Coaching Social Initiative to The Introverted Teen

A parent writes: We are so worried about our teenage daughter. She spends all of her free time at home and seems so disinterested in making friends and enjoying the teenage life. She's always been shy and not very conversational, even at home. Any suggestions?

The trials and tribulations of adolescence prepare youth for the many challenges of adulthood but not always. Interferences may place a roadblock in front of a critical path to adult happiness: socialization. Many teens are stalled on the "social shoulder" due to inhibition and introversion. Years of shyness have settled into an entrenched personality constriction, severely limiting verbal spontaneity and the range of emotional expression among peers. As social maturity is stunted, worried parents watch with angst and apprehension.

If this circumstance sounds agonizingly familiar, consider these coaching tips to get your teen moving forward on their social road:

Carefully craft your approach to keep the doors to discussion open. Scrutiny of their social life is an acutely sensitive topic for teens to address with parents. Express curiosity, not worry, when broaching the issue. Explain how puzzling it is that they spend so little time with peers. Suggest that this situation may not bother them much now but has long term costs. If they admit to loneliness and sadness, assess their level of motivation to overcome barriers to socialization. Use an unemotional tone and delivery to minimize the possibility of being viewed as intrusive and annoying.

Speak candidly about the pitfalls of introversion and the advantages of overcoming it. Don't let discomfort interfere with expressing your awareness of their loner life, and the many ways they steer clear of peers. Introduce the concept of social anxiety and how it may be contributing to their avoidance. By modeling this type of calm directness it may be easier for your teen to reveal how ingrained is their introverted patterns. Ask about their cafeteria behavior in school, class participation, and feelings of invisibility among peers. Praise them for talking about such a difficult issue.

Stress how breaking free from the grips of introversion will be challenging but also very satisfying. Challenge their view that is "too late" with reassurance that they learn new things all the time. Compare social initiative to learning a new language that takes practice and skill development. By being on the watch for opportunities to insert themselves into discussions, show friendly interest in others, and draw conversational paths out of common ground topics, seeds of socialization can be planted. Emphasize the importance of making these initiatives with those peers who send signals of safety and security.


Encourage them to broaden their conversational repertoire by becoming more "culturally literate." This term refers to the range of mainstream interests that entertain and entice today's teenagers. Music downloads, concerts, television shows, movies, video gaming, clothes, sports, after school clubs and events, and social networking sites, are some of the many entry points that provide assess to verbal connections with peers. If they recoil at these suggestions, reassure them that there is no need to give up their interests and identity but merely to be more tolerant and knowledgeable about how the average teenager spends their time.

Dr Steven Richfield is an author and child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA Contact him at 610-238-4450 or

Ed. note: Detailed information on parenting skills here.

Visit Dr. Steven Richfield's site The Parent Coach, right here at HealthyPlace

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APA Reference
Writer, H. (2009, October 27). Coaching Social Initiative to The Introverted Teen, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 20 from

Last Updated: March 29, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD