Keep in mind that tweens and teens with learning and attention issues are often anxious about reaching out to peers and trying to make friends. Their fear of rejection may lead them to avoid social opportunities altogether or to behave in ways that alienate other kids.
Listen sympathetically to your child’s concerns and help him understand he’s not alone in feeling this way. Explain that all kids worry about being socially rejected.
Encourage him to attend social events. Point out that if he doesn’t reach out to peers, he’ll miss out on the opportunity to make new friends. Bring up examples of times when he felt discouraged but ended up making friends. Review strategies that have worked for him in these kinds of situations, and practice them together.
What you can say
“Jacob, I know you’re anxious about going to the homecoming dance. I’m sure everyone else is too. I know I sure was when I went to my first school dance a gazillion years ago. I can still remember how much my palms were sweating!”
“I remember you felt similarly nervous about the first soccer practice for your travel team, and look how well that worked out. Ahead of time, you practiced different things you could say to break the ice. And that helped you start to get to know your teammates.”
“Let’s review some good opening lines you can use at the dance. You know a lot of the kids so it won’t be all new to you. Remember they’re probably as nervous as you so smile and try to stay relaxed. If you ask someone to dance and they say no, just smile and say maybe some other time. You should feel proud that you gave it a shot. I’m always proud of you when you try something new.”
Why this will help
It helps tweens and teens when parents validate their feelings. Realizing other kids feel the same way can also make social efforts a little less scary.
The hardest part of trying to join a group is starting conversations, so practice this as well as how to give compliments. It will also help your child to identify ahead of time areas of interests that other kids might want to talk about. Provide positive feedback for effort and remind him: nothing ventured, nothing gained.