How to Make Friends as a Teen

How to Make Friends as a Teen (9 Steps)

Published On: March 24, 2024

Feeling lonely? You’re not alone. Humans are designed to be a part of a community and to feel that we belong. When we’re missing this, we will often feel depressed, anxious, or irritable. As a therapist, I work with many teenagers that feel isolated, misunderstood, and disconnected from their peers. I am often told stories about how other kids at school already have their groups of friends, and how it feels impossible to break into a friend group. Here are a few tips on how to make friends as a teen.

Why is it so hard to make friends?

You may be finding it hard to make friends for a variety of reasons. One big reason that teens share is that the COVID-19 pandemic hurt their social skills and missing school made it really hard to get connected with peers. At the time of publishing, teens would have been 10 through 14 years old during nationwide lockdowns. These are essential ages in child development, and many are feeling the after effects of isolation. It is not surprising if you are feeling that you’re missing social skills if you were isolated during these fundamental years. 

Another reason it may be hard to make friends is social media.

Social media has heavily influenced the way that we communicate, engage, and meet one another. I work with many teens who have friendships or “mutuals” online, but do not have friendships in-person. They often share that the connection they feel online is not enough for them. I also work with teenagers that share that they may be more outgoing online, but experience significant anxiety when they try to talk to someone in person, even if they’re talking to someone in-person that they frequently talk with online. Additionally, having access to so much information can also be problematic. People tell me they often feel FOMO, or the fear of missing out, whenever they scroll on social media and see events that they were not invited to or unable to attend. I believe that social media is often a barrier to deep, authentic connection.

It’s important to not let barriers stand in the way of making new friends and connections. Whether you feel that the pandemic negatively impacted your ability to make friends, or if social media plays a role in your feelings of disconnection, or if there is another challenge standing in your way, there are ways to overcome it.

9 Tips to Making Friends as a Teenager

1. Have Open Body Language

As tempting as it may be to scroll on your phone when you’re in a crowded room, I strongly encourage you to put your phone away and make eye contact with other teens. Scrolling on your phone suggests that you’re busy, don’t want to be bothered, or not engaged. You are inviting conversation and connection by simply making eye contact.

2. Say Hi – That’s All!

Initiating conversation with someone new feels very intimidating, and it can be so useful to making new connections. You may feel uncertain on what to talk about or how to get a conversation going. When you are meeting someone new, it is okay to simply say hello. For example, if you are looking to connect with someone at school, you may say hi as you are getting settled into your desk. By saying hi as you’re settling in, it is not necessary to maintain a lengthy conversation; however, it creates openness for conversations.

3. Get out of Your House

What are you most passionate about? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Is there any way that you can turn this into an opportunity for social connection? You can connect with others, even if your preferred activity tends to be a solo one. For example, if you enjoy reading, you could opt to go to the library rather than order a book online. If you like to crochet, maybe you could choose to crochet in a public place like a park. Simply being in a public setting significantly increases the likelihood that you will meet someone new.

4. Join a Club 

Structured activities such as clubs take off a lot of the social pressure teens feel when attempting to make new connections. Clubs have a set date and time, and often have structure that allows participants to simply show up. If you join a club on a topic that you are interested in, you know that everyone there has similar interests. This makes it really easy to engage in a conversation on shared interests.

5. Volunteer

Volunteering is a good use of your free time because it’s an opportunity to serve your community while also connecting with others. This is also a good strategy to meet new people, as most volunteer gigs are done in a group format, or with many people working on the same task together.

6. Get a Part Time Job

If you are old enough to work, getting a part time job is a great way to meet new people. Consider applying to places that teens often work, such as local shops, restaurants, or the movie theater. You’ll make a little spending money, work on your social skills, and have an opportunity to connect with other kids your age. 

7. Connect through Social Media

Although I shared many reasons as to why social media has been detrimental to social skills, I also recognize that it is a key component to making connections. I recommend that people use social media to connect with people that they may know of in real life, or may have the ability to get to know them better. For example, you may choose to connect with people that go to your school, live in your area, or that you have mutual friends with. 

8. Join a Workout Class or Program

Exercising has loads of benefits, including increased energy, better sleep, improved mood and decreased stress. By exercising in a group, you will have the opportunity to work towards a shared goal with others. By using this approach, you will feel the positive effects of connecting with others as well as the physical benefits of exercising. Some fun options for exercise classes or programs include yoga, cycling, weightlifting, rock climbing, skating, tennis, and pickleball. No matter your level of fitness, there’s sure to be an activity that you enjoy.

9. Find a Therapy Group

If you are struggling to make friends, there may be a social support group in your area that you may join. These support groups are led by licensed therapists with a goal of creating a supportive environment in which you authentically connect with one another to provide mutual support.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of what approach you take to make friends, the most important part is that you simply get started. I understand it may feel overwhelming or uncomfortable to reach out to people initially, but you will feel more confident in yourself as you put yourself out there. If you are really struggling to connect with peers and developing a social life, it may be useful to work with a licensed teen therapist to build your self-confidence and identify specific ways you may meet friends.