Home | Menu | Sign Up | Donate

Tips for Parents

When Your Adolescent is Struggling with Social Isolation

​​© Amy Wilner, PsyD​

When teenagers are suffering emotionally, even the most competent parents can feel confused about how to help. Although you can’t make the problems disappear, there are things you can do. Teens who struggle with the pain of social isolation usually benefit from talking about their experience in ways that can help them better understand and manage their feelings.

Be observant, but don’t assume you know what’s going on. Ask questions.

Don’t hound your son or daughter, but do communicate your interest by being curious. You might think you know what your child is going through, but it’s important to respect that your teen has his or her own experiences and feelings.

Attempt conversations regularly, but not incessantly.

Don’t take it personally if your adolescent isn’t ready or able to talk with you. If these conversations aren’t productive, offer your teen another adult to talk with.

Stay calm and try not to expose your teen to your anxiety that might be stirred up by his or her situation.

If you need to, find someone to talk with so that when you are with your child, you can really listen and be responsive to what he or she is saying rather than what you are worried about.

Spend one-on-one time with your teen that doesn’t involve talking about​ what’s wrong.

In fact, you shouldn’t make your teen’s challenges the focus of all your interactions. You can play sports, take hikes, go to movies… Don’t treat this time as a substitute for peer interactions, but do let your teen know you find his/her company valuable.

You are the adult and you have veto power; use it judiciously.

Most adolescents really want to navigate their own way through social situations. You can give your teens reasonable opportunities and offer guidance or suggestions, but you can’t force it. If you are worried about your child’s emotional health​ and things seem to be stuck or getting worse, seek help from a mental health​ professional who specializes in adolescents.

Don’t be afraid to seek a consultation for yourself.

Just because we survived our own adolescence doesn’t mean we don’t need help when it comes to being parents of teenagers. It may only take a few meetings with an experienced therapist to get on track.

National Programs

Know Your Classmates

Our innovative national programs have inspired a cultural and behavioral shift at middle schools and high schools across the country. Join our movement to end social isolation by bringing one or all of these programs to your school.

Know Your Classmates is designed to explore middle school youth's identity and belonging, understand traditions, and recognize stereotypes. Multi-cultural and multi-faith backgrounds are common in today's schools and Know Your Classmates is speaking honestly with children about their feelings and experiences with one another. Know Your Classmates Day is Friday, October 23, 2020!

No One Eats Alone

No One Eats Alone™ teaches everyone how to make friends at lunch, often the most difficult part of the school day. Created and organized by students, this is our most popular program where schools in all 50 United States participate! National No One Eats Alone Day is Friday, February 12, 2021.

Be Kind Online

Be Kind Online is a powerful engagement program for middle school youth, their teachers and families. Focused on creating inclusive communities online, particularly learning to respond to digital gossip to reduce social isolation, Be Kind Online Day is May 14, 2021.

All of our programs encourage taking the pledge to never exclude others, reaching out to someone new, and spreading the word that inclusion is cool!