Social Awkwardness is prevalent in both children and adults, and can range from being shy to not being able to make friends to isolating oneself. It can stem from feeling insecure and having low self-confidence. If not properly attended to, it can lead to depression and/or anxiety.
Growing up is hard to do, but especially now more than ever. Every child wants to fit in, but life presents a myriad of challenges. Anyone who has ever experienced any kind of Social Awkwardness knows that school can be the hardest place to go. During the tween years, children are trying to find their way. They are developing interests, meaningful friendships and taking on more responsibilities. But what happens when your tween doesn’t feel like they fit in anywhere? When your tween starts a new school or new school year, there is naturally a feeling of anxiety. If your child is feeling especially anxious about friendships for example, you can check in with friends to see who are in the same class and try to get kids together over the summer so that they can reconnect before school starts. You can also sign your child up for an extra-curricular activity that they are interested in. Chances are they will build self-confidence because they are doing something they enjoy and they will meet other kids with the same interests.
Social Awkwardness can present differently in people so it is very important to communicate with your child. Not just in relation to their feelings of Social Awkwardness, but in general. Having open lines of communication will allow your child to know that they can talk to you about anything and also trust you. Everyday on the ride to and from school my children and I talk about a variety of topics. Sometimes something will come up about a school or friendship situation and we all talk through it. It is great to all be together because both children participate and can also learn from the other child’s situation. Also, even though my children are getting older, I still tuck them in at night. It’s amazing the things that they tell me when they are laying in bed. I treasure this time and a lot of valuable lessons have been produced and advice given at bedtime. You can also communicate by trying to role play a difficult situation with them and advise them through it so they can feel more comfortable in that situation. You can talk with them about goals they might have and encourage them to stick to those goals. If you engage in frequent dialogue with your child you will be able to better gauge what they are feeling and why. If your child doesn’t want to open up or needs some space, provide it, but check back in regularly. If they refuse to communicate with you and are isolating themselves, then it might be time to seek professional help.
Peer pressure in tweens is nothing new, but for a socially awkward child, it can be especially hard to cope with now because peer pressure has taken on a new face in the light of social media. I consider myself to be a fairly conservative woman, both in my parenting style as a mom and in my life in general. With my children, I set boundaries, try to be as consistent as possible and discipline fairly. I do not give in to societal pressures of name brands, brand new electronics or high priced cars. I am on constant monitoring by my children, as are all parents, so I try to set good examples. Unfortunately, peer pressure sometimes beats me. An iPhone, iPod, iPad, Kindle or any other device you can imagine has been on the Christmas and birthday lists for years, mainly because my kids’ friends all have their own. My husband and I have not given in and we stress that we own such devices as a family and everyone is welcome to share them. But then we enter the school zone. “Mom, Sarah has her own iPhone 6 and wants me to Face Time her. It’s so unfair I don’t have my own. Everyone is going to make fun of me!” “Jane is on Facebook and wants to friend me, but I am the only one without an account.” As a parent, you have a choice as to what your children are exposed to. If you do allow them to participate in any form of online social interaction or social media, set clear boundaries that you will be monitoring their activity. Obtain their passwords and check their texts. You want to make sure there is no cyber bullying going on or they are not conforming to peer pressure just to fit in.
You know your child the best. If they are presenting with signs of social awkwardness (not making friends, no interest in extra curricular activates, excessive shyness, isolation) you now have some tools that can help. If you do not feel like you are having any success, please reach out to a teacher, social worker, pastor or another adult your child trusts in order to help you help your child. Most importantly, LOVE. Tell and show your child how much you love them and that you are always there for them.