Helping Teens Make New Friends

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Helping Teens Make New Friends. Give your high schoolers the networking skills that will help them now and in adulthood.

Helping Teens Make New Friends

Helping Teens Make New Friends

Delivered by 7SistersHomeschool’s very own licensed professional counselor, Vicki is here to talk about one of her most favorite topics: helping teens make new friends. In Vicki’s other hat, besides having raised her kids through the homeschooling process, she’s worked with all kinds of teens on how to make new friends. No matter where you are in life, there are times where you need a new set of friends, whether that’s moving to a new area, joining a new church or breaking up with a homeschool co-op group. You’ll learn all the pointers you need to know in these tried and true tips!

Share Basic Life Skills

First, know that helping teens make new friends doesn’t mean you make the friends for your homeschool high schoolers. We can’t do this for our teens, but we can give them the skills needed to pursue friendships, for making those friends themselves, and for creating their own network. This is a skill that, if learned now, can apply to the rest of their lives, well into their careers.

Also, work with your teens on basic life skills so they can have the tools already in their toolbox to use. And they need to know they can choose to use these or they can choose not to use these tools. It’s their choice. As long as teens feel like they have a choice in something, they will very often use those skills. 

Even shy teens can learn skills like these to build their confidence.

Find New Things To Try Locally

When your teen finds some things to try, this doesn’t mean it’s something that they are already passionate about, nor is this necessarily something they want to do. They just need to try some new things. It’s one of the most important things we can do for learning and practicing skills and actually discovering some things that we don’t know whether we like or not until we try it. 

Local Support Groups

If you’re new to an area, or you’re beginning your homeschool journey brand new, look around your local area and start simple. Find some things that have other teens involved. For instance, look to see if there is a local homeschool support group or other organization. That is a good place to start looking, and then see if they have a youth group. Check out their website, or see if they have an online schedule or calendar to see what is happening.

Local Classes

If there’s not a support group with just some youth activities, are there some classes that they can take locally? Regardless if they need the class or not, enroll your teen in an umbrella school class or two at a homeschool umbrella school or someplace where there’s group learning. 

Church Youth Groups and Service Organizations

For teens, church youth groups and church missions trips are another way to be around other teens doing something.

Service organizations for teens that are out in the community, such as library volunteers or food bank volunteers. See what different things are available where there are groups of teens going out and/or volunteering. Maybe even have your teen join a sports team. All those things are places where teens will meet new people.

Help teens pick one thing to try.

Pick One Thing to Try

Once you pick a thing, unless they’re an extroverted teen, you don’t want to overwhelm them with 42 different things. What you do, instead, is make an agreement with your teen on what they are going to try. 

For instance, have your teen agree to give that specific activity or organization a try. In most cases, you will know how it fits after at least two sessions or two events. Sometimes you will even know after the first time that it’s not a good fit.

Give It An Honest Go

There have been times when Vicki visited new churches or new organizations and nobody is at the door to greet or welcome her. No one spoke to her the entire time of the meeting or event, not a soul spoke a word to her. 

If this happens to you, just know they’re not your people.Realize there is never a lost event and that you will always come away with an insight or new perspective or learning something new. 

But don’t stop there. Although it’s definitely not fun, you can even try it twice to see if that was a fluke the first time, to see if someone will talk to you the second time.

What most often happens is that, upon the second or third visit to an organization or group, you’ll notice a shift. The initial tension or formality begins to fade, making interactions more relaxed and straightforward. This ease develops as familiar faces become friendlier, and the overall atmosphere becomes more welcoming. 

It’s during these subsequent visits that true connections start to form, and it becomes noticeably easier to engage and collaborate, them with you and you with them.

Let Your Teen Handle the First Visit On Their Own

Before you arrive at the group or event, it’s important to not accompany your teen inside the building (unless there’s a specific rule stating otherwise). Teens must navigate this event independently. 

Extroverted kids likely won’t mind handling this on their own, while introverted ones might feel anxious. In such cases, it’s okay to discuss how far into the building you’re willing to walk with them. However, it’s crucial not to impose. Instead, respond to your teen’s cues.

