Title: My kid is scared he won't make any friends at school...
00:00:00 Speaker 1
You. Is your teenager scared to go back to school? Well, let's talk about that today on tips on
teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize
in helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives. I lead two organizations teen Therapy
Center and the nonprofit 501 reorganization child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland
Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump into Facebook Live to answer your parenting
questions. Let's jump into today's. Hi, Kent. My son is about to go back to school in person next
week. He's starting 10th grade, and since we were online the whole time, he hardly knows anyone.
It's almost like he's starting out as a freshman at a brand new school. He's pretty socially
adept, but he's having tons of anxiety, and he says he's really scared. He won't make any friends.
What can I say to help him out or ease his anxiety? Thank you for your question. A lot of kids are
going through this. I can't tell you how
00:01:04 Speaker 1
many kids I've been talking to going through exactly this same situation. First, let me tell
you what you don't want to say. Don't say this. Don't worry about it. You'll be fine. No one on
earth has ever heard the words don't worry about it, and then proceeded to not worry. We all keep
worrying, so don't go down that road. What I would recommend you doing is, again, you've heard
me say this several times, those of you who've watched me before. It's less about what you say.
It's more about what you hear, allowing him to say what he needs to say. So maybe a great time to
sit on the couch, put your arm around his shoulder, and just let him talk. Let him vent. Let him
get it all out. Don't correct him. Don't judge him. Don't try to explain something. Just listen
and understand. That's all you got to do. And once he gets all that out, you can say, hey, I'm hearing
you. You tell him what you heard him say. I hear you have this concern and this concern and this
concern. I get it. I would feel
00:02:06 Speaker 1
in a similar situation if I was in your shoes. I get it. And then you say, do you just need me to understand
and listen, or do you want me to think these through and try to figure this out? He may say, no,
I just need you to listen. And if that's the case, you zip your lips, you nod your head and give
him a big hug and tell him you love him. And that's it. That's all you got to do. Now, if he says,
yeah, let's think this through. I want to figure this out, I don't know what I'm going to do. I
say, okay, well, may I ask you some questions? Tread lightly. This could easily blow up into
a big argument that you don't need and he doesn't need, but he's so anxious and aggravated that
you could easily step into a landmine and boom, you're an argument. You're like, But I'm just
trying to help. And he's mad because you're helping the wrong way. So tread lightly. Say, May
I ask you some questions? It helps him slow down and say, yes, you can ask me a question. You can
say, hey, so do you think it's
00:03:03 Speaker 1
possible that your entire sophomore class is kind of going to the same thing you are? That you
may be not the only person going through this? There's a lot of kids who have not met anyone, and
he may be able to connect those dots. He may also come back with, yeah, but they all went to middle
school together. I didn't go to the same middle school. It's a fair point, but there's going
to be some kids there who didn't go to that middle school, and there's some kids who don't know
people. Right. And secondly, I say, well, are you going to be involved in things at school this
year? Are you involved in a sport, in band, in chess club leadership, whatever that is? And hopefully
he has some things that he's going to be involved in. And if he is, well, you can start looking
towards that. Maybe the first week or two. Maybe the worst case scenario is he's eaten lunch
by himself. Kind of a crummy situation, but not the worst. You've already said he's socially
adept, so he's likely to make some friends.
00:03:56 Speaker 1
My big question about all this is, how much is he judging himself for? I need to have a certain
status of friends. My friends need to have a certain level of coolness, and if they're not, then
I can't handle that. And I'm wondering if that's what's part of going on. And I encourage him
to figure out, how is he judging the value of his friendships? Because if he makes a friend with
someone who's not in the cool kids group, is that going to be something he can accept? Or is that
just a, well, I can be friends with them for now, but as soon as I upgrade to a higher level of coolness,
then that other kid's gone. And I think it's really important, especially at 14 1516, they're
not always aware of that process, and it's important to be aware of that process because sometimes
that nerdier kid is a really good friend, and a really healthy friend just may not be up on the
high social status. But again, if he's socially adept, I think he'll be fine. His anxiety is
somewhat normal if it's through
00:04:55 Speaker 1
the roof and it's stopping from going to school or it's not subsiding. Once he gets into school,
you may want to talk to a therapist about this, have him talk to a therapist, figure all this out.
But my hunch is it's the preschool jitters, and once he gets into school, he'll probably acclimate,
not perfectly, but well enough. And just keep in mind that some of this also may be your own anxiety
for your son and how he's going to acclimate. And we have to trust that he's gone through nine
years of school, one of them on quarantine, but that he will be able to move into the school and
make friends over time. And his friend group may change over the year or two, but that's pretty
normal. That can happen. So it's important that both parents and teenagers stay calm and keep
a big perspective. That's our question for today. Thank you so much. If you have a follow up question
or you have a new question you like me to answer on Tips on teens, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
00:05:58 Speaker 1
can direct message us right here on Facebook. We love your questions. Keep them coming. I'll
see you next week. My name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling.
Thank you very much. Bye.
Is your kid worried about making friends, or making a certain kind of friends?
Is your child is having lots of anxiety about not knowing anyone when they go back to school. There are a lot of things that could be going on. Eating lunch all alone is no fun. But how much of it could be your kid’s own self judgement about the types of friends they want to have? Is your kid worried about having “cool” friends? Is there a way to show them that the “nerdy” kid could end up being a really great friend?
Be a sounding board, be a collaborator, but tread lightly!
When it comes to talking to your teen about their back to school anxiety, it’s less about what you say and more about how you listen. Mirror and reiterate his or her words so they know you understand what they’re feeling. Give your child the option to just be a sounding board. If they want you to try and work it out with them, and then tread lightly! Get more tips in this week’s Tips on Teens Video. Here’s this week’s question:
“My son is about to go back to school in person next week. He’s starting 10th grade, and since we were online the whole time, he hardly knows anyone. It’s almost like he’s starting out as a freshman at a brand new school. He’s pretty socially adept, but he’s having tons of anxiety and he says he’s really scared he won’t make any friends. What can I say to help him out or ease his anxiety?”
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.