Is Your Teenager Struggling To Connect With Others In Healthy Ways?

Does your teenager seem highly anxious – especially in social situations? Does he or she struggle to maintain long-term friendships or have very few friends? If your teen does have friends, does he or she appear to compromise his or herself – perhaps behave in uncharacteristic or unhealthy ways – in an attempt to fit in? Does your adolescent dread going to school and social events or even flat out refuse to go? Are you often in conflict with your child and get the feeling that he or she feels nagged or misunderstood? Do you worry that your teenager’s unhappiness, anxiety and relationship struggles may get worse and affect his or her ability to function well in the world? Are you scared about what the future will look like for your teen if he or she remains socially isolated and awkward?

Adolescence is a time defined by developing self-identity and learning how to function in different kinds of relationships. While the social piece of the teenage years is considered one of the most important, it can also be the most challenging. And, for some teenagers, figuring out how to effectively connect with others can be extremely scary. As a parent of a teen who is experiencing social challenges, it can be a highly frustrating and painful experience to witness your child struggle to make and maintain relationships – especially if your parent/child relationship is strained. While it’s natural to want to reach out to your teenager and make everything okay – like you did when he or she was younger – you may find that it is now more difficult to connect.

Many Teenagers Struggle With Social Issues

Social issues affect all teenagers on some level. Again, figuring out how to create and function within relationships is part of what defines the teenage experience. During these years, teenagers are charged with the big tasks of figuring out who they are and how they fit into their increasingly expanding worlds. While some teenagers handle the transition time from child to adult with moderate challenge, some become overwhelmed with feelings of self-doubt and heightened insecurity. There is a wide spectrum of sociability that all teenagers fall somewhere within. A BPS therapist can help determine if your child’s feelings and behaviors fall outside of what is considered a normal part of the teenage experience. If it does, getting your teenager help during this critical developmental time can be extremely effective.

Therapy Can Help Your Teenager Learn Navigate Their Social Experience

Experience shows us that teenagers who have a harder time than normal with social issues can benefit greatly from working with the right therapist. The very nature of the therapist/client experience is relationship based. In therapy, your teenager will see first-hand what it’s like to develop a trusting relationship.

Once trust is established, your BPS therapist will help your teenager work on self-acceptance and identity issues and learn to appreciate the parts of themselves that they try to hide from the rest of the world. Your teen can develop skills to cope with anxiety, build and maintain healthy relationships and learn how to communicate with others about who they are. They can also learn how to untangle their thoughts about how others perceive them and dismantle catastrophic thinking. With proper help and support, your teenager can have a more normal and healthy teenage experience.

While there is generally no quick fix for social anxieties, the right therapist can help your teenager develop a greater understanding and appreciation for who they are and what they can contribute to their community. The teen years are a critical time to do this important work. Addressing social issues now – before your child leaves home – can provide the solid foundation he or she needs to feel and function well within the larger world.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

Isn’t this a phase that all teens go through? Won’t my teen eventually push past his or her social anxieties and be okay?

Most teenagers are extremely resilient, and you may be right – in time, your teenager may learn how to navigate his or her social environment in healthy ways. But, on the flip side, if something deeper is going on for your child and it goes unaddressed, his or her problems could worsen. They may develop poor coping skills and might even engage in risky behaviors or self-medicate with substances.

A BPS therapist qualified and experienced in counseling for teen social issues can help determine if your child needs some outside help and support. If so, your teenager can learn that they don’t have to feel bad forever – there are healthy ways to cope with negative thoughts and emotions. Learning these skills now can make a big difference in how they see themselves and engage with others throughout their lives.

My child has become very isolated. I’m worried that nothing – even therapy – can help.

A lot of teenagers have started therapy in a very lonely space and “graduated” therapy feeling more able to connect with others in healthy and meaningful ways. The right therapist will find a way to reach your child and create breakthroughs – which can provide a lot of relief for not only your child, but for you, too. Your BPS therapist will take the process slowly and meet your child where he or she is emotionally. Your therapist will learn your teenager’s natural rhythm and personality, what they like and who they perceive themselves to be. The goal isn’t to change who your teenager is, but, rather, to help them become more accepting of themselves. In time, your teen can learn ways to connect with others and manage their stresses and anxieties. And, as a natural part of the therapeutic process, they will see, first-hand, that they are capable of developing a trusting and successful relationship.

I think that therapy could help, but we’re a little concerned about the stigma that therapy can carry. I’m worried that my teen will struggle even more if the kids at school find out.

The big issue here isn’t the stigma or the label that therapy may or may not carry, but, rather, what’s going on for your teenager. If he or she truly is struggling and needs expert help, addressing the issues now can be critical. A BPS therapist can help your child navigate the teenage years, and also prevent more issues from developing as he or she moves into adulthood. The coping skills that you child learns now – healthy or unhealthy – will likely be used throughout his or her life. Developing a positive sense of self now can have a positive effect on your teenager’s future.

Also, we are fortunate to live within a community that widely supports all people – teenagers included – taking care of their mental health and wellbeing. Many teenagers in the community are getting help for one thing or another. A focus on caring for the whole self – the physical, mental and emotional – is something that is common, accepted and even celebrated in and around our community.

To increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory which will help you to determine what your teenager’s specific issues are and ensure a good match between you, your teen and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

Check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with teenagers and social issues.

BPS therapist Harmony Barrett Isaacs, LPC helped create the content for this page. Harmony is a licensed professional counselor whose practice has a strong focus on helping adolescents navigate many of the tough issues that can arise during the teenage years. She has been working with teenagers struggling with social issues since 2000.