Tips To Help Your Teen Warm Up to the New Setting

Magic Non-verbals

Before they step out of the car, encourage them to place their hands on their hips. This simple gesture can boost their confidence, preparing them to face the event on their own terms.

Adopting a posture with arms akimbo and counting to fifteen — thousand one, thousand two, and so on — has an interesting effect on our bodies. This stance, even if held for just a few seconds, triggers the release of testosterone. Yes, even women have testosterone coursing through their bodies.

This hormone boosts confidence. It’s like a biological encouragement that says, “You can do this.” And so, you do.

Before any significant event, it’s valuable to discuss these techniques. It’s not something to spring on someone last minute, say, in the car ride over. Share these strategies in advance: “Here are some skills we can use.”

Just before entering the venue, encourage a slight adjustment in posture: pull the shoulders back and lift the chin slightly — not too high, but just enough. When we’re anxious, we tend to hunch our shoulders and lower our chins, gazing down at the floor, closing ourselves off. However, adopting a posture with shoulders back, chin up, and a gentle, Mona Lisa-like smile can transform our nonverbal communication.

These “magic non-verbals” make us seem more approachable, signaling to others that it’s okay to engage with us. Have your teen employ these nonverbals before walking into the building and then periodically check throughout the event to ensure they’re maintaining them. Shoulders back, chin up, and that soft smile can make all the difference, inviting positive interactions and boosting your confidence.

Learn more about non-verbals in 7Sisters Introduction to Psychology.

Hold Something In Your Hand

This confidence invites people to come and talk to you. Generally, within a certain period of time, somebody’s going to wander over and start talking. If it’s one of those events where you are socializing, and there are snacks, tell your teen to grab some snacks so that they have something to hold in their hand.

This is called a tool. And you don’t even have to like whatever it is you hold in your hand. You don’t have to eat it all. You just need to have something in your hand. There’s something about holding something in your hand that is appropriate for the setting, like a cup of soda or some cookies, that makes you even more open for people to come and talk to.

Scan the Room

Once there is something in your hand, if no one is talking to you yet, go stand near the table where the snacks are at, and then scan the room. Look to see where the clusters of people are, if there’s anybody on the outskirts that might be a new person too.

Because believe it or not, there’s new people at things all the time. And if you see someone that’s just standing by themselves, kind of at the edge and, maybe looking a little bewildered, walk slowly over to them and smile and greet them. Ask them a question. They’ll greet you as well and hopefully they’ll ask you a question back.

Prepare Questions Ahead of Time

Have questions that you’ve already planned ahead of time that you can pull out of your pocket. Some questions you can ask are:

  • If they’re an old timer here
  • What do they like about that group
  • Do they have any siblings
  • If you’ve been homeschooling long, what’s your favorite subject,

Just ask them questions. When you talk to somebody and you ask them questions, and they start talking about themselves, they feel like you like them, even though you don’t know them yet. And they are more likely to ask you some questions in return. This helps them feel connected and comfortable to you. And you’ve already got a first friend. 

Popular Kid Syndrome

For younger teens, very often they worry about cliques and popularity, especially if they’ve been in a public school system or some traditional setting for a while. Think about the kingdom of Heaven.  When Jesus came, did He go hang out first with the popular kids? He was looking for people who weren’t the popular kids because in God’s kingdom, it’s backwards.

The kids who might be shy are the ones that are more popular kingdom-wise. We have to have the boldness and the faith to set aside worrying about talking to the wrong person. Take that pecking order mentality out of your younger teens brains and have them thinking along the lines of God’s kingdom. How do we want to be in God’s kingdom in this group?

The John Maxwell Story

Here’s a story that complements this tip: In one of his books, John Maxwell recounts a memorable journey from the airport to a conference with a friend. They shared a cab and, being naturally sociable, struck up a conversation with the driver. 

Eager to learn about the driver’s life, Maxwell and his friend peppered him with questions, uncovering fascinating stories about his family and experiences. Throughout the ride, they shared nothing about themselves except for their destination, the conference they were speaking at.

