By Dalit Segal, Education Psychologist of Southdowns College
Joining a new school and making new friends can be tough for some teenagers whether it be on entry into High School in Grade 8 or in higher grades when transferring in the middle of their High School career.
“One of the hardest things for a parent to watch is their teenage child seemingly having no friends,” says Dalit Segal, Educational Psychologist at Southdowns College Academic Enrichment Centre.
Segal points out that there are numerous reasons why a child may not have many, or any, friends. “For one, a teenager who is an introvert, an ‘outside the box’ thinker or someone who may not share the same interests as their peers, will often find it more challenging to make meaningful friendships.”
“Likewise, if they lack the necessary social skills or have started a new school, breaking into any social group may be awkward,” she adds.
So, what can parents do?
According to Segal, as a parent, you have an extremely important and very useful role. “You need to deal with your own pain at seeing your teen’s dilemma. Grieve, feel their pain – but privately, never communicate these feelings to your teenager as this will only make them feel worse,” she says.
“In addition, you must recognise that them being alone is not necessarily a catastrophe, and in doing so, you can help them realise that although they may not always like being alone, they can still build a life that that can feel good about.”
“It is extremely important,” she adds, “that you help your teen feel good about themselves intrinsically, so whether they have friends or not, they are happy with who they are.”
It is important to reflect on the positives in your teenager’s life, help them reframe their situation so that they may see the positives too. There are other ways of looking at kids who are often alone. Being able to have a good time by yourself is a strength. It’s being self-sufficient.
Segal advises when looking at new schools, enquire what integration programmes are in place to assist new students. “For example at Southdowns College, in addition to the support provided for by teachers and S-Cubed, we provide a mentoring programme where our grade 11s are partnered individually with grade 8 pupils for the year.”
“The grade 11s not only step in as a new friend but also provide support in academic, sport and cultural activities,” she says.