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Non-Social Teens & Pre-Teens

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Non-Social Teens & Pre-Teens


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Encouraging social interaction for tween

Dec 2012

Like many kids, my 12 yr old son is glued to an online game after school. Though he has a small group of friends at school he prefers to interact with others through this game after school and on weekends rather than meeting with other kids face to face. Have other parent experienced this and what have you done to discuss or foster more face to face interactions? we do schedule outings with other families but can't seem to find activities my son finds engaging and would like to have him meet new kids as well. Tween mom


Our son is naturally a very shy introvert who has a group of good friends -- ALL of whom love a particular very popular online game. [involving building worlds, right?]

Regarding the screen time, we let him have a certain amount per day after he finishes his responsibilities. But we also tend to give him a little more leeway time-wise when he has friends over who want to play. It's a good way to get him interested in having friends over, and we see a fair amount of social interaction when they play near each other. We also expect that they'll do something else together while here, so the overall goal of actual 'face-time' does end up happening.

It's also had the added benefit of giving him a way into a friendship, when he's never been good at beginning one. This way, when he likes a new kid, and finds out they have this game in common, he has an easier time asking him over. --jmf


My 16 year old niece has problems forming friendships

Nov 2012

My niece, who I am now guardian of, spends most of her free time sitting in her room, writing stories or 'tumbling' on her iPod. Her only other interest is listening to music, watching the Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars or Super Natural. She is independent, funny, super sweet and drop dead gorgeous but she refuses to socialize or engage in activities with others outside of school. She has always been well liked by classmates and teachers every since she was a young girl but she can only get so close to anyone, including me and her mother. (Dad is not in the picture but she has a good relationship with her Mom. She moved here to attend high school so that she can get into the college of her choice). Also, she is an A student but if you ask her what she likes about school she will quickly tell you 'nothing' and she would prefer to spend her time sleeping. She is an only child who has problems making close relationships. She won't even eat lunch with other kids at her school. She comes off like she doesn't need people but when I press her she says she has trust issues and finds it difficult to engage with people beyond a surface level. When I ask her why she doesn't want to hang out with other teenagers (prefers going out with me) she said....''I don't want to end up in jail''. This brings me to the other issue. She has a list of phobias that she proudly keeps track of including fear of flying, heights, and throwing up (her favorite). She actually has a contingency plan for any possible accident that can happen. Sometimes she jokingly refers to this as her Cancer (zodiac sign) tendencies but I don't see this as a joking matter. I am worried that my beautiful niece will grow into adulthood thinking change is not necessary and never learning to TRY and get over her fears. She doesn't have anxiety by the way and if she is depressed its not obvious. Lecturing or heart felt talks doesn't seem to be helping. I'm thinking about trying to get her to see a therapist. Is anyone else experiencing this with their teenager? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.


Although I can understand your concern, I think that it is important to keep things in perspective. Your niece is 16 and still trying to figure out who she is and probably has confidence problems like all other 16 year olds. She probably is trying on a persona that she thinks is cool, based on the types of books, music, movies that she's into. Maybe she's also feeling very shy and out of place in a new environment. As a teenager, I was painfully shy and the things that she has told you about how she feels really ring a bell with me. Perhaps she is trying to cover up her insecurities and uncertainties with a nonchalant attitude. I would avoid focusing on this issue and just help her (in a very casual way) find ways to socialize in low risk situations. Lots of people might disagree with me, but I feel that therapy can aggrandize normal slight neuroses in children who are still trying to figure out who they are and how they feel about things. It sounds like she's a perfectly normal teenager with trust issues. I can relate to that - most other teens (especially girls) aren't especially trustworthy. My advice is to let her be who she is, but focus on encouraging her and helping her feel good about herself. She may not be a very social person anyway, and I don't think that this is dangerous or sad. People change a lot between 16 and 25 and if she is going to college, that might be the perfect way for her to meet a wider range of people and become more social. You might even try to talk to her about her trust issues and support her feelings about it, while trying to guide her towards a more healthy attitude. Just don't make her feel like you think she's crazy. She's not, in fact I would suspect that she's much more mature than her peers. She probably just realizes that being a teenager sucks. Don't worry. Love, support, and openness are the best things that you can give her. Anon
I would look for a good therapist (I hope you have money for this, I know it's expensive). I can't recommend anyone because I've moved outside the immediate Bay Area, but my foster son has some similar issues and difficulty with making friends, and among other things, his therapist works on these issues. I like that his therapist works on both the root issues (trust issues after neglect and abuse) and practical (role-playing, discussing how his behavior is perceived by others, etc.). A good therapist can hopefully help your niece sort out what is going on. I took my foster son to visit potential therapists until we found one we clicked with, which was crucial.

