By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor 
Making friends as a teenager can sometimes be challenging, but it's also an exciting opportunity to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. 
Whether our friendships are going well or not makes a massive difference to our happiness and wellbeing. I see lots of teenagers who are distraught at having fallen out with a friend they were once close to. It can feel like a devastating loss. We need to have trusted friends and adults around us to get through the school day and the adolescent years. 
Here's a guide to help you navigate the process: 

1. Be Yourself 

Authenticity is key. Be true to your interests, values, and personality. Don't try to be someone you're not just to fit in. 

2. Smile and Make Eye Contact 

When you meet someone new, a warm smile and maintaining eye contact can convey friendliness and approachability. If you find this difficult then watch someone you look up to and get tips on what to do. 

3. Start with Small Talk 

Begin conversations with easy, non-threatening topics like school, hobbies, or common interests. Ask open-ended questions to encourage more extended conversations. If you are Autistic or feel different to others then ask a parent or trusted adult to help you with practicing conversations. Role play together what you would like to talk about. 

4. Join Clubs or Groups 

Participate in extracurricular activities or clubs that align with your interests. This is an excellent way to meet people who share your passions. 

5. Volunteer 

Volunteering for a cause you care about is a fantastic way to meet like-minded individuals and give back to your community. 

6. Attend Social Events 

Go to school events, discos, parties, and other social events even if you're a bit nervous. These gatherings offer excellent opportunities to meet new people. 

7. Be a Good Listener 

Being a good listener is just as important as being a good talker. Show genuine interest in what others are saying and ask follow-up questions. 

8. Body Language 

Pay attention to your body language. Stand or sit up straight, make eye contact, and avoid crossing your arms, which can make you appear closed off. 

9. Use Social Media Wisely 

Social media can be a tool for making and maintaining friendships. Connect with classmates or peers on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook. 

10. Be Inclusive 

Include others in your activities and conversations, especially if you notice someone who seems left out. Being inclusive can help you make friends and create a positive social atmosphere. 

11. Respect Differences 

Be open to meeting people from various backgrounds and with different interests. Respect differences in opinions, beliefs, and cultures. If you feel different to others then embrace your differences, skills, and interests. It’s OK to be you! 

12. Take Initiative 

Don't wait for others to approach you. If you see someone you'd like to be friends with, take the first step by saying hello or introducing yourself. 

13. Stay Positive 

Positivity is attractive. Maintain a cheerful outlook and try not to dwell on negative experiences or gossip. 

14. Practice Empathy 

Put yourself in others' shoes and try to understand their feelings and perspectives. This can help you build deeper connections. 

15. Give Compliments 

Offer genuine compliments when you notice something you admire about someone. Compliments can make others feel valued and appreciated. 

16. Maintain Boundaries 

While it's essential to be friendly, it's also important to maintain personal boundaries. Respect your own needs and limits in social situations. 

17. Follow Up 

If you've had a good conversation or shared a positive experience with someone, don't hesitate to follow up. Invite them to hang out or suggest doing something you both enjoy. 

18. Be Patient 

Building lasting friendships takes time. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen overnight. Keep putting yourself out there and trying. 

19. Handle Rejection Gracefully 

Not everyone you meet will become a close friend, and that's okay. If someone isn't interested in being friends, respect their decision and move on. 

20. If things go wrong 

Talk to someone you trust, either another friend or trusted adult, parent, teacher you like or school counsellor. They will know how to help or signpost. Don’t struggle alone, ask for help. 

21. Online Safety 

If you're connecting with people online, be cautious and protect your personal information. Stick to reputable platforms and never share sensitive information with strangers. 
Remember that everyone experiences challenges in making friends at some point. Don't be too hard on yourself and be open to making mistakes and learning from them. Building friendships is a skill that improves with practice, so keep trying, and you'll find people who appreciate and value your friendship. 
Recommended Book: The Teenage Guide to Friends by Nicola Morgan. 
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