5 Ways To Help Your Teen Build Authentic, Lasting Friendships

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Do you have a teen who's having trouble socializing and making friends?

If your child clings to friends who don't treat them well, you, as a parent, may want to help. But, your teen might refuse, claiming that everything is OK.

Unfortunately, everything is not "OK." In fact, social isolation can impact social skills for teens. And it's excruciating!

You know that despite your teen's claims that they have plenty of friends, they don't have the kind of positive friendships you want for your kids.

RELATED: What To Do When Your Teen Is Making Friends You Don't Approve Of

When spontaneous social interactions are disrupted, the loss of social engagement may impact your child’s ability to learn and practice social skills naturally.

Asking them to "reach out" may seem like a simple suggestion, but your teen may resist due to all the steps and time required to coordinate the invitation. They may even have a thin social network and fear rejection.

But, the good news is that teaching social skills is possible.

Here are 5 ways parents can help develop social skills for teens who are having trouble making friends.

1. Evaluate their friendships.

Help your child evaluate what makes a good friend and which steps are required to make and keep friends. Don’t single out a friend.

Instead, help your teen recognize the steps necessary to connect. This will allow them to examine friendships in general.

After all, even if that one friend is removed from the equation, the problem still remains.

2. Explore the value of friendships.

Unless the friendship is a dangerous one, take a conversational approach by asking them about their friends without judgment or harsh restrictions.

Ask open-ended questions, such as "What do you enjoy doing with your friend?" or "What do you like about him or her?"

We want children to develop lifelong positive beliefs about how they should be treated and to choose positive friends who make positive choices.

3. Empathize with them.

Information is power, so regardless of what your child says, take a moment to breathe and listen. The larger goal is to gain your child’s trust, which is more important than any minor rule infraction.

Help your child know that they can always feel comfortable coming to you, no matter what social problems they're encountering, now or in the future.

RELATED: 6 Ways Parents Can Communicate With Their Teenagers Better (According To Teens)

4. Don’t impose your goals.

Ask and listen, don’t apply pressure nor assume you know the reasons for your child’s behavior.

Getting your child to feel comfortable talking to you requires waiting, listening, and showing confidence that they have the capacity to learn and grow.

If you try to push your agenda, you will likely get nowhere.

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By truly hearing your child’s perspective, you allow them to hold a mirror up to their views about friendship and evaluate them. This takes time, but it will have better results.

5. Reflect, clarify, and be curious.

Paraphrasing what your child says and then repeating it back to them shows empathy and helps clarify your child’s concerns.

By summarizing and repeating their statements, you allow your child to clarify, share more information, and explain their interpretation of the statement. This curiosity invites them to be comfortable opening up to you.

Good social skills are essential for effective communication, but they don’t come easily.

Teens with ADHD or are gifted, especially, are in greater need of opportunities to socialize but they may lack the social skills, maturity, executive functioning skills, and self-awareness to makes friends.

This social isolation produces a more negative impact than in their neurotypical peers.

Luckily, teens can learn social skills with your help.

RELATED: 5 Supportive Strategies Every Parent Of An Anxious Teen Should Know

Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed. is a personal coach who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at carolinemaguireauthor.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.