As the cab approached the conference venue, the driver, preparing to say goodbye, expressed his enjoyment of the conversation and wished them well at the conference. Remarkably, despite knowing little about Maxwell and his friend beyond their participation in the conference, the driver felt a sense of acceptance and connection. 

This interaction epitomizes the Christ-like virtue of showing genuine interest in others, fostering a feeling of warmth and acceptance with a simple, attentive conversation. And that becomes the beginning of a friendship.

Remember, tell your teen to keep those non-verbals going as often as they can. 

Describe Themselves

In between events, have your teen work on being able to describe themselves. You can start this before you go to an event, but definitely keep this an ongoing conversation.

Questions to incite self-description:

  • Who are you? 
  • What do you like to study? 
  • What do you want to do after high school? 
  • Do you have any hobbies? 
  • Take some personality tests. What are your personalities? 
  • What are the service projects you’ve done? 

This way, if people ask your teen questions, they don’t have to stare at the floor, fumbling on what to say as they’ll already know how to answer these questions.

One way to practice describing themselves is through a speech class. Have them write an elevator pitch about themselves, which is what they could say to somebody about themselves. Or, act like they have a business and they are between the first and third floor of an elevator ride.

An elevator pitch is something very short, just little soundbites they can say about themselves. 

Once they establish their elevator pitch, have them practice a little bit at home on how to continue a conversation. When they say something about themselves, have them as the person a follow-up question.

The Second Visit or Event

Once your teen gets to the second event, one of the best things to do is for them to start looking for ways to get involved. If there’s a service project, a side project, or people set up for cleanup, for example, they want to get involved doing those things because that gets them in on the kinds of kids who also do things. And those kinds of kids are generally the friendlier and more fun kids over time. 

What can they volunteer for? The people who are engaged and active are the ones that are more likely to be the ones who are friendly over time.

Volunteering can open doors to new friendships and other things. When you’re volunteering to help out, you’ll be working alongside people. You’ll likely carry on a conversation with them, and just that little moment of conversation is the beginning of a connection, taking a stranger to an acquaintance level. 

And maybe if they volunteer enough together, they might become homeschool friends. At minimum, they will have some acquaintances every time they go to that meeting, where they will have someone to talk to and do the service together. Doing projects together is one of the very, very best ways to start making new homeschool friends. 

What Went Well

To wrap it all up, one of the most important things we want to do is make sure your teens are telling you what went well. 

Let’s be realistic. Not all teens are going to want to talk about it because some of them just need to think about it. Suggest or encourage them to tell you a few things that went well so they can put that into focus and see it as a positive experience, shedding any anxieties from it in the future. 

When you leave an event and head home, your mind often races with thoughts of regret: “Why did I say that? Why didn’t I do this?” This self-criticism and guilt can lead to unnecessary stress, teaching your brain to associate these social events with negative feelings. Your brain starts to signal “danger” at the thought of attending future events, fearing the stress that may follow.

However, it’s crucial to shift this mindset. Instead of them dwelling on what went wrong or what they didn’t do, have them focus on the positive aspects of the experience. Have them think about what went well, what felt good, and end their day on a note of positivity and gratitude. 

Though it might sound cliché, embracing a positive outlook and gratitude can significantly impact your mental well-being. Remembering the positives and expressing gratitude deactivates the stress response in your brain and activates the regions associated with smart thinking and emotional health.

From a counselor’s perspective, ending an event with a sense of gratitude not only aligns with the biblical encouragement to give thanks but also places you in a better biological and spiritual state. Focusing on the positives encourages your brain to view future events more optimistically, making you more likely to approach them with enthusiasm rather than anxiety.

Helping Teens Make New Friends

When you follow these tips, you’ll find it easier to help your teen make new homeschool friends. We hope these tips help!

Don’t forget, we have the 7Sisters Homeschool Facebook group too. It’s a really friendly and supportive Facebook group, where people share all kinds of homeschool high school questions and feedback, sometimes about younger ones all the way to a lot of high school stuff. It’s such a good, supportive place!

Thank you to Seth Tillman for editing this podcast and to Richie Soares with Homeschool & Humor for writing this blog post!

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