Don’t Worry If Your High Schooler Doesn’t Have Much Of A Social Life

My daughter kept to herself the last few years of high school. It started when she was a sophomore, and at first, I chalked it up to COVID-19 — no one was really social that year. But when things opened back up, she still seemed happier at home in her room or working. I watched her closely and asked her about it; she told me she didn’t really feel like she clicked with any of the kids and she was happier just doing her own thing.

I tried to encourage her (without being too pushy) to do things like school dances and games, or maybe have her friends over. Sometimes she’d go out and seemed to enjoy herself; other days she seemed to really struggle. She kept in touch with friends via her phone, but it was nothing like my high school experience, when I would be with my friends every chance I could get.

It didn’t change during her senior year, either. She skipped a lot of the traditional activities and said several times she just wanted to move on with her life. She didn’t feel like she really fit in, and she didn’t feel like it was healthy for her to try either. She told me it felt like she was forcing something with certain people and it made her really uncomfortable — like she wasn’t being her true self in order to get friends. Once she said, “Mom, I just haven’t found a wonderful group of friends.” I had to let her lead on this one and just know it would be all right.

As parents we always want our kids to thrive. And it was hard for me to see her stand on the sidelines or not take part because she didn’t feel like she had a supportive group of friends. But that all changed after she graduated.

That summer, she got a job and met a group of girls slightly older than her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. I see now how she’s true to herself and confident, because she didn’t force anything or try to be someone she’s not in high school. Instead, it just took her more time to find her crew.

I also realize that kids socialize differently nowadays. I hear other parents say that their child isn’t very social, and it worries them. The fact is, social media makes it possible to stay in contact with people and not leave the house. Heck, I have friends my age who say they aren’t nearly as social as they used to be and even online dating has changed because there’s less motivation to leave the house. Many people are fine communicating without leaving their couch. Personally, I love being in my sweatpants too with a cup of tea. So maybe they are onto something?

But it’s also possible that your child might not find their people until they are out of school. There’s no guarantee every high school class will have the perfect assortment of people for everybody to find their best friends. Many of us have stages in our lives when things are quiet and we don’t get out very much. Maybe for your child this is one of those times and when they are older, things will change.

I’m glad I stayed connected with my daughter while she was in school because it was important to make sure she wasn’t isolating herself too much. It’s clear now I had to let her come into her own and find a group of friends she was comfortable with. And it’s okay, and more common than we think, for our high schoolers to go through this.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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