Some kids with learning and attention issues find that they’re less lonely once they start high school. Their world gets bigger, with more kids and more opportunities. Still, loneliness may continue to be problem for some kids. The good news: Parents can help these teens make the most of the new options that are out there for them. Here are six ways to help.
Make your child aware of all that’s available.
Most high schools have a lot of extracurricular opportunities. There’s a good chance there’s a club or volunteer activity that may interest your teen. Churches, town sports leagues, the local youth orchestra and even an afterschool job can be good places for teens to make friends. Check out clubs and meetings in your area that might be a good fit in case your child misses something. Then you can mention what you find in a low-key way.
“In high school, the world gets bigger, with more kids and more opportunities to become involved.”
Tap into the faculty.
High school teachers often have passions that they like to share with their students. If your child has a specific interest or skill, ask around. There may be a small group of kids who have the same passion and a teacher who shares that interest.
Monitor new friendships.
Sometimes teens who are lonely fall in with a group that’s not committed to academics or high school culture in general. If you don’t think your teen’s new friends are a good influence, have a candid discussion about your concerns. You don’t have to forbid him from seeing these teens (unless he’s at high risk). But you can encourage him to get involved with groups outside school that are better suited to his interests.
Get outside help if necessary.
Teens who are lonely may self-medicate by taking drugs, drinking or engaging in other risky behaviors. If you see signs that your child might be going down this path or if he seems depressed, he needs help. Your pediatrician or your child’s school may have suggestions about professionals in your area.
Encourage him to volunteer.
Helping others can be beneficial for your child. It can make him feel needed, and help him feel a part of something. Where to look? If you’re connected to a faith-based organization, that would be a good place to start. Other possibilities include animal shelters, senior centers or local political offices and civic organizations.
Help him envision his future.
As kids with learning and attention issues make their way through high school, the thought of what’s next can make them feel very alone. Their peers may be planning for college while they’re less sure they’ll get in or even want to go.
If your child has an IEP, start transition planning early in high school. This can help him feel more in control and part of a team that’s thoughtfully helping him plan for life after high school. If your child doesn’t have an IEP, you can still work with him to plan for life after high school.
High school students have many more opportunities to become involved and be a part of the action. This can help them feel less isolated and more connected. An important role for parents is helping their teens with learning and attention issues identify these opportunities and develop the confidence to try them. Learn more about how you can support your teen and help him build relationships.