And I have to disagree that your niece doesn't have anxiety. If she's got contingency plans for dealing with her numerous phobias, that sounds like anxiety to me.

I wish I had more concrete advice for you, but I think you need someone more qualified than me. And don't hesitate to change therapists if you don't get a good one the first time. We did, and it was like night and day. good therapy is amazing


Hi. Teens often go through a period of isolation/introspection, but this sounds a little different. Starting a new school can be difficult for teenagers who are very social, and can be quite scary for teens who aren't, so holing up in her room may be the way your niece is trying to cope. Since she's had trouble making friends or forming deep relationships, and she's pretty smart, I'm wondering if she may have a hard time reading social cues (facial expressions/body language). I've met a lot of kids who are more intellectually- than emotionally-oriented, and social situations (e.g., lunch at school) can create a lot of anxiety, even though you wouldn't necessarily see this at home. I'm wondering if her fears are new or have become more pronounced since the move. Having a list of fears can provide an unconscious way to manage fears of other things that may seem too overwhelming emotionally to even look at.
Thanks for posting to the Berkeley Parents list. I think it's a wonderful place to get advice & I bet you'll get much more useful stuff than what I'm about to say! But I couldn't help writing.

I am now 45 and have two kids of my own, and I probably seem quite normal now. But I am also an only child whose parents divorced when I was pretty young. Looking back, I think something must have snapped in me then where I decided that if only I could be less childlike, I could have kept my family together. Little kid logic! Not all only children end up this way, of course, but my parents definitely didn't like childish behavior and I absorbed that lesson much too well.

I detested elementary school because I couldn't understand why the other kids acted like kids all the time (!), and middle school was the same. In high school I finally found a couple people who were similarly shy and made a small bond, but even then I was pretty uncomfortable in general and preferred reading books to interacting socially.

The whole time my parents kept saying it was fine, that things would get better in college, and they were right. I also noticed that I had a big advantage over other young people in college interviews, scholarship interviews, and job interviews because of my comfort with older people. Your niece will likely get that too.

I don't remember any phobias from that time, but the idea that she doesn't want to get involved with kids who may be on drugs sounds familiar--again the attempt to demonstrate that one is really not a teenager at all!

The only thing I'd recommend is to keep her with you when she wants to be and make sure she gets plenty of healthy adult attention. When life got busy for my single mom, I ended up falling for the advances of an assistant teacher in my high school. Unfortunately it totally fit with my notion that I was superior to all other kids my age. As long as you can keep her from that, I promise she'll turn out just fine. (And I turned out fine even with that ).

Hope this helps. Only Child Turned Out OK


Clearwater Clinic (in Oakland) has a great DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) program that might be good for your niece. They have a DBT group for teens and their grown-ups which focuses on mindfulness, interpersonal skills, emotional regulation and distress tolerance. They also have individual therapy. Good luck! Anon
Dear Auntie, I'm so glad you posted about your niece. It sounds like she is having a really hard time connecting with her peers and developing closeness in her social sphere. It also sounds like you have a great bond with her and she trusts you, which is important. My first suggestion would be for you to get curious about the things she does like (TV, programs, Music, Tumblr etc...) and maybe even offer to engage in her interests with her. While the goal is obviously to get her into doing stuff with other kids her age it's more importnat that she not get into the habit of isolating from others. It sounds like she's already heading down that road which is a definite '' red flag'' for teen depression.

