Does it seem like your teen is at home…a lot? They may even be up in that dark cave, called a bedroom, multiple hours a day, only sneaking down to grab some food every so often. You wonder, shouldn’t they be out with friends? Is there something wrong? How can I help them find friends and get out of the house?
But when your child seems to be alone, and hanging out at home quite a bit, you notice. And you may wonder. Is this normal? How do I help?
Do teens need friends?
Friendships are important because they help a child feel a sense of belonging or a part of a community. Friends can provide a safe space for your child, especially a good friend they trust. Teenagers often won’t try new activities, unless they have a friend to try it out with.
To make and keep friends takes a lot of social skills. Continuing to work through the drama or conflict of friendships, helps your child learn skills that will serve them later in many different ways, such as getting along with colleagues, navigating extended family, and being part of a social group of any kind.
Although there are many benefits to having friends, when you see your teen without these social interactions, you first need to ask:
Is it bothering you? Or is it bothering them?
Really listen to your child and understand what they may be looking for in a friendship. There are many different levels from having an acquaintance, to hang out with once in awhile, to a best friend that you are inseparable from.
Above all else, don’t FORCE it. Friendships take time and your child needs to feel comfortable. Even though friendships are important, it is more important to have the right friends.
How to Help Your Teen Make Friends
Here is how you can help your child find the right friends.
- Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. They need to take a few risks and put themselves out there. You can help boost their confidence so they are ready to do this.
- Take the focus off of friends – It is too much pressure. They need to work on some self improvement skills first, such as being comfortable with being uncomfortable, being a good listener, and knowing how to engage in other’s interests. Making friends will come.
- Reflect on what they are looking for in a friend, and HOW they want to socialize. This is about them. Some may want to socialize in small settings, or may prefer large events. Others may be looking to socialize online. Remember to listen to their wants and needs.
- Overcoming social anxiety – your child may suffer from this and struggle to put themselves out there. Do an activity to challenge their negative thinking around socializing. Ask them, “What is the worst that could happen?” Listen to their response, and keep asking, “Then what?” You may have to ask this 4-5 times to dig into what the actual concern is. After you can identify that biggest fear, you can start to address it.
- Practice small talk – Have them practice, then practice some more. Have them ask open ended questions that can’t be answered with just one word, or connect their question to what is happening around them. Open a conversation with a simple compliment to the other person or talk about a common interest. Small talk is not natural, and needs to be practiced (which kids are hesitant to do if they are uncomfortable).
- Give them a place to hang out without parents – Allow your teens to be independent. Help create a space for them to hang out without the watchful eyes of parents. They know you care, but you don’t need to be bringing snacks every 30 minutes to “check in”.
- Have your teen learn about how to make friends. Here is an excellent article with lots of great tips for them to check out, Making Good Friends
Why Your Relationship Matters When Your Teen Needs Friends
When you have a strong relationship with your child, this can help them navigate the world of friendships. You are a safe space for them, and they can practice and learn many new skills. They can practice good listening and talking skills if you engage them in regular conversations. You are a role model and can show them how you handle any friendship issues. They need to understand that conflict is OK, and how to work through it.
You can also be there to help if they are struggling with friends. You may not be able to fix every situation, but you can listen to them, and reinforce any good skills that you see them using.
It is important to build a strong relationship with your individual child so they are open to talking with you about their emotions. Make sure to spend quality one on one time with each of your children to build this individual relationship. Sign up for the One on One Challenge if you need ideas to make this a habit over the next 21 days.
Friends are important, but the most important thing is how your child is feeling about their own relationships. Listen to them first to determine how to best help them.
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