Your teenage son has trouble making (or keeping) friends, and you’re concerned about what this means for his social life and for his future.
Is there a problem that needs to be addressed? Should you get more involved, or let it be? What can you do as a parent to help your teenage son find healthy friendships?
Questions like these may be floating through your mind. First, good for you for considering your teen son’s social needs! Social interaction a key element of his growing up process as he is forming his unique identity.
Now you’ll want some clarity on what you can do to support that growing up process.
Here are some tips on what may be contributing to your son’s troubles in his social life – and what you can do as a parent to help your teenage son.
Why Doesn’t My Teen Son Have Friends?… And What Can I Do About It?
1. Your teenage son may have unique interests.
Think about what you know about your son and his personality. What are his strengths as a person? Are these strengths things that usually connect people to others, or ones that might lead to too much isolation?
Brainstorm about ways to build upon the interests that your teen already has in order to add a social aspect to them. This will be more empowering and positive experience for your teen, in comparison to forcing him into a new interest (although trying new things once in a while can’t hurt either).
For example, if your son is interested in art or drawing, explore ways for him to connect via his art (such as exhibiting his art at school, teaching a peer art class, sharing it on Instagram, participating in an art competition or collaborative art project, etc). Also, rather than bragging about your son’s skills, explore ways to help him feel proud of it internally and share it with others.
2. Your teenage son may have fears or doubts.
Do you often wonder if your teen is avoiding social situations purposefully? It’s common for a teen to struggle with confidence because he’s figuring out how he wants to operate in the world as he matures. Your teen may tend to be reserved in social situations and may have created a pattern of feeling left out.
Consider how activities like online games are often not a problem within themselves, but can serve a distraction from the anxiety felt during face-to-face interactions.
Has there been social rejection in your teen’s past? Has your teen connected more with friends online than at his school? Life experiences can either be stepping stones toward better social interactions or create limiting beliefs that prevent healthy social interactions.
Help your teen turn a fear about others or a doubt about himself into confidence. Rather than asking why he doesn’t do something, find out what does make him want to try something new. Also, rather than pointing out something he is doing, compliment something about his character. Positive behavior comes from a sense of possibility and confidence.
Bonus: Check on your own fears and doubts. Is it possible that your teenage son is happy with his small friend circle, and your concern is based upon what you think he should be doing at this age? Find a group of parents of teens that you can trust and discuss your concerns with them. Talk to a mental health professional to help determine if there is something to be concerned about with your teen.
3. Your teenage son may be stuck on social skills.
Being social as a teenager is challenging. Transitioning from childhood friends and social habits into teenage interacting can be earth shattering. Does your teenage son want to socialize? Maybe he takes every chance he can get but isn’t connecting with any social group.
Is it possible that your son has trouble reading social cues? Even there isn’t any issue related to Asperger’s Syndrome, your teen may have under-developed social skills because of the social environments around him.
For example, your teen may be seeking approval or recognition from peers who are not a good fit for him (such as teens who are more concerned with being cool than with being kind). Many teens ignore the potential friend’s around them because they’re too focused on certain other people.
Try encouraging your teen to focus on social interactions with peers who are interesting, kind, and share similar interests. Also, model social skills that you want your teen to pick up.
4. Your family dynamics may be impacting your teen son’s social life.
If you’ve taken on an active role in your teen’s life, that’s a healthy thing in many ways.
However, it is possible that your teenage son feels less and less capable with each suggestion that you make or action that you take with intention of helping him. If you want him to learn to take initiative, you may need to take a strategic step back.
To stop doing too much for your son, focus instead on empowering him. When you want to give him instruction or advice, instead ask about how he views the situation.
It may take time for your teenage son to open up to you, but if you find the words to be supportive and collaborative, he will learn to engage in constructive communication.
If your teenage son has a positive and healthy experience communicating with you during the life transitions that he is experiencing, it’s likely that he will have increasingly healthy communication with peers as well.
In the process of finding answers for your teenage son, appreciate who he is as a person. Consider his strengths rather than supposed weaknesses. If you emphasize these strengths and encourage his ideas of how to express them, he will naturally feel more confident and feel that life has more purpose.
Show interest in what he is already interested in. It will help improve his connection with you in a way that can allow more opportunity for supportive conversation and actions.
It’s possible that your teenage son is dealing with a more serious issue. Depression and anxiety are very common during the teen years. The best way to help your son may be finding a therapist for him to help him sort out his thoughts and feelings, allowing him to grow into a more confident and social person.