The teenage years are often tricky, and with more socializing done via technology, some teen boys struggle to develop the social skills that girls often find easier to acquire. Also, many boys aren’t taught how to socialize outside of playing sports together, making natural social skills difficult for some boys.
While a certain amount of awkward anxiety is expected when young teen boys start trying to develop social skills, sometimes, that social anxiety can be paralyzing. Without concentrated effort from parents, this anxiety can leave teenage boys behind socially, to the point where specialized therapeutic schooling is required to help them catch up with their peers.
Before you reach that point with your son, there are ways you can help him develop the social skills that will serve him in his future relationships, workplaces, and other situations throughout his life.
1. Help Your Son Recognize His Strengths And Interests
Social anxiety can often combine with depression, leaving your son believing that he has no strengths or anything of interest to offer to a conversation. So, one of the things you can do with your son is to help him recognize his strengths.
These strengths may not be traditionally recognized traits—i.e., sports skills for most boys. Instead, maybe he is an excellent gamer, loves historical facts, is a budding artist, etc. Traditional gender roles don’t promote these things as strength in men, but your son doesn’t have to fit these narrow definitions. Instead, you can encourage him to be proud of his strengths and interests as something to offer potential friends and to help him socialize.
2. Prioritize What Social Skills To Focus On First
Learning how to socialize can seem overwhelming, especially if your son has developed more reclusive habits. Rather than letting the size of the task overwhelm your son, work together to prioritize what skills to work on first.
Maybe your son wants to get better at maintaining eye contact with others, or he wants help starting conversations. It might help to write down what he would like to work on so that you both can organize what social skills he should focus on first.
3. Talk To Your Son About What He’s Looking For In Friends
It is important that your son has a good idea of what he is looking for in the friends he hopes to make. Otherwise, it is easy to get into one-sided friendships with people who would use a socially-awkward teen who hasn’t other friends to turn to in need. In helping your teenage son determine what kind of qualities future friends should have, he will be better equipped than many of his peers when he moves out of your home.
Sometimes, without guidance, teenage boys can end up falling in with a negative group of friends, as their acceptance is often easier at the start. However, socializing on the fringes can lead your son down the wrong path, and in some cases, teenage boys have needed residential treatment programs to help restart them on the right track.
4. Investigate Hobbies, Sports, And Extracurricular Activities
Depending on your son’s current interests and hobbies, he may need to branch out to help him further develop his social skills. Things like sports, after school clubs, and hobby groups are easy ways for your son to meet other people with his interests.
When he is around those that share his hobbies and passions, it will be far easier for him to socialize. That social confidence can carry on to other aspects of your son’s life.
5. Practice Social Skills At Home
Practice makes perfect, and if your son feels awkward trying to socialize, practicing at home is key to helping him be more comfortable. Some of the practices should be natural—i.e., conversations during dinner, talk about his day, etc.
You can also practice conversation openers and help your son see when and where he can jump into a conversation. While some people will naturally pick up these skills, not all teens do, and it can make talking with others difficult.
6. Consider Therapeutic Options For Highly Socially Anxious Teens
There are a number of therapeutic options for teens who not only struggle to develop social skills but also suffer from high social anxiety. This anxiety—if left untreated—can leave teens behind socially, and may turn into severe phobias, such as social phobia, agoraphobia, etc.
Bringing in professional help can help prevent your teen from undue struggle. Some teens can respond well to regular talk therapy. Though, for teens who have other issues along with struggling to develop socially, there are more therapeutically immersive environments like therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment programs for troubled teens.
If you would like to discuss what program options may work best for your son and his positive development, feel free to contact us for more information.