My heart broke when I heard what my teen had to say. When one of my teens was around middle school age, they came to me and told me how left out they felt among their peers. As things do in junior high, the friend groups had shifted. It can be startling as a parent, when everything in the friend arena shifts for your tween and early teen, in junior high. Personally, I felt caught off guard by the middle school age transitions. Suddenly, your tween, that seemed to have friends before can be left alone as cliques form. How do you help your lonely teenager with no friends form connections with those around them and make friends when it doesn’t come easily?
Helping your Lonely Teenager with No Friends
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Whether your teen is in the midst of the awkward junior high years or deep into the teen years, sometimes finding good friends can be tough. Let’s explore how to help your teenager make deeper connections with those around them.
One Close Teen Friend Can be Enough
For some extrovert parents, it can be really hard to understand that your teenager may only want or need a close friend or two. So before we go too headlong into worrying about our teenager and their friend group or lack of friend group, let’s make sure your teen is actually concerned about it.
Extroverts love to have lots of friends and thrive on having people around them. But if you are raising an introvert teen, they will typically desire just a few close friends that they will have deeper connections and conversations.
So if you are feeling panicked as a parent of a teen that only has one or two friends, you may have nothing to be worried about at all! Your teenager may feel perfectly content with their two friends. If you are concerned, try to gently ask them if they feel connected to their friends. We don’t want to make our teenager feel they have a “problem” if they felt fine two seconds ago! If your teen says they feel seen and connected, then you probably have nothing to worry about as a parent.
How to Make Friends as a Teenager
If your teenager feels disconnected and lacking in friends, here are some tried and true action steps they can take!
Help Your Teenager Pick Up Social Cues
One thing I have learned in watching my husband, is that some people just attract other people in a really positive way. My husband seems to be able to put people at ease and make them feel comfortable. And I see a lot of those traits in my daughter. For the rest of us, we may have to “work” at being a good friend.
Talk with your teen about a few people that they really like and appreciate. Ask them to think through what they like about that person. What is something that person says or does that is positive to your teen? Is there a way that your teen could learn from observing this person? How does this person greet others? How much do they talk about themselves versus listening?
One side note. We want to help our teen observe positive traits in others and pick up on cues. But we don’t want our teens thinking that they need to become someone else to have friends. One of our teens loved that their friend made others laugh. And so our teen would spend an enormous amount of time trying to make others laugh. They would exhaust themselves and often feel defeated. In reality, their sense of humor is very funny, but it is not everyone’s cup of teen.
So discuss with your teen the difference of making slight modifications to be a better friend and trying to act like a different person.
If You Want Friends, Stop Pointing Out Mistakes
I see problems. Mistakes stand out to me. But not everyone wants your help pointing out their mistakes! I have learned the hard way that pointing out others mistakes rarely wins friends:)
If your tween or teen has a habit of pointing out your mistakes at home, end that! The next time, your teen points out how you worded something incorrectly, ask them if they understood what you meant. If they say yes, then tell them that there really was no need then to point out a mistake.
There is a difference between asking the math teacher if the way they wrote out the math problem was really correct and constantly trying to correct others. So if your teen desires more friends, help them learn to think BEFORE they jump in to correct others.
Here are two tests I use when trying to decide whether to correct a mistake or offer another viewpoint. One, like mentioned above, do I understand the basics of what the person is trying to say or explain? And two, am I willing to HELP to make the problem or solution better? If I am not willing to put in effort or work myself, then telling others that their ideas won’t work is rude.
A Good Friend Remembers Your Name
People love to hear their name. There is something about others calling you by name that makes people perk up immediately. If your teen desires to make more friends, then calling people by names can be a small action that has big results.
Greet people by their names and remember what they said to you. Are they stressing about a test? Is their dog sick? Make note of what someone actually says to you. Instead of just thinking about what you are going to say next in the conversation, try to lock away the information they told you. The next time your teen is around the acquaintance, they can use the person’s first name. And your teenager can easily ask a question of their new possible friend to get the conversation started.
