Your child may be having difficulty developing intimate relationships, meaning close ties with others that go beyond just casual encounters in the cafeteria or being on the same baseball team.
An underlying contributor here is likely poor emotional awareness and emotional reciprocity, which means knowing your own feelings about a topic and being able to read others’ emotions. Some teens seem to be disconnected emotionally.
If you ask how they feel, you often get “I don’t know” as a response. Your teenager may say he “never thinks about feelings.” He might puzzle over the question or give a highly intellectual answer instead of an emotional one.
Challenges in these areas, combined with difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations, influence a person’s ability to form close friendships. Often, these teenagers may be very polite and studious but also very quiet, uncertain of how to join in on a conversation about the Broncos, for example, even though he watched the game.
Other times, teenagers have different interests from their peers and struggle to find a connection with others, instead seeming very different.
What do challenges with Intimacy in Relationships look like?
- Getting to know a lot of people but making no close friends?
- Easily taken advantage of by peers?
- Keeping others at arm’s length?
- Having friendships that last only a short time?
- Having trouble forming lasting social connections?
- Well-liked at school but doesn’t maintain close friendships? Instead, spending weekends at home or on the computer?
- Able to name some friends but never gets invited to birthday parties?
- Isolated; sitting alone at lunch and always keeping to himself?
Why is Intimacy in Relationships happening?
Intimacy is the ability to develop and maintain close relationships with peers. These friendships are lasting, deep, and reciprocal. In the Clear Child model, we label intimacy the highest level social skill. Intimacy involves being aware of one’s own emotions, and sharing emotions with others. It requires a deep understanding of the nuances of social relationships, including building trust, apologizing for past wrongs, and showing interest and concern for others. A child who struggles with intimacy may have few close friendships and more acquaintances or casual shifting playmates. Intimacy first develops during the mid-elementary years and continues to grow through the lifespan.
How can I manage Intimacy in Relationships at home?
Some children really have trouble making friends. Perhaps you have a really quirky kid who has peculiar interests and a unique interaction style. That’s okay! Research shows that all people really need is one good friend and one close relationship at home. No matter how quirky your child is, there has to be one other kid who is just as quirky and needs a friend just as much. Don’t give up!
Find peers with common interests: Collaborate with your teenagers’ school resources to be sure he or she is involved in activities that will allow him or her to meet like-minded peers. Identify other teenagers who love WWII or who will play Minecraft or Magic all day like your own.
Meet your child where he or she is: Look at the social skills phases presented in the Clinical section of this article. Do not expect your child to display advanced skills too soon. If your child is in the motor phase, set up playdates at the park, monster truck rally or rodeo. If your child is in the language phase, set up sleepovers at your house where you can model and practice conversations. If your child is in the emotions phase, set up activities like movies and book clubs where your child can learn more about feelings.
Connect with mental health professionals at school: School Psychologists or Counselors can guide your child to social experiences in which he might connect with other children. Be sure your child is not being bullied. If the school environment is bullying, bring this concern up with the administration at once.
Provide modeling and guidance: Make sure your child has opportunities to practice conversation through supervised playdates and outings. Make comments on emotions in yourself and others, in a neutral way, to serve as a model for your teenager.
Consider whether your child needs close friends. Some individuals with ASD may not need to have super close relationships. Psychologists consider whether or not the individual has symptoms of emotional distress. If so, then help with relationships is a crucial step to developing and living a full and happy life.
How can Clear Child Psychology help with Intimacy in Relationships?
We Help You, Immediately
Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.
We Help Determine Next Steps
Our Initial Consultation allows us to get a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and determine if an assessment is appropriate.
We Build a Customized Plan
Our Assessments allow us to determine your child’s specific strengths and challenges. We can use this information to develop a customized support plan which includes: referrals
We Connect you with the Right Professionals
Once we understand your child’s needs, we will help families get connected to the right specialists. No more guesswork, no more wasted time and resources.
We Provide Ongoing Coaching and Support
Our Coaching Packages allow us to continually support families as they continue their journeys. Parental coaching, life-skills practice, and school advocacy are just a few examples of ways we help.