I work with a lot of teens and their parents and caregivers and the thing I always hear from kids is how lonely and difficult it can be to be a teenager, and how much they feel that the adults in their life don't understand this.

When your niece mentions that she '' doesn't want to end up in jail'' she's telling you that her peers are into some dangerous stuff and she's trying to avoid getting drawn into it. She may be avoiding her peers in an effort to keep herself safe. You also mentioned that '' she doesn't have anxiety'' but based on what you said it sure sounds like anxiety and depression to me. Phobia's ARE anxiety, a manifestation of fear that overwhelms our ability to cope with a certain stressor and triggers our physiological fear response. If she's really Phobic ( and not just saying this ) it's something to be taken seriously.

More often than not teens are starved for adult guidance in their life. I would encourage you to listen, ask questions and stay curious about her experience without giving too much advice. She's lucky to have an aunt who cares about her so much.


Your 16 y.o. sounds like a very together, interesting person. She has seen what her potential peers are intersted in and instead she has chosen very normal-her-age activities to participate in while holding down an impressive GPA. Someone will come along with similar interests and a friendship will spark naturally. Supporting & celebrating her life choices will be less stressful for her then lectures implying she's made a mistake, is missing out or isn't doing what is comparable to your own high school experience. Your 16 y.o. is a young woman now, and no longer a little child. You are a caring, thoughtful adult in her life and you both are very lucky! Has a 16 y.o. Girl, too.

Middle School Son a Loner

Jan 2012

My middle school son is a well-adjusted kid, independent, bright, funny. But he is a loner, he doesn't hang with kids at school, or after school, or on weekends, doesn't play with other kids, and even when he's with a group of kids, like when we're on a trip with friends, he's off by himself. I've talked to him about having friends, making friends, joining in, making an effort, he says he likes to be by himself, he doesn't want to make friends, he wants to be left alone, he's happy by himself. He's an only child, very comfortable around grown-ups, and loves little kids and babysits them.

Should I be concerned? I so much wanted to be liked and have friends when I was young, so I don't really understand someone not needing that. Also, I think we learn a lot about ourselves by having relationships with others. Is this going to be a problem as he gets older? My husband says it's not a problem, there's nothing we can do, our son will change if he needs to or wants to. This may be true, but I'd like to hear from others what they think. Thank you BPN'ers!


I have 2 perspectives on this. I was raised as an only child and was very much a loner. I liked having friends and longed for people to like me, to be accepted, etc., but I also really relished my alone time. Even when I had friends come over to my house to play, I was soon ready for them to leave so I could have my space. At 43, I'm much the same. I'm a true introvert, though I've learned extroverted behaviors and get along well with others, I still find it difficult to really connect with other people beyond a fairly superficial level and I find it difficult to get up the energy or motivation to really try.

Now I have an 11 year old in his first year of middle school who is also a loner. Like your son, he really doesn't spend any real time with other kids. He's in an after school activity, but for all intensive purposes, he's in it alone. I'm not sure that my son has the same comfort in all of this alone time that I did. I realize now that I was incredibly shy as a child and lacked self confidence. I often waited for others to befriend me. My son and I seem to have that in common. What is different about me today, is having learned those extroverted behaviours, I'm quite comfortable approaching new people and striking up conversations. I've held positions that require a good deal of contact with the public and strong communication skills which I developed beginning in middle school. What helped me was a middle school English teacher who forced me into debating and public speaking. She helped me get comfortable with my own voice, trusting myself, and removing some of my feelings of inferiority. In high school, there were a few more teachers that helped me develop more self confidence. I'm hoping for the same for my son and yours. Not sure this is any help to you; at least, now you know that you and your son are not alone. Loner Mom


Hello in response to the mom with a middle school loner: Recently we went to speak to a councilor at Kaiser, that being part of the reason. We have an 8th grader who doesn't spend much time with groups of kids. My son does have 1 good friend and my husband was very concerned because he was always busy with friends at that age. Question the councilor asked us: Is he unhappy with his situation? If he is not, that would be his choice and not a problem. It would be a concern if he was longing for a connection but unable to achieve one. He may have a friend at school who he hangs with that you don't know about.

