How to Help a Teen Who Doesn't Fit In

Teen Doesn't Fit In
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The fear of being a social outcast makes teens across the world shudder in fear. Although everyone wants to experience a sense of belonging, sometimes, for one reason or another, some teens just don't seem to fit in with their peers.

It can be heartbreaking for parents to hear about their child eating lunch alone or to see their teen sit home every weekend without any social interaction. If your teen doesn’t seem to fit in, there are some things you can do to help.

Determine Whether the Concern is Real or Imagined

Almost every teen is likely to think, “No one likes me,” at one time or another. Normalize your teen’s fears of rejection, isolation, and loneliness.

Help your teen determine exactly how true those thoughts are. For example, does your teen have friends? Does he talk to his peers outside of school? Does he engage in activities outside the house regularly? If your teen appears to have friends, his fears of not fitting in may be exaggerated.

Discuss how sometimes, we all think things that aren’t true. Also, make it clear that many adults also experience the same social concerns when they start a new job or move to a new neighborhood.

Your teen certainly doesn’t need to fit in with everyone and doesn’t have to be part of the “cool crowd.” Focus on the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to friendships. Make it clear that one or two good friends is better than a dozen acquaintances.

Problem-Solve How to Address the Issue Together

Problem-solve with your teen how to address the issue. Sometimes, social groups may shift or friends may change and a teen may feel isolated. If that’s the case, talk about strategies to make new friends. Joining a new club or participating in after school activities can provide opportunities to meet new people.

Certain teens may be more socially awkward than others. Shyness, anxiety disorders, immaturity, or a lack of social skills may all cause a teen to feel a bit ostracized. If your teen is more socially awkward than most, work on improving his social skills.  

Discuss the Dangers of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

When someone assumes, “I don’t fit in,” or “No one is going to like me,” it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, a teen who thinks, “I’m socially awkward,” may begin to avoid eye contact and may not start conversations with his peers. As a result, others may avoid talking to him as much and they may begin to think he is a little socially awkward.

Teach your teen to use positive self-talk to help him think more realistically. Explain how putting himself down and beating himself up will only make him feel worse. Teach him specific things he can tell himself to boost his confidence and encourage him to engage with his peers in a more outgoing manner.

Seek Professional Help When Necessary

Sometimes not fitting in can be a sign of a more serious issue.

Communication disorders, autism spectrum disorders, depression, or anxiety can all interfere with a teen’s social life.

Speak with your teen’s pediatrician or a mental health professional if you have concerns about your teen’s ability to socialize with peers effectively. Treatment can help increase your teen’s ability to interact with others more effectively. 

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