For many adolescents, teenage years prove the perfect time to socialize and build a base of friends. Some teens, however, struggle with socialization or experience challenges that make this potentially enjoyable socialization a bit less than fun. If your teen runs into socialization issues, it may transform his years of footloose and fancy-free friend building into a period of woe and upset over his peer-related challenges.
Making friends isn’t so easy for some. Teens who struggle with shyness may loathe approaching peers or striking up conversations. While for some this shyness is a temporary struggle that they ultimately overcome, some teens go through their entire teenage years struggling to make or maintain friendships due to their shyness. Your teen is likely suffering from shyness if he is particularly tentative when meeting new people or doing new things, such as heading off to the first day of school, reports KidsHealth. There is, unfortunately, little that parents can do if their teen proves to be shyer than most. You can, however, try to encourage your shy teen to approach others.
If your teen avoids social situations seemingly at all costs, it is possible that she suffers from a social phobia. As WebMD reports, 5.3 million Americans suffer from social phobia, a severe form of shyness that leads them to avoid social situations. While this issue can first appear at any age, the average age of onset is between 11 and 19 years old, making teenage years a common time for social phobia to develop. Teens who suffer from social phobia, unlike teens who are just generally shy, will likely not warm up to people with ease, even after they have known the people for a while. They may even be reluctant to talk in social situations and engage in selective mutism, or not talking by choice, reports KidsHealth. For teens who suffer from social phobia, forced socialization can be incredibly upsetting and lead to increased anxiety levels and even physical discomfort. In some cases, this social phobia is so severe that the teen requires medication or professional therapy to reduce the effects of the malady.
As teenagers develop bonds with peers, they may fall into cliques. These groups can become territorial and attempt to exclude others or make others who differ from them feel bad. To many teens, a clique initially seems like a good thing, as it seems to be a group of peers who care for them, but often this exclusivity and desire to exclude leads to problems, particularly for teens who experience a falling out with one or more of the clique’s members, reports KidsHealth.
Bullying was once seen as simply a part of teen relationships, but now it has become a problem of almost epidemic proportions, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bullying occurs when someone injures or scares another person using words or actions, reports this same source. In some cases, bullying behavior can be so hurtful that it leads to the teen going to extreme measures, and perhaps even making attempts to end their life. Many trace the increase in the impact of bullying to the fact that it is harder for bullied individuals to escape their tormentors today than it once was, as bullies can continue to exert their power digitally even when their victim is not around.
Helping Your Teen
As your teen moves through his teenage years and forms relationships, he will necessarily have positive and negative experiences. The best thing you can do for your teen is be aware of what is going on in his life, reports KidHealth. This doesn’t mean that you have to eavesdrop on his conversations or insert yourself fully into his social life, but instead that you should keep lines of communication open and make it clear to your teen that you are ready and willing to talk whenever he wants to share information about his life with you.