I’m a 17-year-old boy with no female friends, how do I change that?

 Tell me about it: Single-sex school and small town has left boy with no girl friends

PROBLEM: I’m a 17-year-old boy living in the south of Ireland in a small enough village. During the lockdown I maintained friendships with around eight or nine guys my age, seeing them often. I realised recently that, since I attend an all-boys school, I have no friends that are girls, nor do I have any contact with any girls.

This is something that doesn’t bother me hugely, but it has been bugging me recently. I know girls from around my village to say hello to on the street, and many of my male friends are friends with girls and see them often, but I’m only included when it’s the guys.

This is by no means deliberate on their part (though I suspect my awkwardness may play a part). This is something I would simply like to change in my life, as I would hate to struggle to make friends with girls as I get older.

ADVICE:  This is a great question as it means that you are willing to do something about the lack of female friendship and/or relationship in your life. You say you are awkward, and you believe this may have something to do with your friends not including you when they are hanging out with girls but of course, they too may feel awkward.

Your attitude to doing something about increasing your contact with girls sounds non-committal as you say you are both unaffected but bugged by this – this could lead you to making an effort in this direction and giving up easily when it gets difficult. Your attitude is a huge part of any endeavour, so you might check if this is really a goal for you as you will need determination to keep on track.

Volunteering also offers a great way of spending time with like-minded people and of making friends

Strangely, we have much more ability to consciously chose an attitude than we think, your attitude now seems ambivalent and this is probably because this task you are setting yourself is scary, but if you are to be effective in seeking female connection, you will need to adopt an attitude of openness, optimism and determination.

A starting point is your friends who already have connections with girls. Can you ask them to include you when they are meeting girls? This will take courage and honesty but then these are things that increase friendship and are worth taking the risk for. As well as this, you might look at how you could be around girls in a natural setting – this might include joining groups or clubs that are already mixed. There might be a drama group (same-sex schools often put on joint plays) or debating society.

There would be a double bonus in this as you would meet girls plus learn how to speak in public. As always, there is an initial “cost” to joining a new club – it feels as though everyone else has made connections and you are the odd one out but simply turning up again and again changes this. If you don’t give in to the feelings of being on the edge of things, you eventually find that you are in the mix, but you have to plan for feeling awkward and self-consciousness for quite a while.

There is also the possibility of joining a sport where there is a natural mix of genders: tennis, badminton, athletics or martial arts. When Covid ends, Park Runs will return and this include all sections of the community and even if you don’t like running, you can become involved in the organising or stewarding of the events.

Volunteering also offers a great way of spending time with like-minded people and of making friends through shared principles. This can include anything from care of animals to the St Vincent de Paul – there should be information in the local shop, community hall or church.

All of these things will bring you into contact with a mix of people your own and other ages, but it requires commitment and determination on your part. If you engage now, it will create a base for your whole life – sports, debating or volunteering will all have networks that reach into the whole country and beyond so that if and when you move out of your village, you will have a ready community wherever you go. This will offer you social connection when you are trying to set up a life in new settings and it will ease loneliness and isolation.

You are a very self-aware young person and this is a great starting point for creating a fulfilling life. The next step is the hard one of instigating action and taking the risk of exposing your vulnerability, but this is how friendships are formed and maintained. You are already well into this phase, so adopt a new attitude, make some plans and follow through on them in the next term and you will be on the path to more connections in your life.