As a child I was painfully shy. And when I hit high school I was riddled with social anxiety. If it were not for my outgoing best friend who “had my back” during social events, I don’t know how I would have made it through my high school years.
Not all shy adolescents are as lucky as I was. Those who don’t have a more outgoing counterpart to help them navigate the social scene dread the six hours of school they have to endure each day.
This is where peer mentoring programs can make a huge difference in shy teenagers’ lives. Modeled after the “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” program, a shy student is taken under a peer’s wing. This peer helps the student come out of his or her shell by simply opening up social situations the shy teenager would otherwise avoid.
For example, the teen with social anxiety would never join a large group of students in conversation or go to a football game or other school event for fear of rejection. But when paired with an outgoing peer to “break the ice” the shy teen has someone who “has their back” and the situation isn’t as daunting.
Incorporating a peer mentoring program into your school is a win-win situation for all those involved. The outgoing student leaders who serve as mentors gain a better understanding of others, while the students being mentored gain confidence and learn from their outgoing peers.
It is important to remember that shy teenagers will not ask for help. They would rather remain “invisible’ and not draw attention to themselves. You will need to identify those students who are extremely quiet and keep to themselves.
You will also need to carefully select those student leaders who will serve as mentors and provide them with training so they understand how important their role is.