-person interactions when possible.
4. Lead by Example
Your actions can significantly influence your teen. By being a good friend yourself—exhibiting honesty, loyalty, and openness—you can teach your teen valuable lessons about friendship. Being a good listener and taking interest in their concerns can also foster a comfortable environment for them to share their social experiences.
- Show interest in your teen’s experiences and feelings.
- Be open in discussing your friendships and the lessons learned from them.
- Encourage your teen to be authentic, honest, and loyal in their friendships.
5. Enable Social Gatherings
Allowing your teen to attend or host get-togethers with peers can provide them with an opportunity to practice their social skills and form friendships. These gatherings can be based around common interests like movie nights, game nights, or study sessions. You might also consider enrolling your teen in a sleepaway camp, where they can have the opportunity to interact and form bonds with a diverse group of their peers.
- Enable your teen to attend get-togethers with their peers.
- Offer to host fun gatherings at your home to provide a comfortable environment for your teen to socialize.
- Consider options like sleepaway camps that can offer new social experiences.
6. Consider Social Skills Groups
Some teenagers may need additional support to hone their social skills. Teen social skills groups can provide a supportive and structured environment for your teen to learn and practice social skills. Running through scenarios, role-playing, and sharing experiences can contribute to their confidence in social situations.
- Look for local social skills groups for teenagers in your area.
- Help your teen understand the benefits of these groups and encourage them to participate.
- Regularly discuss their experiences and improvements after joining such a group.
7. Address Mental Health Issues
Mental health plays a significant role in social skills for teens and their ability to make friends. If your teen struggles with social anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, professional help should be considered. Early identification and intervention can have a lasting impact on overall well-being.
- Keep an open line of communication and watch out for signs of mental health issues.
- Consider professional help if you suspect your teen might be dealing with a mental health issue.
- Support your teen throughout their mental health journey, emphasizing that it’s okay to seek help.
Why do some teens struggle with making friends?
There are lots of reasons why making friends is hard sometimes, and teens can feel left out for many reasons. They may be into different things than their classmates, or they just stand out in ways that aren’t always celebrated in high school.
Trouble making friends may also be a sign of issues like anxiety or depression. If you think that might be the case, it’s important to address these mental health concerns with a professional.
Seeing your child struggle socially can be hard, but remember, each teen is different. The number of friends doesn’t show how awesome they are.
And here’s something to always keep in mind.
The quality of your teen’s friendships matters much more than the quantity. Even just one really good friend can be enough to make a positive difference in a teen’s life, and having a couple of close relationships with peers is often better than having many shallow acquaintances and hollow friendships.