I wrote this because in my clinical work as a counsellor it’s quite common and I wanted to offer some helpful and reassuring advice.
- Are you worried that your teenage daughter is isolated and has no friends?
- Perhaps she doesn’t seem to have a good friend or a best friend?
- Does it seem like she is a lonely teenager who isn’t socialising with her peers?
The teen years are a time of huge change and transition. Younger children typically experience social connection through playdates, clubs and groups, but the focus shifts significantly for teen girls and is often influenced by trends on social media, and who they connect with through secondary school.
It’s important to approach any concern you have with sensitivity as there can be many reasons why she may find it hard to make or keep friends.
In this article, I’ll highlight some of those reasons and give you some expert tips on how to support your daughter develop social skills and understand their relationships better.
Lonely Teen Girls: Assessing Social Skills
Healthy friendships are an important aspect of a child’s development. Social connections in the form of friendship and inclusion are especially important for teenagers. It’s a part of how teens feel valued and worthwhile.
Lots of people think that making friends should be easy. But it isn’t always simple or straightforward.
One of the hardest things to perfect is understanding and using social skills which work in different social situations. It takes time to polish these skills and the reality is that your teen is faced with many more social platforms than their parents were as kids!
A good relationship with a friend requires reciprocal communication.
Your teen’s social skills, ability to form close relationships and become successful at keeping friends are often dependent on some of the following considerations:
- Does your teenager have the opportunity to participate in activities in social settings that are comfortable for them?
- Do they know how to engage in small talk?
- Do they understand social cues such as reading body language, understanding sarcasm and tone of voice?
- Do they respect others’ personal space and boundaries?
- Are they able to listen to others’ and demonstrate appropriate interest in what others’ are saying?
- Are they able to sustain eye contact?
None of these things on their own are “deal breakers” if your daughter doesn’t have them.
For example, many teens find eye contact very difficult but still have friendships.
However, these areas all help with making and maintaining friendships.
What’s Your Teen Daughter’s Understanding of Friendships?
If you’re worried that your teenage daughter has no friends and isn’t included in any social circles, it can be helpful to gain some insight into how they understand friendships in the context of their world.
Friendships play an important role in their lives and can influence their emotional well-being, self-esteem and overall development. Friends on social media are as important as friendships in the physical world.
As a mother of 3 girls, I observed that real friends in the early teen years frequently changed and it was later on that more solid and constant friendships were built. Also, some girls may prefer more 1-1 friendships or small groups.
Teen girls typically want to have the space for self-expression in their peer group and this can often feel safer and better supported when they are in a friendship group.
Being in a group of friends can be fantastic! Balancing individual and group identity can be complicated and dynamics can quickly or dramatically change as the friendships evolve, especially through adolescence.
When a Teen Has No Friends: The Role of Self Esteem
A teenager’s self-esteem plays an important role in the formation of friendships.
If your daughter has low self-esteem, is shy or anxious about interactions with people, they may have a hard time establishing friendships, especially if others are really confident in social situations.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make friends!
It’s inevitable that there will be a variety of personalities in peer groups and friendships. Your teen is just one of them.
You can help your teen daughter build their self-esteem through encouraging positive self-talk, giving constructive feedback and providing a supportive environment in which they can discover their own strengths and value.
Teenagers with a higher self-esteem do often have better resilience skills. The ability to resist peer pressure, maintain boundaries and avoid isolation tends to come more easily.
And there’s no doubt that having confidence contributes towards better communication and the ability to maintain friendships.
The Role of Anxiety When Your Teenage Daughter Has No Friends
If it’s evident that your teenage daughter has no friends, there is usually a reason for this. Humans are innately social beings and we don’t typically function well in isolation.
It’s important to explore what might be present for your daughter.
Does it feel like social anxiety is something they struggle with?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and sometimes children find friendship formation or social interaction stressful.
Mental health conditions such as social anxiety or depression can mean some teenagers have little or no social life and this can lead to self-isolation.
It may be that social anxiety is amplifying their fear of rejection so they hesitate to approach social situations for fear of being judged or criticised.
There’s lots of self-help for anxiety. You can read more about this in our article on social anxiety in teens.
If you are concerned that anxiety is affecting your child’s day to day functioning, then book in a visit with your GP to discuss.
Friendships for Teenage Girls Who Are Neurodivergent
By way of example, one common trait of autism – cognitive rigidity – can make navigating friendships a bit harder.
- Coping when different cliques form and change at school
- Coping if their best friend spends lots of time with other people
- Rules of a game or plans with friends changing suddenly
Having shared interest experiences with other teens they can relate to, will help build friendships.
Read more about relationships in our article https://www.theyarethefuture.co.uk/autism-relationships-supporting-young-people/
Teenage Girls With No Friends: The Role of Perfectionism
Perfectionism can play a complex role in friendships and affect them in a number of ways. For example:
- Perfectionists often set themselves (and others) high standards which can often feel unrealistic for others to meet.
