As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child struggle to make friends, whether it’s in high school or when they start college. But this is an area where they need to be in the driver’s seat. They’re too old at this stage to have Mom or Dad jump in on their behalf. But that doesn’t mean you have a big role to play as their parent. Here are some ways that you can help a teen or college student who is having trouble making friends:
Remind Them To Be Themselves
Authenticity is key to forming genuine connections. The last thing anyone wants is to make friends by pretending to be someone they’re not — just think how long it would take to keep up those appearances! When a person embraces their interests, hobbies, and personality quirks, they’re more true to themselves and thus more likely to attract friends who appreciate them for who they are.
Encourage Them To Expand Their Interests
Joining clubs, organizations, or groups related to their passions or interests can help foster friendships with like-minded individuals who share their enthusiasm. Whether it’s a sports team, a book club, a volunteer organization, or a gaming group, engaging in activities they love can lead to meaningful friendships.
Be a Good Listener
People appreciate when someone listens to them and shows genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings. Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and asking follow-up questions— then, remind them to do the same when they’re with with friends, classmates, or dorm buddies. Active listening makes people feel heard, which in turn makes it easier to connect with others on a deeper level.
Show Them How To Initiate Conversation
Sometimes, making the first move is necessary. A simple “Hello” or a friendly smile can go a long way in breaking the ice. Encourage your teen not to be afraid to start conversations with classmates, roommates, or people they meet at social events — even if they just start with, “Hi.”.
Encourage Them To Attend Social Events
Participating in social gatherings and events on campus can go a long way to making students feel like they’re part of a community. These can include parties, game nights, workshops, and more. Even if your child is introverted or shy, making an effort to attend such events can provide opportunities to meet new people in a relaxed setting.
Be Supportive And Understanding
It’s crucial to be patient, empathetic, and supportive as a parent. Understand that every child is unique, and some may naturally be more introverted or shy. Avoid placing undue pressure on them to make friends quickly. Instead, let them know that you’re there for them, and they can always talk to you about their feelings and experiences. Sometimes, simply having a safe space to express their concerns can be a significant source of comfort.
Encourage Hobbies and Interests
When teens engage in activities they are passionate about, they are more likely to meet others with similar interests, making it easier to form connections. Support their pursuits by providing resources, enrolling them in classes or clubs related to their interests, or helping them find local groups or communities that share their passion.
Provide Social Skills Coaching
Some teens may benefit from specific social skills coaching or training. This can involve working with a therapist or counselor who specializes in social development. These professionals can help your teen practice and refine their social skills, including conversation skills, body language, and understanding social cues. Social skills coaching can provide your teen with tools and strategies to navigate social situations more effectively.
Additionally, consider seeking guidance from a school counselor or child psychologist if your child’s difficulty in making friends persists or is causing them significant distress. Professional support can offer tailored strategies and interventions to address their specific needs and challenges.
Ultimately, the key is to create a supportive and nurturing environment where your child feels confident and valued, which can help them build social connections more effectively over time.
Remember that forming friendships takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t make friends right away. It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and to encourage them to be open to different types of people and experiences. Building meaningful connections is a gradual process.
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