This tip comes from the timeless book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. My teen and I read this book together. It helped make winning friends a little bit more of a fun experiment with new tricks to try each week. It was where we realized that my teen’s over attention to details could actually be a blessing since he remembered people’s names and details with amazing accuracy.
How to Win Friends and Influence People has tons of examples and stories making this book an enjoyable and very practical book. Highly recommend!!
Help Your Teenager Develop Mentors as Friends
We have a lovely family that was part of our church for years. One of their daughters was such a joy to be around. She was smart, pretty, mature, and so funny. She lit up the room! One day, I was talking to another mom that was a mentor and friend to the teen girl, when she remarked that the teen didn’t really have a lot of friends her age. I was stunned. But the mom was right.
Though this young lady was perfectly lovely, there just were not a lot of girls her age in her social sphere. But this teen made the most of what she did have by being close to some of her coaches and this other mom.
Let’s face it. Some of our teens are old souls or just more mature than their peers. They seem to connect with adults more than their peers. And that is fine.
Look around your teen’s social sphere and see if there are others that would make a great mentor for your teenager. For our teenager, mentors were a source of friendship. Though our teen wished for more friends their age, mentors helped them learn new skills and have someone to joke and laugh with. When it came time for their graduation party, it was a packed house because of all the adults in their life that really liked and respected them.
Encourage Your Teen to Enjoy Their Hobbies
Be an interesting person! Encourage your teenager to explore and develop hobbies. This accomplishes two things. One, when we are busy working on our hobbies we are focused on the good things in life and less on what we don’t have. And two, a teenager who is deep diving into their hobbies is more likely to end up crossing paths with others that share their interest.
My daughter has had many a random conversation based on a t-shirt she is wearing or a sticker she has on her notebook. When you love something you tend to talk about it or be “sharing” it, like by the t-shirt you are wearing. And this will give your teenager more opportunities to find others that share similar interests.
Working Alongside Others Builds Friendships
Our family recently moved. We are in a new state, new town and new church. It is hard work building friendships. And authentic friendships take a long time. Two things that seem to speed up friendships is hosting people in ones home and working alongside others.
When people are in your home, two things happen. One, our homes are typically a safe place for us and so we are inviting closeness with others when we share our home and personal space. And two, we are showing more about who we really are, so it is easier to see if we have things in common with others.
Another way to build friendships faster, is to work with others as a team or on a project. Brainstorm with your teen to think of a committee, team, job, or group they could join that involves some kind of work. When we work together with others, we are focused on the problem and are less self-conscious, thus getting to know each other faster.
Look at the opportunities in your teen’s school, community and your church, if you attend. Is there a place your teen would enjoy learning or working?
Before we even moved, we had a part-time job and a homeschool co-op lined up for our daughter. And once we moved, we started inviting some of the neighbors over for dinner. Thankfully, her part-time job became a source of connection very quickly. She enjoys the work and her boss. And she then started building friendships with her co-workers. As her parent, it is a relief to see her have a place where she feels seen and needed. And our teen daughter has a place where she feels like she belongs.
If Your Teen Wants Friends, Be a Friend
Social media can cause our teenagers to feel dissatisfied with their friend group. Teens can get online and see that others seem to be having more fun. Even if your teenager has a few good friends, they can begin to feel dissatisfied.
Work with your teen, to be the best friend he or she can to the people in their life. Encourage your teen to care for the people in their life by staying in touch, not taking friends for granted, and being the friend they wished they had.
Keep Positive, It May Take Time to Make Friends
Sometimes it takes more time for some teenagers to mature and begin to pick up on social cues a little easier. Other times, you may have a more quirky and unique teenager who needs a bigger pool to pull friends from.
In high school, I had many really good friends. I founds lots of things in common with the young ladies that went to my all girl prep school. However, in college, I was a fish out of water. I was an opinionated Northern girl who went to a very small college in the South. It was a terrible fit.
Some seasons in life, you are not in a group that you have a lot in common with. Encourage your teenager to keep being themselves and to have hope for the future. When they head off to a job or college, they may find more people that share their unique viewpoint and interests in life.
When Your Lonely Teenager Has No Friends
What have you found worked or didn’t work for your teen?