How Can I Help My Young Teenager Who Doesn’t Socialize With Other Peers?

How Can I Help My Young Teenager Who Doesn’t Socialize With Other Peers?

Tips from an expert.

Over the course of my career as an educator and school counselor, I have been approached by many parents about their middle-school aged child not socializing with his or her peers. They begin to worry that something is wrong and seek assistance on how to help them make friends. Here are some suggestions:

  • Speak to your child. Ask your child how school is, what his or her interests are, and what other peers are doing. It is always a good idea to have family dinner conversations. You may uncover potential bullying, loss of friendships, or interests you never knew about. Unfortunately, adolescents find themselves increasingly disconnected from their surrounding adults. According to A. C. Neilsen Company, parents spend 3.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children. According to a CBS News Poll, 64% of Americans believe that the American family is now weaker than it was when they were children. It is important to spend time with your child.
  • Ask their teachers. Teachers are a great source to see how your child interacts in the classroom. In a 2001 Gallup Youth Survey, 13-17 year olds were asked what they considered to be strongest needs in their lives. At the top of the list were the emotional requirements of the “need to be trusted,” followed by the “need to be understood and loved.” Teachers can serve as role models and confidants, and they can keep an extra eye on or provide encouragement to your child. 
  • Assist in developing positive body language. How a child projects his or her body language is critical. It is important that he or she smiles, actively listens to others, shows confidence, and stands erect. People can quickly judge a person’s personality within a few seconds, and it is important to have a healthy self-esteem. Also, it never hurts for your child to genuinely compliment others. It is natural to gravitate towards positive people.
  • Encourage them to join activities. One of the best ways to make friends is for teens to join social groups, sports, or clubs. Look at what your child’s school offers for extracurricular activities and see what he or she might like to join. Furthermore, see what your local communities offer that the school may not have. Make sure your child is surrounded by people (positive ones of course) and not just home all day on digital devices. They will learn social skills and have more chances to develop friendships. 
  • Help them practice socializing. As parents, you serve as their role models. They see how you interact with others or stay on your electronic devices. Discuss how you would handle situations or how to approach other students in potential scenarios. It never hurts for them to practice speeches in front of the mirror. Even the best public speakers have to practice.
  • Meet with the school counselor. Most schools will have a guidance department, which have invaluable resources and can also provide counseling for your teenager. You can ask if a guidance counselor can observe your child during lunch and recess and report back what was seen. Many school counselors also have groups, such as lunch bunch or a girls club. Ask if your child can be included in the next group formed.
  • Detect subtle cues for professional intervention. If you notice or hear from others drastic changes in your teen’s behavior or personality, such as red eyes, sudden weight change, lack of motivation, and irritability, something may be up. Adolescence is a time where students may break out with mental health issues or experiment with drugs. If you have very serious concerns about your child, speak to your child’s pediatrician or seek out a mental health professional.
  • Do not press too hard. Pushing too hard or compelling a child to do something may backfire. Instead, providing a few options of activities, and having them choose one may be a better approach. 
  • Shy vs. outgoing. Just remember that some people are more introverted than others; there is nothing wrong with this, unless they are unhappy or severely anxious. Seek help if this is the case.

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