At a glance
Friends and social cliques may matter more to teens than their family relationships do.
Teens who learn and think differently may have trouble navigating friend groups.
Families can help their teens handle challenges with cliques.
Most high school teens have experience being in and around cliques. At this age, these friend groups may mean more to them than family relationships. While this is normal, it doesn’t always make life easy.
Kids who learn and think differently may have a hard time navigating cliques. They may have trouble picking up on social cues, like body language. Or they might struggle with staying on topic in conversations or following through on social plans. Any of these challenges can make it hard for teens to fit in.
Read on for tips on how to help your teen handle some common situations with friend groups.
Help your teen find a place to fit in.
The scenario: Your teen has trouble with social skills and feels like the only high-schooler who doesn’t belong anywhere.
What you can do: Talk with your teen about their social interactions. Ask them to think about their day. Do they talk with any kids in homeroom? Have they tried making conversation at lunch? Work with your teen on social skills by practicing some common scenarios, like joining an activity. And encourage your teen to try a club or activity at school.
Show your child how friendships can evolve.
The scenario: The group your teen has been friends with for a while has joined the debate team. But your child has trouble with spoken language and worries that not being part of the team will mean the end of these friendships.
What you can do: Help your teen think about how friendships can survive when circumstances change. Give examples from your life. “I’ve still got friends I used to run with before I hurt my knee. We don’t go on runs anymore, but we have lunch every month.” Brainstorm ways to stay connected with the group.
Encourage your teen to draw on interests.
The scenario: Your teen wants to hang out with the soccer players because they’re the popular kids. But your child doesn’t like playing soccer or know much about it. When your teen joins a group of soccer players hanging out after school, the conversation falls flat. Or worse, the clique excludes your teen. Embarrassed, your teen leaves the group.
What you can do: Talk about how it’s easier to hang out with people you share interests with. Make a list of your teen’s strengths and interests together. Then brainstorm activities that play to these strengths and interests. That way your teen can meet people with shared interests.
Reminding kids of their strengths can help them build confidence.
You may need to explain to your child how friendships can change over time.
Joining an activity they enjoy can help teens find friends with common interests.
About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Donna Volpitta, EdD is the founder of Pathways to Empower. Her work draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and education.