At Sundance Canyon Academy, we talk to a lot of parents who are worried about their teen son’s loneliness. They worry that social isolation might be causing depression and anxiety, and they worry that their kid won’t grow up to have the social skills he needs. We also recognize that some teens with mental health problems struggle to make social connections in the same way that their peers do. If you are worried about your teen’s loneliness and social connections, contact us to talk more about healthy options for your teen.
We like to think fondly of the teen years as a time to have fun with friends and make memories. Whether the kids are jocks or nerds is beside the point. In movies and books, everyone has a place and finds the other kids who are just like them. They bond together, get into mischief together, and forge a friendship that lasts a lifetime. It’s a great sentiment, but it’s not a reality for many teens.
All too often, teens find themselves alone and friendless. They don’t seem to fit in with the other kids at their school, so they don’t get invited to the cool parties and events. While their classmates are off playing sports, playing video games, or just hanging out after school, they’re stuck at home alone again.
Kids want to fit in and have some friends. Even if they’re not worried about being the coolest kid in school, they still want someone to like them. They want to feel a sense of connection to other kids their age. When that doesn’t happen, teens can feel lonely and isolated.
If you’re the parent of one of these teens, it can be excruciating to watch your kid battle loneliness. You know how great they are, and you want other teens to see those same amazing qualities that you see in your kid. Though you won’t be able to make friendships for them, there are a few things that you can do to help your teen make connections and overcome loneliness.
Overcoming teenage loneliness
Loneliness and isolation are detrimental to teen mental health. During the teenage years, kids start to branch out from their families to form new relationships and learn age-appropriate social skills. When they don’t connect with other kids their age, teenagers can become depressed and anxious. They might also struggle to develop social skills that they will need in adulthood.
As the parent of a lonely teen, here are a few strategies that you can try to help your teen make friends.
Encourage participation in extracurricular activities
Many teens who struggle with anxiety or depression would rather not participate in extracurricular activities. They have to meet new people, talk to people they don’t know, and learn new skills.
However, your kid won’t make new friends if they don’t meet new people. Encourage your teen to find an activity they like and try it out. They don’t have to keep doing it forever if it doesn’t work out.
Expand their network
If your teen doesn’t connect with the other kids at their school, try an activity outside of school. There are many community sports and clubs for teens that are not school-specific. Maybe they’ll find that they connect with someone from another school better than the kids they already know.
Get your kid to spend less time online and more time in real life
Social media has added a whole new aspect to teenage loneliness that today’s parents didn’t experience as kids. Back in the day, you might have heard that a party was happening and knew you didn’t get an invite.
Now, kids hear that a party is happening, then see their classmates post pictures from it. They see exactly what they’re missing out on in real-time.
The mental agony of knowing what you’re missing out on only makes things worse. If your kid is at home, encourage them to spend less time online and more time in the real world. There are things that they can still do to have fun even if they’re not hanging out with everyone else.
Help your teen discover activities that they find truly engaging
Many lonely teens benefit from activities that are engaging for them. They might enjoy art, music, or physical activity. When kids are engaged in an activity, their minds are active, even if they involve other people. They aren’t sitting around feeling isolated and alone. They’re doing something that connects with them on a deeper level.
Overcoming depression and anxiety due to loneliness
Teenagers feeling lonely or socially isolated often also battle depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, the behaviors associated with depression and anxiety can compound feelings of loneliness.
Signs of teenage loneliness include:
Withdrawing from activities or people they used to enjoy
Spending time alone rather than interacting with others
Being reluctant to meet new people or talk to new people
Getting nervous around new people
Being unwilling to try new activities for fear of failure
Engaging in negative self-talk (Ex: Nobody likes me. I’m a loser.)
Giving up on personal hygiene
Not following through with commitments (Ex: missing practice, skipping parties, etc.)
If you are worried that your teen’s loneliness turns into depression or anxiety, consider getting them into therapy. Many teens see success by receiving consistent therapy addressing the root of their issues and giving them ideas to battle their problems. Some teens need help gaining the confidence to make new friends.
Your teen might need more than traditional therapy can provide, depending on your situation. Some teens benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school to meet new people, engage in new activities, and receive personalized daily therapy.
Call us at 866-225-3708 to determine if our school is a good fit for your son.