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It is a common scenario where an introverted teenage boy (14-18) would shun socializing with girls, for varying reasons. Obviously, this is a self-reinforcing cycle (you can't get more skilled and comfortable with approaching the opposite sex without practicing it {reference: popular "Nerd Fitness" blog's series of articles on leveling up your social skills by Lindsay Miller}).

What are some practical steps that parents can take to help an introverted teenager to start trying to socialize, especially with opposite sex?

The advice should center specifically on overcoming the issues that cause an introvert to shy away from such an activity (to give an incomplete starter list: fear of rejection, fear of being made fun of, low self esteem, lack of awareness of HOW to approach someone, lack of conversational skills, high preference of solitary or nerdy activities, low existing social status among age peers, self perceived image issues).

Assume that the teenager is interested in socializing, but is unable to overcome his issues to act on that interest (as opposed to this question which asks about encouraging such an interest in the first place).

s/girls/boys/ if the teen is homosexual. But anecdotally, shy introverted teenagers are more susceptible to this than homosexual ones who are out of the closet... and clearly for the ones who aren't being shy isn't their main concern

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This question brought to you by my asking the parents of a friend "what parenting issues did you face when raising him?" –  user3143 Jun 14 at 13:08
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You've gone all out, DVK, in jumping on the contest and we will all benefit from some great questions. –  Jeremy Miller Jun 14 at 15:21
    
Question assumes heterosexual teen. –  DanBeale Jun 15 at 8:31
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Have you read the book the Power of Quiet? While not specifically related to your question, it offers a good starting place for a multitude of scenarios that introverts have to face and offers sound advice on how to approach them. Being partially introverted, it really helped me to approach some of my limitations. –  ecathell Jun 16 at 13:22
    
There's a difference between being introverted and being shy. I think the question is asking more about being shy. –  DA01 Jun 19 at 2:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The fears you mention create a high-pressure situation for a teen, so your first goal should be to reduce pressure. Many young men do not socialize easily with girls until they are in their 20s. Make sure your son realizes that he will gradually get more comfortable with it in his own time. There is such a huge difference between the high school social scene and the college one - most notably that there are a lot more people in most universities, which includes a lot more girls that may be equally shy or attracted to shyness. So while he has in this instance set a goal to be more comfortable with girls, he needs to know that while he may struggle with it now, it will get easier as he ages. Try to stop that self-reinforcing cycle you describe.

A few suggestions to get started:

  • Join clubs or groups that include girls. Being in a group that has a common focus gives a ready topic of discussion.
  • Get a job that includes customer service. Facing customers of all stripes gives you a chance to practice brief interactions with strangers (some of which will be girls).
  • Girls in high school struggle with the fact that often boys are interested in them in a physical way, and they really enjoy friendships with boys where a physical relationship does not seem to be the goal. Be friendly with no evidence of flirting or over-attention. Offer to help with something with no strings attached. Be nice but unobtrusive. Girls will warm to you because you are safe. Eventually a closer relationship may develop, and in the meantime, you are practicing talking to girls.
  • If you can practice talking to girls in an environment other than school (like work, church, a charity where you volunteer, a book store or library), then you can avoid some of the teasing that sometimes goes with developing this skill amongst your peers at high school.

Re-reading your question, I realize that this is not just about girls. So a final couple of suggestion:

  • Follow your interests. Develop fully into who you are. You will attract people of a like mind. If you love video games, go to a gaming night at the library or game store. Love to read? Hang out in a book store. Like to build things? Join a maker group of some kind. Care about the environment? Volunteer at an environmental organization. Love to hike? Join a trail taming group.
  • As a parent, demonstrate social skills. Take your son into social situations, and do not speak for him. Include him in conversations with others (ask him questions while in conversation with others), make sure he orders his own food when you eat out, etc. Each time he gets through an uncomfortable conversation, his confidence will grow, so giving him opportunities with the safety of you nearby may help.
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"Get a job that includes customer service" - I'm uncertain of the validity of that specific bullet point, to be honest. Having been an introverted teen, I can attest that a customer service job (PC help desk in my case) doesn't really help getting more comfortable with people. –  user3143 Jun 14 at 15:55

From personal experience, I'd recommend helping him find activities that involve socializing WITHOUT small talk. Spending time in the company of girls his age without the pressure to act like an extrovert will allow your son to develop friendships, and maybe relationships, without feeling like he needs to become someone he's not. A club with a small number of people (where cliques are less likely to be present), focused on a topic that he is willing to explore, could be the perfect scenario for him. Maybe a photography class, or a school play, or a community service club.
Also consider activities in neighboring towns, where he would meet a new group of kids and might consider it a fresh start.

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