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CurlyStache | How to Foster Positive Relations with Socially Awkward Teens

CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | Teen girl walking outside being picked on by 2 other teen girls

How to Foster Positive Relations with Socially Awkward Teens



This blog will cover essential dos and don'ts in assessing and identifying obstacles troubling your teen socially. Additionally, we will cover tools, resources, and techniques you can use to help your teen through their difficult time—including a top 10 list of most effective ways to assist your teen in developing social connections. From the tools within this article and your compassion as a parent, there is nothing your teen can't accomplish during this challenging period.
CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | Cover Image for Blog Post "How to Foster Positive Relations with Socially Awkward Teens"
Written By Daniel Currie
Published: September 25, 2023

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As a parent, you want the best for your child, especially regarding their social life. However, if your teen struggles with social interactions and feels awkward in social settings, knowing how to help them can be challenging. But don't worry, as we are raising teens today, we can do a few things to support and understand them.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it's crucial to recognize that everyone is unique regarding how social they are and want to be. Some teens crave the center stage, wanting to be the life of the party, while others are content with calling their cat their best friend, to whom they tell all their secrets. Even though your teen may appear to struggle connecting with others and become more social like all their peers, they could be content with precisely how they are. Our job as parents is to identify exactly what is going on; this way, we can help appropriately if help is needed.

CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | Pretty blonde teen girl shrugging

Assess the situation. When the time is right, communicate with your teen. Your teen must understand it's okay to make mistakes and that social awkwardness is a common experience that everyone goes through. Question them, asking them what they prefer regarding their social preference. Do they want to be part of a big group of friends that hang out at the football game? Do they like a few close friends who get lost in each other's secrets? Online via social media or online gaming? Perhaps their grandpa is the only one who understands them best. Or maybe they are just an animal lover whose whole world revolves around the pet cat they've had since a toddler.

There is no wrong friendship or way of socializing; within the human mind, emotions and how they make you feel are all the same. Suppose it is not the mainstream version of socializing, such as going to a party on Saturday night, instead preferring to stay home to play Xbox or building a contraption for the pet cat. In that case, it simply means they are uniquely exceptional. They are original people who would much rather march to their own beat than anyone else. To all teens who do what makes them happy (socially or otherwise), regardless of what others may think, I tip my hat to you because you are doing it correctly!

If you find your teen is doing their own thing and marching to their own tune because they choose to, life is good! No need to worry anymore; they are doing what makes them happy, and their social skills are developing just fine. Keep in mind, many teens who choose to be alone or with very few friends (a) do, in fact, have an outlet for someone to confide in, laugh with, and share secrets with, most likely at school and away from parents, and (b) their social skills are continuing to grow through school, whereas the weeknights and weekends are needed to decompress from it all.

CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | Teen girl sitting on stairs in school being picked on and bullied by other teens

However, if your teen wants to get out and have a robust social life but is struggling to make friends or keep friends or just feels awkward in social settings, there are things we can do to help. Start by ruling out problems directly contributing to social issues, such as drug or alcohol abuse, school bullying, or clinical depression. Be encouraged to talk with school counselors, teachers, and principals about school behavior issues or potential bullying. If medical problems are suspected or identified, consult your medical physician before anything. Remember, social skills building will not work if depression is not treated first.

Once substance abuse, medical problems, or other physical issues have been ruled out or dealt with, the next step is to ensure you separate your issues from theirs. What I mean by this is that parents have the tendency, even if subconsciously, to project not only their wants and needs to their teen but also their fears and paranoia. When coupled with addressing your teen's social issues, since it can be an unnerving situation, when your parental instincts kick in, and you want to jump in and "fix it," making it all the better for your teen, it often backfires, sending the wrong message. 

Your teen could see your intervening and trying to help (although the intentions are good) as questioning their competency to make friends and be social and independent. Instead, don't go out trying to fix anything; be there for them, attentively listening while being impartial, gaining your teen's trust as they confide in you. Remember, the more your teen feels like you could be criticizing them or your body language implies you are judging them, the less likely they will ever want to confide in you.

If you don't show tolerance and grace when they open up to you, helping them get through their social roadblock becomes very difficult. Keep in the back of your mind as your teenager divulges that they are in a volatile period: not a child anymore, but not an adult either. Remind yourself you were once in that position, too, where you were a confused, excited, emotional, untidy, sensitive, and secretive teenager.

CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | Upset teen daughter talking with concerned mother

Ensure you empathize with your teen. No matter what they say, try to stay calm and, crucially, listen to them before coming to conclusions. There is no need to show judgment; make them feel comfortable and safe knowing they can freely talk about an uneasy situation. Once your teen has explained how they feel and what seems to be the obstacle they need to overcome, don't be quick to tell them their mistakes or suggest what they could've done differently. Instead, voice back to them what they stated, clarifying their thoughts and allowing them to interpret the summary of the situation so they can find their flaws or improvements, if any, on their own. While they become comfortable opening up to you, it also allows for a unique perspective into your teen that you may have otherwise never seen.

Encourage them to approach social situations with a positive attitude and focus on having fun rather than worrying about how they are perceived by others. Offer your advice and wisdom when they ask. It's completely fine to request to make a suggestion after they laid it all out on the table, and you listen intently to everything they had to say. Ensure you never pressure them to take your guidance or suggestions; only they can choose to take your advice or leave it. We are here to support and guide them however they need; remember, this uneasy situation isn't about you - it's about your teen. So take a deep breath, turn off your brain, and simply be there for them however they need.

Of course, as parents, we need to be proactive and encourage ways to conquer social awkwardness. It is important to stress that coercing or forcing our teens into anything is not helping; it only hurts and further upsets them. That being said, subtly suggest or offer ways they could get involved in situations that trigger a positive social experience or ways to prepare for the next time there is a social situation. 

Top 10 essential strategies to assist teens who feel socially awkward begin feeling more comfortable and confident making connections:

Friendships: Discuss what friendship means to your teen. Define what a friend means to cultivate relationships better. To some, a friend is someone you see at a party. To others, it may be a sole friend. Once you've identified what is needed, you can help guide your teen toward achieving the friendship they desire.



Common Interests: Look for places where common interests intersect, such as online forums, extracurricular clubs, support groups, and even online games (multiplayer or one-on-one). These are excellent low-stake environments where people can meet and interact with the same base interests or issues.
CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | African American teen boy and caucasian teen girl in group talking together








​Transitions: As teens age, they find new sports, social circles, clubs, or groups. This usually means spending less time with old friends while offering the chance to make new friends. It is an excellent opportunity to explain how interests change and how pursuing new things and meeting new people is healthy.

Activities: Try new activities, sports, or hobbies. This is a great natural way to begin communicating with peers and stimulating friendships. It encourages socialization, all while allowing your teen to discover new interests they can look forward to. As a bonus, the built-in structure of the activity will assist in reducing anxieties.

Online: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, friendships and social experiences have bloomed online in the digital world. Although face-to-face is preferred, the human connection is there, allowing natural feelings to flow and the sense of being wanted to be fulfilled. Online friends can be an excellent stepping stone to the real deal as they become more comfortable and confident in face-to-face interactions.

Role-play: Find what situations make your teen the most uncomfortable, play out different scenarios, and give suggestions on how to handle each. They really will listen to you, even if they may not seem to!

Small Talk: Baby steps. Do they feel uncomfortable talking in crowds or with classmates or employees? Have them try starting a small conversation with someone they will never see again (or a frequent person they bump into, turning into a real friendship!) Try the local cashier at the grocery store, the bookstore clerk, or lunch lady.

Social Cues: Discussing social cues will help in joining conversations and socializing. Explain and role-play familiar signals, such as eye contact, body language, hand signals, etc., or if a group falls silent as you approach, tones and moods/vibes change. Go over how to read and handle each situation.

Counseling: Sometimes, it's easiest to begin talking to a counselor. It does not need to be to talk about problems or social issues. Think of it this way: if you can start a conversation with them, you can begin a conversation with any individual!
CurlyStache Raising Teens Blog | Teen girl in therapy with counselor in background
Medical: If your teen's social anxiety impacts their daily life excessively, seeking professional help may also be necessary. A therapist can provide them with tools and strategies to manage their anxiety and build confidence in social settings.


In conclusion, helping your socially awkward teen involves understanding their perspective, encouraging them to join clubs or groups, practicing social skills, and reassuring them that it's okay to make mistakes. With your unwavering support and guidance, your teen can learn to navigate social situations with confidence and ease. Remember, as a parent, you can make all the difference in your teen's life.
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