Help Your Teen Make Friends: It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Written by: Ali Flynn
Has your teen had a hard time making authentic friends? Do they sometimes (or often) feel anxious at the thought of meeting someone new or being in social situations? Do you wish they had even a few good friends to hang out with? Are you worried they’re lonely or perhaps missing out on fun because they spend a little too much time alone?
Well, let me start by saying, your teen isn’t alone. Plenty of teenagers have a difficult time making friends for a variety of reasons – maybe they’re the new kid in school, maybe they’re shy or rather introverted, or maybe the whole idea of “putting themselves out there” intimidates them. Either way, as a parent, you absolutely can help your teen make friends. In fact, it’s easier than your teen might think!
Pass along these simple tips to help your teen make friends both now and later in life.
25 Tips to Help Your Teen Make Friends: It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
1. Join a Club or Organization
Joining a club will give you a great opportunity to meet other kids who have similar interests. Most middle and high schools have plenty of clubs to choose from. If you like to read, join the book club. If you love photography or writing, check out the yearbook club. Do you love the outdoors but sports just aren’t your thing? Maybe the frisbee or hiking club is for you. Does the idea of helping others bring you joy? Join one of the philanthropy clubs. The common bond created through a club might be just the “glue” needed to create a long-lasting friendship.
2. Strike Up a Conversation
Don’t wait for someone to talk to you first. Take the initiative. Whether you’re on the bus heading to school, at a school basketball game, sitting at the lunch table in the cafeteria or sitting next to someone in class, start up a conversation. Even if it’s a simple, “Hey! What do you think about the English project?” or “Aren’t you in my Algebra class?” All you have to do is break the ice and it leaves room for a friendship to develop. (You know the kid(s) who always sit alone on the bus or in the cafeteria? Go talk to them… chances are they could use a friend, too.)
The possibilities are endless when it comes to volunteering. You can meet people of all ages and backgrounds by volunteering at your place of worship, local hospital, recreation center, YMCA, or a charitable organization that holds your interest. Working together, side by side, builds connections!
4. Get Involved in Extracurricular Activities
Whether you play a sport, join a club or get involved in the chorus or theater group, extracurricular activities are a great way to connect with like-minded kids. You naturally form a connection just by doing something with kids who enjoy what you enjoy. Don’t be shy about putting yourself out there. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
5. Be Aware of Your Body Language
Do you cross your arms a lot? Do you avoid eye contact when someone is talking to you? Are you absorbed in your phone when someone approaches you? If so, take notice and make changes in your body language. Your body language can speak so much louder than your words. Smile, uncross those arms, look up, make eye contact, and make yourself appear friendly and approachable.
6. Put Your Phone Down and Look Up
Ahhh… your phone. It’s a blessing and a curse. Sure, it allows you to stay in touch with friends and be up to date on the latest news and trends, but it also prevents you from focusing on what’s right in front of you. Bottom line, it’s nearly impossible to meet new people if you’re constantly on your phone, looking down and scrolling through the latest TikTok videos. People want to engage with others who pay attention, listen and who give them attention. Heads up… put your phone down.
7. Be Friendly and Approachable
A smile goes a long way. But beyond a friendly smile, show some enthusiasm when someone walks up to you. Make them feel special and ask them questions. Try to remember their name when you first meet someone.
Remember, other kids may be finding it difficult to forge friendships, too, and it will make it easier for them if you’re open and approachable, which will put them at ease.
8. Take a Class or Pick Up a Hobby Outside of School
Think about what topics or hobbies might appeal to you and then sign up at your local recreation center or a nearby college. There are plenty of places that offer opportunities outside of school to learn and have fun. Interested in learning German? Always wanted to learn how to program? Guaranteed, there’s a core group of people who share your passion. Don’t overlook summer camps, too! Camps are a great way to connect with other kids.
9. Turn Acquaintances into Friendships
Think about it… there are so many people you likely already know and maybe never thought about getting to know better. You know that kid who sits behind you in class? Ask them to join a study group. You know that boy who sits across from you on the school bus who’s always playing video games on his phone? Ask him what game he’s playing.
You can also get to know your friend’s friends and reach out to kids you may have lost touch with. There are a lot of lonely kids who are dying to have a friend just like you. Just take that first step.
10. Be a Good Friend
After you’ve made a few friends you like hanging out with, make sure you’re a good friend to them. Be honest and loyal, open and authentic. Be a good listener when they need it. Take interest in their interests.
The better friend you are to them, the greater chance you’ll have of strengthening the friendship you share.
11. Ask Questions
Starting up a conversation with someone can feel awkward. That’s why having a few “conversation starters” tucked in your back pocket can make it easier to get the conversation rolling. “Are you going to the football game tonight?” “Wasn’t the Chem homework impossible?” Make sure you’re not just asking questions but listening as well so you can respond and keep the conversation going strong.
12. Be Open to ALL People
This is so important! Being open to all types of people will pave the way for more potential friendships. Don’t focus solely on kids who have a similar background or share your interests. Open yourself up to kids from different cultures and backgrounds, and who have totally different interests than you. That’s the fun of it!
