Helping Your Early Teen with Social Overwhelm

Our friends at Role Models share some tips on how to support your teen or 'tween' to manage social overwhelm and feel confident, secure and happy...

With a sharp return back to school or college, you may notice your teen or 'tween' struggling with elements of social overwhelm. It can be hard to know how best to support them; managing those turbulent emotions can be a real challenge.

How can we help them to feel happy, confident, and secure?

Helping them Deal with Worries

If you notice your teen is particularly anxious about something or an upcoming situation, help them list out everything they can influence about it. Discover what is in their control or down to them. Then do the same for the opposite - what are the aspects that they can't influence? This helps them to see the number of things that they are potentially wasting their energy thinking about and that they should instead focus on the ones they can influence.

Normalise Their Emotions

A large part of social overwhelm is fuelled by worrying about worrying. Why do I feel like this? I'm not normal for worrying about these things or having these big emotions. Reassure your child that their emotions and worries are normal and not to be judged negatively. When it's the right moment, using 'Did I ever tell you about the time I....' can work wonders to help drive connection and expose your own vulnerability. Telling your teen about your own experience with friendship issues or big emotions can sometimes help to reassure them.

Holding Clear Boundaries

However much the boundaries you've set might seem to be the cause of conflict, and however much your teen pushes against them, hold strong on maintaining them! Your teen needs these boundaries in much the same way a toddler does in order to feel grounded and safe. Contradictory or changing expectations just cause confusion. Decide on a few, simple boundaries and make them non-negotiable.

Allow for Down Time, Space, and Independence

After the transition back to term time and the increase in pace and stamina, this requires, be mindful of the space your early teen may need. You might want them socialising with the rest of the family but some time in their own space might be what they need to decompress from their day.

Explore the Difference between 'Fitting In' and 'Belonging'

Many teens confuse 'fitting in' for belonging. We've all been there ourselves, in our teenage years where we bend ourselves to fit the group. If you can see this taking its toll on your teen and they are becoming far away from their authentic self, help them begin to see the difference between fitting in and belonging, focusing on how good it feels to genuinely belong based on acceptance.


Role Models offer online sessions and courses for 11-13 year olds, helping them to develop their confidence, collaboration skills, leadership qualities, creative problem solving, and resilience. For further ideas on supporting your teens, take a look at Teen Tips which provides a number of webinars and workshops on how as a parent you can create a healthy & happy home.

This article was written by Louise Treherne, Director of Character Education at Role Models.