Is your child struggling socially in school?

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The teenage years are often thought of as a carefree time full of opportunity and free from responsibility, but adults often forget about the social pressures that come along with adolescence. Making and keeping friends is a learned behavior and some teens are naturally socially successful while others need more practice and guidance. Kids begin the social hierarchy in school at the end of elementary school or beginning of middle school and they place increasing importance on this social ladder throughout their high school years. Unfortunately kids who are not socially accepted may be at greater risk for bullying, anxiety and depression.

How to help your child make friends

Teens often feel disassociated with their parents. The don’t think their parents understand what they are going through and often think that things are different from when their parents were teenagers. It is important that you validate your teen’s feelings when they express their social problems to you. Dismissing their experiences or belittling them can cause teens to withdraw even further from their parents and increase their feelings of estrangement.

Your natural instinct as a parent may be to fix the problem if your child is struggling socially, but adolescence are learning how to cope with difficult situations and how to be independent. To many teens, the thought of their parents calling a classmate’s parents or confronting their adversary at school sounds horrifying. Instead, a healthy parenting tactic is to ensure that your teen knows you are available to listen to their problems and offer support and guidance when it is asked for. When your child does come to you for advice, it is important that you lead them to their own conflict resolution actions, rather than providing specific directions, so they are able to make and think through their own decisions.

Teach by example

You may think that your teen isn’t paying attention to your friendships because they refuse to join in adult activities, but they are observing the way you interact with others. Setting a positive example of how to greet, respect and treat a friend encourages teens to seek healthy friendships of their own. Adolescents need to learn that similar interests are the key to lasting friendships, not popularity.

It is normal for teens to have some apprehension as they adjust to the changing social scene and the vast majority are not emotionally scarred by their adolescent ordeals. Lastly, it is important that parents not impose their own social expectations on their children. Some kids thrive with just 1 or 2 close friends, while others relish in relating to every kid in their class.