13. Be Yourself
This may be the best tip of all…Don’t change yourself for other people! You need to remain true to who you are. By being yourself, the people you meet will grow to know you, accept you and love you for who you are. If you feel you need to change just to fit in, then it’s time to move on,
14. Try Something New
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone – it’s the best way to learn a whole lot about yourself and meet new people! You’re not the only one trying to make friends… remember that. Your new best friend could be the person who’s stumbling to try something new just like you.
15. Go Out of Your Way for Someone
Even if you don’t know them very well make it a point to go out of your way for someone. You know that girl in class who always forgets her pen? Bring an extra pen for her. You know that boy in soccer who always seems to forget his water bottle? Bring an extra Gatorade to practice for him. Is there a student in your class who’s struggling with the material? Offer to help them study for the next test.
People genuinely want to be noticed. When you notice them and go out of your way for them, they never forget.
16. Make Yourself Available
You need to put yourself out there. It might be daunting, but In order to make friends, you need to surround yourself with people. Rather than sitting in your bedroom by yourself after school, invite someone over to study. Rather than sitting alone in the cafeteria or library, muster up the courage to sit with others. Go to the football game or chess tournament or baseball playoffs. The more you’re “out there” the greater chance you’ll have of meeting friends.
17. Make an Effort
Friendships need to be fostered or they’ll simply fade. Ask for your new friend’s Snap or Instagram so you can follow each other. Make plans to hang out Friday night. Invite them over for a sleepover or to watch movies on a Saturday night. Making and keeping friends takes effort. In fact, it’s been proven that returning calls and texts is a factor in making a friendship last – so stay in touch!
18. Invite Kids to Hang Out at Your House
Break out the snacks and drinks and hunker down for a movie night. Invite the guys (or girls) over for a gaming night. Or host a pizza and s’mores night cozied up by the backyard firepit.
Most teens are looking for fun things to do on the weekends. Just keep things casual and let the evening flow… you’d be surprised how much you can bond with kids right in the comfort of your own home.
19. Accept Invitations
You won’t make friends if you’re always turning down invitations. If you continue to say “no” over and over again when you’re asked to parties, hangouts, sporting events, etc., there’s a good chance they’ll stop asking. So, say “yes” as often as you can. And, when you say “no” be sure to offer a reason and alternative. “I’m so sorry I can’t hang out Friday night. I have to study for a big test on Monday. But let’s hang out next weekend, for sure!”
20. Keep the Conversation Positive
No one likes a “Debbie Downer,” so try your best to keep the conversation light and positive. Don’t bring up topics that are heavy or controversial. Studies show people love to talk about themselves so ask personal questions and let the conversation go from there.
21. Compliment Someone
Compliments are a sure way to show how friendly you can be. “Your haircut looks amazing!” “I love your shirt. Where did you get it?” Everyone loves to be complimented from time to time – just don’t overdo it or it might sound fake.
22. Follow Each Other on Social Media
Social media is a great way to form new friendships. If you meet someone you connect with or even someone you just thought was nice, ask to add them on Snapchat and Instagram. You can learn a lot about them through their social media and can “chat” back and forth without the stress of face-to-face contact if that worries you.
23. Carpool Together
Whether a parent drives you or you drive yourself, find someone who lives near you and travel together to school, activities or sports. So many great conversations can take place in the car while blasting music and bonding.
24. Show a Little Vulnerability
Don’t worry about looking or acting perfect. In fact, a little vulnerability can go a long way when you’re trying to make friends. Give yourself the okay to show your weaknesses and be perfectly imperfect. If you need help with something, ask. If you’re struggling with a problem in Math, ask the person sitting next to you. Are you feeling frustrated and can’t figure out how to make something work? As for help. Being transparent and honest speaks volumes about how you’re not afraid to open up and be yourself – plus, it puts others at ease.
25. Make Friends with the Opposite Sex
Help your teen make friends by encouraging them to be open to both guy and girl friendships. Not every teen is fortunate enough to have siblings to teach them the ropes or help them gain a comfort level about the opposite sex. That’s where friends come in! Guys can be great friends with girls and girls can be amazing friends with guys.
Not only can they help you get past the clumsy, awkwardness of talking with the opposite sex, but you’ll learn a ton about how they think (generally speaking, that is). So, don’t be shy about making friends with that guy who sits next to you in class or that girl who always says “hi” in the hall. Mix up your friends – you’ll be glad you did!
Hopefully, these tips to help your teen make friends provide some new tools to take the awkwardness out of it and build lasting friendships! Above all, remember that your teen doesn’t need a ton of friends – even one or two good friends can make all the difference in the world.
Ali Flynn is excited to share with you the joys and hardships of motherhood with an open heart, laughter, and some tears. Ali is a monthly guest contributor for Westchester County Moms and has been seen on Filter Free Parents, Grown and Flown, Today Parents, The Mighty, Her View From Home, and His View From Home, where she shares inspirational stories about motherhood while keeping it real. You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram.