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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Being A Friendless Teen

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Dear Dr. Respler:

I am a 16-year-old girl who will begin her junior year in high school in September. I am an excellent student, quiet, well behaved and ambitious. My problem is that I don’t really have friends.

I am in a school where all the girls are in cliques; I don’t belong to any of them. I study during recess and lunch, and basically feel ignored by my classmates, who are polite but rather cold to me. They call me when they need help with schoolwork, but never invite me to any parties, gatherings or outings. I am miserable in school.

My teachers like me and they tell my parents that I am a great girl with good middos. My parents, quiet and unassuming people, lead a quiet home life. They do not socialize much, as they lack social skills. Additionally, we are rather poor.

My brother, my only sibling, is also a good student – and also very quiet. But he finds solace in his learning and in his rebbeim. He loves learning and doesn’t care too much about making friends. His only true friend is his great chavrusah.

Since my family and I live in a simple and messy apartment, I am embarrassed to invite anyone over. I have no one to talk to, and truly wish that I would have at least one friend in school.

I sometimes want to speak to the mechanechet, a wonderful person. But I am afraid to do so. Even though I wonder why she never reaches out to me, I guess that since I am so well behaved and the school loves me, she doesn’t realize how much I am suffering.

Please help me!

A Teenage Fan

Dear Teenage Fan:

My heart breaks as I read your letter. Your story is not uncommon. In my practice I come across young men and women who are suffering as you are. Many of them are helped by social skills training. Generally these skills are learned through modeling, but as it seems your parents are not the best role models, it would be difficult for you to have acquired them. However, you can still work on learning social skills through counseling at school or individual therapy.

It’s important to remember that the “popular” kids are not always those with the best middos. Although in high school there is more of an emphasis on character development than in elementary school, our schools have a long way to go.

It seems like it would be a good idea to speak with your mechanechet. As you noted, the school is probably not aware of how you feel and if you can take the first step, you may be able to get some help. Perhaps she can set up some kind of activity that will foster friendships. Many high schools have a gemach program wherein the students are required to fulfill a certain amount of chesed hours. It was actually my chesed activities that led me into the field of psychology. I used to visit a senior citizen home every Sunday with a group of friends.

Besides being a vehicle to help others, these chesed programs foster friendships between the girls. This year you will be entering eleventh grade. If you can turn your situation around this year, you will have ample time to develop new friendships. Perhaps if you speak with the school social worker/school psychologist or seek outside therapy, you can also simultaneously work on improving your social skills, which will make it easier for you to reach out to fellow students. Are you friendly to others? Do you compliment your classmates? Do you initiate conversations and try to be positive? Perhaps you become so anxious that you freeze. Counseling can be helpful to ameliorate this situation.

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6 Responses to “Being A Friendless Teen”

  1. You’r some kind of leader i making and you have to learn . There’s Always chilli winds on the top.

  2. Make books ua best friends. It helps

  3. Orah Peer says:

    wow,that’s tough!! in my experience ,the thing that worked for me at her age was joining other Groups!!! i avoided going out with pple who let me feel isolated,found nice Group of outside school ,gained confidence & most importantly: got many new friends::don’t get stuck in trying to mingle with your class,as you see they are in little groups already & they don’t care about who is alone.Also you should know that by having other friends you confidence level will rise & ur classmates will feel it ,& in gral. pple like to be around happy positive pple.The min you do outside school activities & find even ONE friend you won’t need anybody else.Work on finding other friends & send the therapist to ur friends in school:p….they need it more than you.you have good middot ,don’t you?Also i know someone like in ur situation,her class wasn’t a good fit for her,it wasn’t bad but she didn’t really belong,so she found a girl from a lower grade & they are good friends since…sometimes at recess you can find other girls in school.the world is big doesn’t end with ur class

  4. Orah Peer says:

    My daughter had to go through Kinder-garden twice because her Morah then realized that her classmates weren’t nice to her.She told me ur daughter is sweet,has nice middot ,she doesn’t belong in this class.it was a pain on the neck then to accept that she would have to repit a grade for social issues but im so happy she did .!!today she ‘s bH well liked in her class & she ‘s even popular…gam zu letova!!

  5. I can relate to this.

  6. Don’t worry , keep studying do your best and after HS go to University and when you become a professional all this classmates and those people at school that ignored you and use you only for you to help them will be ashamed and you will be on top of all of hem I knew somebody like that went through this but now this person is a professional very we’ll established professionally , has money new car nice house and nice things that this person didn’t had in HS years but now is admired and those classmates are ashamed since they didn’t succeeded as much as this person. Don’t let those classmates intimidate you look always Very Confident about yourself you will see a different reaction from them.

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