Parenting teenagers can be a challenge and sometimes parents need to pick their battles. While shyness among some teens is normal; when they're at home more than usual, away from friends, and showing early signs of anger, sadness, or even depression, it could be a sign of something more serious.
Parents may struggle with how to help a socially awkward teenager, but with the right tools and the correct approach, teens who struggle in the presence of their peers can be encouraged out of their shells.
If you're wondering how to help your socially awkward teenager, showing your child grace, being open and available to talk, and encouraging engagement are a few of the small ways you can help them become more approachable and friendly.
Teens have a lot to face as they get older, inching ever more closely to adulthood. High school, college prep or career training classes, sports, and extracurricular activities, family expectations, chores, driving, developing romantic relationships, and weaving through social and environmental struggles of daily life can weigh heavily on your teen's shoulders.
It’s no wonder why some kids simply can't handle the pressure and turn inwards to avoid the struggles of processing and dealing with those situations. Other kids may feel socially awkward due to physical or mental health diagnoses, their appearance, their background or family situation, or financial struggles.
Here are a few ways parents can help a socially awkward teenager gain confidence:
Step 1: Be a safe space.
Whatever the reason, teens facing the battle of being socially awkward need a safe space to talk it out without judgment. Now is not the time to berate them with your expectations. Listening to your child’s words is what is most important.
Step 2: Validate their feelings.
By allowing them to discuss what is bothering them you immediately validate their feeling and make them more comfortable to have open and honest discussions. If the origin is sinister in nature — such as bullying — parents can address those issues in conjunction with attempting to break the behavior of social awkwardness.
Step 3: Make them comfortable.
Your teen will feel most comfortable and approachable doing or engaging in an activity they genuinely enjoy. Whether it's a sport, hobby, or something similar, having a common interest with a peer or possible friend is important. By encouraging them to continue to be involved in their interests, you’re also encouraging the opportunity of possible friendships.
Step 4: Take a backseat.
You’ve spoken with your teen and have actively encouraged them to get involved with hobbies and activities that they enjoy, opening the window for meeting new people and making friends. Now comes the time to sit back and see what happens.
When it comes to our kids, parents tend to be less than thrilled with the idea of hands-off parenting. However, when regarding older kiddos and teens, there are many instances that using a “see what happens” playing card may benefit the parent, as well as the teen in question. Kids are intuitive and perceptive. If they are never given the chance to do things on their own, they will never know if they truly possess the skills needed to make friends and be a successful member of society.
So, when all else fails, and you’ve properly prepared your teen as best as possible, letting go of the steering wheel may allow them the confidence to get the ball rolling on their own.
Raising teens, especially ones who may presently lack important social skills and who may be struggling with awkwardness, is no easy task. Just ask any teenager’s parent who is currently doing battle with these struggles. However, there is hope, and a chance for a more normal and satisfactory life if parents — and their teens — are willing to put in the work necessary to make such changes.
If you feel your child is struggling more so than usual, or you suspect depression or other serious mental health issues, speak with your child’s pediatrician or PCP immediately. Early intervention for any health-related crisis is of the highest importance.
- Is your kid having too much screen time? It depends on your laziness as a parent
- How to plan your toddler’s feeding schedule to keep them happy
- Which of your teen’s behavior problems should concern you and which are normal
- Should I send my teen daughter to boarding school? Here are some insights
- Teen suicidal behavior: What to say and what to avoid, according to experts