I know a family with four teenagers. Three are popular, well-liked and have active social lives. The fourth, a girl, is socially awkward and lacks loyal friends. She is self-absorbed and over-shares her feelings on Facebook. She has zero sense of humor. Her siblings tease her unmercifully.
It’s sad that this family doesn’t rally around the awkward girl. She is made fun of at school and at home. She needs a support system, and her parents are unsure of how to help her.
I have a teen who prefers the company of his little brother and iPhone. He doesn’t mingle much with his peers. I used to wring my hands and wonder how he can be happy, playing video games and basketball with his little bro every single weekend. I have pressed him to invite someone over or to the movies. I’ve quizzed him about the boys his age to find out who is nice and who isn’t. For several months, I grew increasingly frustrated with his casual attitude toward a social life.
Then, it hit me. My son is content. He laughs and jokes a lot. He doesn’t hang out with kids outside of school, but he does get together with them during lunch and for church activities. He doesn’t live in a hole. And he’s not the awkward girl mentioned above. He socializes at school and church, and that is enough for him right now.
I realized that my son’s contentment is more than enough reason for me to quit worrying.
Unsocial kids vary from painfully awkward to simply reserved. Unfortunately, they may deal with bullying or low self-esteem. They may need professional help for depression, an addiction or self-destructive behaviors. Barring these behaviors, be assured that your unsocial teen is probably just fine. Still, we want for our children to be happily engaged with life. Here are some simple ways parents can help.
Invite your teen to join you
Get in the car and grab a frozen yogurt together. Go to the mall. Invite your teen to go on a walk or bike ride. Sometimes, just the act of leaving home for a few minutes can be a boost.
Involve your other kids
If you have one daughter heading to the movies with friends, ask her to invite the sister who doesn’t get out much. It’s just a movie. Such gestures can mean so much.
Encourage your teen's hobbies
Even if my son’s hobby is a solitary one, engaging in it makes him supremely happy. He finds joy in using and improving his skills.
Help your child set goals
The teen years aren’t fun for everyone. But once high school ends, many possibilities open up. Help your child understand the opportunities before her — to work, travel, attend college, enjoy a career, marry and have children. Who she is in high school doesn’t have to define her.
Every day, find out how your teen is doing. Don’t nag or drill him with questions, but casually ask how his day went. Look for signs that he is depressed or unhappy. Let him know that you’re always available for a chat or to answer any questions. Be playful and make him laugh.
Express your love
Some teenagers will run the other way if you try to embrace them, but a light hug and a touch go a long way. Tell your teens that you love them. Offer lots of positive reinforcement.
Rest assured that your teen will get through the awkward years. Sometimes it takes time, but eventually teens do find their footing.