Teenage boys aren't exactly well-known for their social graces. Whether your teen is socially awkward or has a serious fear of making friends and being in social situations, you can help him learn to feel more comfortable and confident around other people. You may be surprised to know that it's your relationship with your teen that has a large influence on how he interacts with others outside of your home, putting you in the driver's seat when it comes to helping your teen's social behavior.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services puts the responsibility for a teen's social behavior squarely on the shoulders of parents. Warm, communicative parenting plus healthy relationships with siblings inside the home led to better social relationships outside the home, according to a 2002 research brief for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you want your son to feel more confident at school and while making friends, give him plenty of praise and attention at home while talking to him about what is and isn't appropriate social behavior.
Encourage Extracurricular Activity
One of the fastest ways that your son can make friends is through joining a group, team or extracurricular activity. It easily groups him with other teens who have similar interests, so he can more easily talk with and meet new people. Whether it's a school basketball team, an outdoor club, a reading club or a community swim team, make it a rule that your teen join at least one group or team each year to help push him to make friends and spend time outside of your home.
It might sound counter-intuitive -- tell your teen to spend more time on the computer to boost his social skills? But a study published in the December 2011 issue of "Psychological Services" found that socially awkward teens who maintained a blog or online journal increased their confidence and improved their social skills over time. The study credited the effect of a supportive online community, where teens felt comfortable expressing themselves. That effect then trickled down to overall social skills. Encourage your teen to spend the right kind of time online -- less time playing games and more time expressing himself and making meaningful online relationships, as long as he agrees to be safe with his identity.
If your teen seems to be visibly fearful of social situations, he might be more than just awkward -- he could have a social phobia. Social phobias affect about 12 percent of shy teens, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If your child has a social phobia, see your family doctor. There, you can receive a referral for a mental health professional who can work with your teen to improve his social skills and coping strategies for when he feels uncomfortable or fearful in social situations.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Helping Teens Develop Healthy Social Skills and Relationships
- Psychological Services; The Therapeutic Value of Adolescents' Blogging About Social–Emotional Difficulties; Meyran Boniel-Nissim and Azy Barak; December 2011
- National Institute of Mental Health: National Survey Dispels Notion that Social Phobia is the Same as Shyness
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