Alysa Hugine could be considered an expert in making friends: The T.W. Josey High School senior has attended five high schools.
"I used to be the scared kid," she said, but now she knows what it takes to form friendships.
"You got to be positive in all aspects," she said.
Teen relationships are complex, but Dana Pickens, a psychologist for Richmond County schools, said a lack of relationships is downright dismal.
"Having relationships in your life (is) one of the primary ways we can find joy," she said.
Alysa, 18, attributes most of her social success to her extracurricular involvement -- she plays basketball and volleyball and is in numerous clubs at school. Activities form a "networking circle."
"If you feel as though you're lonely, find an activity or something, and nine times out of 10, you'll find a friend," she said.
Getting involved in a hobby or extracurricular activity can help you make friends, but beware joining for someone else, such as a parent, or because you think it makes you look good.
"If it's not something you're interested in, you're not going to feel a commonality," Dr. Pickens said.
Parents can play a role in helping teens get involved in the community, through a recreational sports team, a volunteer effort or a spiritual outlet such as a church youth group.
"A lot of kids find that's a good place to meet other people with the same type of values," Dr. Pickens said.
Megan Clifford, 14, and Madylime Spencer, 13, both of Evans, share a bond in their friendship of being the new kid.
"It's hard when you're being a teen and lonely," Megan said, and her family's relocating from Atlanta was difficult. "It's hard to make new friends because they're already in cliques."
Madylime, a newly relocated St. Louis native, was in the same boat. Most kids are accepting, but you need to make an effort, Madylime said.
Megan said she made her first friend on the third day of school by asking for directions to classes. Megan and Madylime met each other at church, and now the Riverside Middle School eighth-graders bond over baking their favorite cookie creation: Peanut Butter Brookies.
After you get a friend, you have to learn how to keep a friend. Alysa's advice is to be trustworthy and dependable.
"Don't back-stab them," she said.
Megan and Madylime said they keep in touch with long-distance friends by e-mail, or for Madylime's Internet-less friend, by being old-fashioned pen pals.
It's critical to develop positive bonds of friendship.
Loneliness can sometimes lead teens to reach out to relationships that aren't beneficial or are actually harmful, such as gang membership, Dr. Pickens said. To keep from feeling lonely again, teenagers can resort to doing anything to stay in the social circle.
Still, it's natural at times feel lonely. Just know that although you might feel you're the only one, you're not alone in feeling alone.
"Everyone experiences times when they feel lonely and misunderstood," she said.
Teen board member Chantal Gunn contributed to this article.
Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just as you keep your car well-tuned, friendships also require work. Dana Pickens, a psychologist for the Richmond County school system, gives tips for building and keeping friendships:
- As the old saying goes, to have a friend, you must be a friend.
- Always be kind.
- Communication is important.
- Remember details about their lives and follow up on things you talked about, such as the result of a game.
- Learn people's names.
- Listen, if you want others to listen to you.