The Shy Teenager:
Some teens may never master the skill of social connection. Whereas some children plunge into social situations and never look back, others remain on the sidelines. In class they never raise their hands; at parties they never seem to know how to mingle; in large groups they clam up. Psychologists do not label shyness as a pathological condition or even a problem but rather a matter of temperament; a normal variation of behavior. Shy children may experience what most of us would consider as a small amount of sensory input as overwhelming.
If the time it takes for your teenager to loosen up with new people is measured in hours rather than seconds, there are ways you can help them make and sustain connections. Shy teens can be encouraged to rely on the friends they have – since even the shyest teen probably has one friend – to help them acclimate to stressful situations. Putting the buddy system in place during transitional periods is a good idea whenever your shy teen enters a new situation, whether it’s a basketball game or a party.
In more severe cases, getting professional help from a psychologist may be needed in overcoming your teen’s shyness. A psychologist that can use a strength-based, system oriented, and family-centered approach and work from a positive adolescent perspective can be quite helpful. The best psychologist for teenagers is one that supports parental efforts and works with teens to make healthy choices rather than assigning pathological labels to problems.
We often complain about teens that seem alienated – withdrawn, quiet, sullen, uninvolved. All too often, teens that act this way are really feeling silenced, unappreciated, and unvalued. It’s no wonder that teens just give up when they feel their voices aren’t being heard, or when their energy isn’t appreciated or accepted in the spirit in which it was given. Since teens don’t have as much experience as we do, it’s easy to assume that their contributions will be slim. However, teenagers may offer a fresh perspective, and deserve to be heard regardless of age. Teenagers need opportunities to feel valued and welcome – not just at home but in schools and in their communities as well.
Kaynaz Nasseri is a psychology therapist specializing in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her psychotherapy practice is located in Newport Beach, but she helps patients that visit her from all of Southern California, including Orange County, San Diego, and Los Angeles, such as: