What to Do When Your Child Shows Signs of Social Withdrawal

substance abuse

Have you noticed a change in your child’s behavior? Were they once a social butterfly, and now you find them withdrawn?

Social and emotional withdrawal are red flags that something serious could be going on. Their guard is up, they’re isolating, and maybe even acting out. 

Bullying, depression, and abuse are all possible reasons for this change in behavior. As parents, you want to protect them. It’s important to know how to recognize these changes and what to do when your child is socially withdrawn.

What Are Signs of Withdrawal?

There’s a difference between independence and withdrawal. It’s common for parents to think the child is just going through a “phase”. However, withdrawal can turn into a dangerous situation. Some signs to look out for are:

  • Isolation and Crying

If your child seems depressed or is crying often, it could mean there’s an emotional disruption. They might feel like they’re not good enough or that nobody loves them. A wall gets put up and being alone is their way of protecting themselves. Serious outcomes of this can be substance abuse, self-harm, and promiscuous activity.

  • Anger and Outbursts

If your child is uncommunicative, verbally attacking you, or being disrespectful it could mean they’re being bullied or feel misunderstood and hurt. This could also lead to outcomes like substance abuse and self-harm and should be taken seriously.

How Do I Help My Child?

When you identify your child’s withdrawal, it’s important not to take it personally. Social withdrawal is not a rejection, but a cry for help or attention. If you act as though your child is rejecting you, it can make them withdraw even more causing a continuous loop.

Tell them what they need to hear. You love them, respect them, and will stand by them with whatever they’re going through. Your child needs to know they aren’t alone or being judged, and they have you to protect them.

Chances are they’ll keep you at arm’s length at first. Remember, they’re in defense mode and won’t immediately let you in. Don’t overreact if this happens. You’ll break the trust you’re trying to rebuild. Continue to support your child and show that you’re fighting for a relationship.

If you can’t get through to them and the behavior is getting worse, there is no shame in looking outward for help. Many therapists treat depression, anger, substance abuse, self-harm, and eating disorders that could be stemming from your child’s social withdrawal.


Understanding your child’s withdrawal is a serious matter. It’s hard to parent a withdrawn child, so getting any help you need is highly recommended. The sooner you address their issues, the easier it will be to reconnect with your child.


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