- Perfectionists tend to be highly self-critical and this can also extend to how they feel about friends which may cause tension.
- Perfectionist can find accepting imperfections in themselves and others’ challenging. This can come across as a lack of tolerance.
- Perfectionists often seek external validation. Within friendship, this may mean they need lots of reassurance which may feel burdensome for others’.
It’s important to say that not all perfectionism has a negative effect on friendships. Healthy relationships are possible and learning through experience and developing social skills will help.
TAKE THE QUIZ!
The Role of Luck When Your Teenage Daughter Has No Friends
Luck and external factors can play a part when children are forming friendships.
Most friendships are developed through school, clubs and hobbies. Some are through neighbourhoods or as a spur from their parents’ friendships within social groups.
Children who have a close connection with peers in primary school typically find that these groups change as they transition up to a new school.
They may not have a choice about whether current friends will be in the same class. This might cause your daughter to feel abandoned, or isolated as she tries to establish new connections.
Some friendships happen by chance encounters, at parties, clubs or through mutual acquaintances, and some are determined through geographical location.
Teenage Girls and Difficulty Finding Friends With Similar Interests
A great way to help teens find social connection with other’s is through extra-curricular activities. School clubs usually offer a variety of activities such as sport, music, drama, writing, gaming.
Out of school activities can offer lots of opportunities for making friends but it’s a good idea to find something that suits your teen. If your teen struggles in big groups, then look for something that offers 1-1 or small group interactions.
The goal is to encourage socialisation through exciting and engaging activities on a regular basis. Structure can help to reduce anxiety and also help build self-esteem.
When they find people who have common interests, they will be able to relate to each other and have things to talk about. Engaging in new interests is one of the best ways to find new friends and similar minded people.
Teenage Girls: Difficulty Initiating New Friendships
Meeting new people can feel very daunting for some children, especially if they are anxious.
The good news is that there are so many different ways of initiating new friendships for teenagers today. Here are some ideas:
- Be open and approachable and do your best to make eye contact wherever possible.
- Say yes to some invitations and social events!
- Join clubs or groups that interest you.
- Be yourself.
- Express vulnerability.
- Use social media to stay connected.
My Teenage Daughter Has No Friends: Case Study, Zara
Melissa’s 14 year old daughter Zara is studying at a high school 10 miles from her rural home.
Zara has really struggled to form friendships with people her own age in her school environment.
Melissa is concerned about her apparent lack of social connections and wants to understand what is contributing towards her social struggles.
Zara is an introverted and creative teenager. She loves dancing, drawing and writing stories. She enjoys spending time on her artistic pursuits and has a unique sense of style.
She is coping really well with her studies at school with excellent reports home, but her parents have noticed a gradual withdrawal from social activities both inside and out of school along with a lack of motivation to go out.
Understanding Zara’s Friendship Difficulties
One Sunday afternoon whilst out on a sunny walk with their dog Benji, Melissa casually asks Zara about her friendships. According to Zara, she finds it hard to start conversations with people, but likes to join in when talking about topics she’s interested in.
During the conversation, Melissa noticed that Zara rarely spoke about people by name and certainly didn’t mention a close friend or friendship group that she belongs to.
Zara also said that most of the people in her class and school clubs live a long way from her and she thinks that’s why she doesn’t get invited to lots of things that happen in town.
It’s clear that Zara is quite a shy person who finds it difficult to initiate and join in day to day conversations. She prefers to be a listener rather than a participant.
Zara’s unique interests may not align with the predominant interests of her peers and this could be contributing towards a sense of isolation.
Melissa wonders if Zara also has some social anxiety too.
Making a Plan Together
Zara would like to have more friends. She and her mum start by thinking of the things Zara could do to develop her self-confidence and join in more. First of all, Zara decides to sign up for a dance class in her village so that she can enjoy her hobby and build friendships outside of the classroom nearer to her home.
Zara’s school have a great social skills programme run by the drama department which uses role play scenarios to help students explore relationships, build connections and understand social cues, rules and dynamics. It’s a lunch-time club which Zara can sign up to.
Melissa also encourages Zara to invite people to their house and not to assume they won’t come because of the distance. She tells Zara that with enough notice, she is very willing to take Zara over to town to meet friends.
These are some great steps that Zara is taking but if she continues to have difficult times with friendships, she knows that she can talk to her school counsellor about the difficulties and how it makes her feel.
What To Do If Your Teenage Daughter Has No Friends: Final Thoughts
If your teenage daughter has no friends, the most important thing the remember is that it can be really common for adolescents to go through periods of social adjustment.
By the time they are young adults, they will have gained a lot of more experience around their relationships.
With support and encouragement they can start to better understand their challenges, worries, feelings and experiences and learn how to have friendships that fit into their world.
Hayley Vaughan Smith is a Person Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and Counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.
Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and has worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care since 2019. Being a mum to 3 girls is hard work and rewarding in equal measure and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy.
Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.
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