Your son has never been on a sports team. He doesn’t belong to a club at school and he doesn’t ask for you to drive him and his friends to the movies, either. As glad as you are that he hasn’t joined a “bad” crowd, you’d be happy to see him spend some time with almost anyone. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, many children who consider themselves lonely may be suffering from self-consciousness, self-criticism, awkwardness in social settings and low self-esteem. If you follow some tips, you may be able to help your teen feel less isolated.
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Encourage him to find group activities that he enjoys. Offer to pay for a social activity of his choice if it costs any money. If he’s not particularly athletic, encourage him to join a theater group, a choir or a volunteer opportunity. If he’s more interested in playing table top or card games, many game shops are full of people with the same hobbies. Other group ideas that are open to teens of all backgrounds include Boy Scouts and youth groups. If your son socializes with a group of like-minded teens, he will get the chance to practice his social skills and he will be more likely to feel as though he fits in with a crowd.
Stay positive. Your son may initially resist the idea of joining any activity that might require him to interact with others, but continue to motivate him and he may eventually build up some courage. Boost his confidence by praising his intellect, his willingness to take in stray animals, his excellent taste in music or his ability to make the whole family laugh.
Recruit an older, positive male role model to spend time with your son. If your son insists upon staying inside the house, find a male who doesn’t live in your home to get your son out of the house once a week. Consider asking an older teen from church or a friend of the family. Alternately, you may find a volunteer mentor such as a “Big Brother” who will be matched specifically to your son. A positive role model will be able to give your teen the esteem boost that he needs, and your teen will realize that he’s not just hearing about his positive traits from a biased parent.
Take him to a therapist. Some teens may have underlying psychological conditions that have caused -- or have been produced by -- the lack of a social life. In therapy, a shy teen may be able to hear specific techniques on getting past that “fight or flight” response in social situations. In some cases, a teen with a severe social anxiety disorder may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications in addition to receiving counseling.