Being the parent of a socially awkward tween is difficult and heartbreaking. I was a socially akward kid all through school, and to see my son experience this social awkwardness is hard to deal.
My son’s name is Michael. He is 11 years old and in 6th grade. Michael, or Mike, as his father and I call him, also has developmental delays which categorize him with ASD. Needless to say, social situations have always been tough. His father and I are guilty of sheltering Mike in the past, not really going out for fear of embarrassment. Mike had a tendency in the past to just blurt out observations of people in public. Usually these observations involved morbidly obese persons in restaurants. Flash forward to now, the social blunders are lack of eye contact and one worded responses to questions. Also, just flat-out ignoring people.
Now that Mike is a tween, and being in middle school, the social pressures are just getting worse. My son has mentioned in the past he had no friends at school. When asked why, he just said he didn’t like anyone. Once I dug deeper with my questions, it was that he is incredibly shy and scared of rejection. Ok, so what do we do about it?
I turned to my trusty reference Google and searched for ways to help socially awkward tweens. Here is what I found out and what I am going to discuss with his father to implement:
- Get your child involved in activities with other children where they can develop their gifts and strengths. These include the obvious, like team sports. But if your child, like mine, is not athletically inclined, there are tons of other activities, like Martial Arts, Book Clubs, Summer Camps, 4-H, Community Theater, Art Clubs, Running Clubs (athletic, but not team sports), Music clubs.
- Don’t be afraid to check out other clubs through non school agencies, someone told me about meetup groups for teens, but I haven’t really checked it out yet.
- Help your child develop friendships with like-minded kids outside their classroom or school, like church, or other places of worship.
Another thing I noticed with Mike is that he has low self-confidence. With the lack of friendship and having a ‘tribe’, loneliness sets in. It’s hard to be self-confident when you are sad and lonely. I am guilty myself of this and as parents, we need to watch our own self talk.
If your child’s anxiety with meeting new friends and being in social situations is severe, it may be helpful to talk with a counselor to see what the root issues are. Mike is currently seeing a therapist and it has been helpful to at least figure out what is going on. Mike’s father and I feel like we need a crow bar just get our son to open up. I challenged Mike this week to talk to other shy kids his age. Because more than likely, they are feeling how he is feeling. Being welcoming and kind is a great way to get to know others.
Since I was a socially awkward kid myself, I find it helpful to share my stories with Mike about what I went through in my younger years. Sharing in a way that is entertaining and funny is a way to help lessen the anxiety of your child.
Since kids are incredibly perceptive, they are watching us as parents. I am going to ‘practice what I preach’ to set a good example. Meaning, making small talk with the barista at Starbucks, or complimenting someone.
What issues have you had with being socially awkward as a tween/teen? Do you have children that are socially akward? What action steps did you take to help your child?