Mom worries about shy daughter in large high school
Dear Straight Talk: My daughter has attended the same small school from kindergarten through eighth grade. She is friendly but not particularly outgoing. She tends to have one or two close friends (and is very caring toward them), but she is not in the "popular crowd" and doesn't try to be.
Some classmates have started dating, but she and her friends are not among that group. This fall she will enter a much larger high school. What advice do you have for her on how to make friends and adjust? — Mom in Santa Rosa
Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: You could be my own mom! My eighth grade class had only five students. Starting high school was a big adjustment, but much less scary after the first day. The teachers are very supportive of new students, and getting to know them made things much easier. I still am not the most popular, but the close friends I have are good friends. The key is being friendly.
Sarah, 20, Santa Clara: I went to three different high schools so I know changing schools is rough. The best way to make new friends is to get involved in a team, club or group. I'm not very outgoing and it worked for me. Be approachable and genuine and you'll make friends before you know it.
Peter, 25, Monterey: I went to a small private school, and changing to a large school was no cakewalk. Fortunately, some teachers and a guidance counselor took an interest in me and made a huge difference in my life that continues today. I made friends and continued being socially awkward for a while, but eventually things were groovy. Be yourself. People will like you more for who you are than for who you try to be. And please know that there are oodles of teachers who care.
Nicole, 22, Grass Valley: I hope you aren't butting into her social life hoping she will be more like you. Regardless of your daughter's social or unsocial tendencies, she will be fine. There are always introverted individuals, and they create really strong relationships inside and out. Don't pressure your daughter to be a certain way.
Justin, 25, Redding: I, too, was a shy child. My one friend from middle school vanished when high school started. Making new friends was difficult. What helped me was the saying about snakes: "They are as afraid of you as you are of them." Best advice: Every person has the same worries, some are just better at pretending that they don't. To meet people you like, join an activity you like. Don't worry about being popular. I wasn't popular, but now I hang out with those who were. They didn't get any further in life.
Colin, 18, Sacramento: There is likely nothing to worry about. Don't freak your daughter out by making this a bigger deal than it is. As an introvert myself, I am confident this will be a good social learning experience. As long as she's friendly, she'll be fine.
Dear Santa Rosa Mom: The panelists themselves are proof that to be a successful, outgoing adult, you do not need to be popular and outgoing in high school. Furthermore, many didn't have a single date in high school but met a wonderful partner later.
Stop worrying. Your daughter doesn't seem to be worried, and I find no red flags, either. You say she is friendly. This is the key the panelists mention the most. Stay curious and interested, but unless she becomes depressed, out-of-sorts, reluctant to go to school or her grades fall, trust that she is handling things just right.
It is an honor to work with the panelists. They are an amazing group of individuals who come forth voluntarily to help others. I call them my "ordinary extraordinary" kids — and every young person in the world is this way. So ordinary on the outside, but, if they let you into their world, how stunningly extraordinary each one is.
Just so you know that I'm not working with a "sheltered elite," of the panelists who responded to today's question, one was practically living on her own in high school due to a split family; another's mother died right before high school started; a third manages a complex mixed family; a fourth pulled his self-esteem up from his bootstraps; and on it goes. Ordinary, extraordinary. Each individual on his or her own soul path.
The more we, as adults, teachers, parents and parent-figures can look in with love and curiosity, providing a safe emotional space for our young people to show us who they are, the better they can see themselves and the better decisions they will make. — Lauren
Lauren Forcella co-writes Straight Talk TNT with a panel of 85 teens and young adults. To ask a question or become a panelist, click StraightTalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.