Marko wrote an article a while ago entitled ‘My Teen Seems on the Fringe‘. I’ve found it really helpful when thinking about those youngsters who we struggle to engage with, not because they have behavioural problems, but purely because they are a bit more on the edge, a bit more reclusive.
Marko suggests we watch for these telltale signs:
- Distancing from childhood friends. This can be a healthy process—so don’t jump to conclusions. But be aware that this initiation of social shift can result in a move to the fringe.
- Quantity time spent alone. This is especially common in young teen boys: their social skills are often not developed, and it’s emotionally easier to be a loner than to bushwhack into new friendships.
- Depression. I’m not necessarily referring to the clinical types of depression. And all young teen get moody and “down” at times. But take notice if this seems to be a regular mood.
- Popularity Longings.It’s certainly not uncommon for teens to want to be popular (it’s not uncommon for adults either!). But watch for regular verbalizations and attempts at breaking into popular cliques.
And that we help by :
- Verbally encourage budding friendships. When you see your teen taking healthy steps toward new friendships, affirm their efforts.
- Facilitate friendships. Go to great lengths to create opportunities for healthy friendships to develop. Suggest creative and fun things to do, and provide transportation.
- Keep lines of communication open. Talking about this stuff can be the most important step for lonely teens. Find safe and neutral places for your teen to share with you.
- Encourage youth group participation. It’s important that your teen have the opportunity to take part in a healthy church youth group.
- Pray for your teen! Pray for healthy friendships that will meet the very real social needs of your teenager.