While many teens are practically addicted to their social lives -- hanging out with friends, dating, constantly texting -- not all teens have such social skills. Anything from phobias to life circumstances can make it hard for your teen to make and keep social connections. By creating structured opportunities for her to get to know others, you can help your unsocialized teen get out there, meet new people and make new friends.
High school can be a scary place for a teen without social skills. Still, it's one of the best places to meet people who have similar interests. Encourage your teen to enroll in classes that he enjoys; he'll likely find people who have common interests. Being active in school activities such as clubs and sports can also help your teen become more comfortable with his social skills.
Sports and Extracurricular Activities
Even teens who don't attend a traditional high school can reap the benefits of being part of a team, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics. Community sports are an excellent way to help socialize your teen. Sports foster almost instantaneous social connections. If your teen isn't into sports, other activities such as art classes, outdoor groups, gaming groups and drama clubs can all allow your teen to break out of her shell and meet new people.
Encouraging your teen to make friends online can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it's a way to make connections, even if the interaction isn't face-to-face. On the other hand, your teen could retreat to an entirely online world, without learning to socialize in real life. It's fine to give your teen some online computer socialization. However, monitor interactions and give your teen plenty of opportunities to socialize away from the computer, warns OnGuardOnline.gov. Online friends and online autonomy could give him the confidence boost he needs to make face-to-face friends.
Encouraging your teen to volunteer gives her opportunities to meet people outside of her narrow circle. Anything from reading to kids at the library to volunteering at a senior's home can help your teen hone her social skills and feel good about helping others. What's more, social volunteering can be more effective than having your teen volunteer on his own -- 70 percent of teens whose friends volunteered were more likely to volunteer themselves, according to a survey by DoSomething.org. Check with your community center for volunteer opportunities that would work for your teen.
If your teen's antisocial tendencies go far past simply being shy, your teen could have a behavioral disorder or social phobia. According to a study published in a 2011 issue of Pediatrics, 12 percent of teens who identified themselves as "shy" met the criteria for social phobia. Social phobias are common in those who aren't simply shy of social situations, but actually fear them. If you suspect your teen has a social or behavioral disorder, see your family doctor. She can give you a referral to a mental health professional who can help prep your teen for healthier socialization with coping techniques and treatment options.