Boys are very different from girls. My daughter is the complete opposite and travels in many different close knit groups and my son doesn't seem envious of her. He has been happier since my husband has stopped focusing on his lack of friends. We still remind him that he can invite some one to the house but we don't try to make him feel like he's not normal for his choices. I also remind him that if he feels uncomfortable with being talking to other kids he doesn't know that the only way to get better at that is to practice.

Hope that helps


I think the social bit is over rated. What's important is family, respect, the ability to get along with others, and being comfortable with who you are. . Is your son happy with who he is?

How can we help our teen son find ways to socialize

Nov 2011

Our high school sophomore son feels socially isolated from his peers. He has friends to hang out with at lunch at school, but rarely can get them to come over or invite him to do things on evenings or weekends. He's very smart, has a great sense of humor, loves videogames and computer games, and we have a great house for entertaining. Seems like most of his socializing outside of school these days is over the Internet (videogames and computer games) -- often with some of the same friends from school who don't want to come over. Sadly, he's reluctant to get involved with school clubs or volunteering because he assumes he'll be bored and that no one will like him. Can anyone suggest a young male mentor/coach (not therapist) in the Berkeley/Albany area for a White middle-teen, and/or any community programs or weekend classes that might be enticing? We feel like we're butting our heads against a brick wall in our attempts to encourage him to join activities through which he might meet new friendly people. Thanks. Worried Mom and Dad


This is in response to both posters who wanted to get their teen boys to socialize. I would suggest the Boy Scouts. All three of my sons have been through their program and it has been wonderful. First, the scouts provide some really great male role models. I would look for a troop that has a leader you feel comfortable with, who exudes qualities you would like your son to demonstrate. Secondly, they focus on getting kids outdoors and helping others. Finally, if your son has advanced skills in one area (i.e. the computer) there is the real possibility that he could share these skills with the troop and be acknowledged for his abilities. Scout leaders would love to have older boys in the program because this is typically when lots of scouts drop the program (girls and grades become a distraction). I like troop 100, 127, and 104 in the El Cerrito area but call your local council and they can give you suggestions for a few troops to drop in on and meet the kids. Every troop I know of in this area is welcoming of all faiths (or none) and kids and families who are gay or straight. Scout mama

18-year-old, not socially adept, talks to himself

March 2011

My only child son, now 18 and a senior in HS, talks to himself, out loud, consistantly, mostly when he's alone in his room. When he was little it seemed OK, kind of cute, and I thought that he'd grow out of it. But now that he's a young man, I'm thinking that the behavior is odd and may be a social liability.

He's on the shy side, not socially adept, and moved to a ''top'' private school HS where the social currency seems to be bullying, nasty remarks, snubbing, extreme cliches, and looking down upon kids that are perceived as lower in rank or social class. He hasn't made any friends at school, old friends have drifted away, and so doesn't really talk much to other kids his age.

He is quite talkative in class, during discussions, his teachers like him, though sometimes his voice is too loud, and he doesn't realize it.

I think there have been times when talking to himself has occurred at school, and I think kids make/have made fun of him.

Should I be worried about this behavior? Is this compensation for lack of siblings and/or friends? Is it a sign of something more serious? When he goes to college and lives in a dorm and has more people to talk to, will this behavior subside, or will he be deemed the weird kid that talks to himself? mom


I don't mean to be frightening, but is there any family history of schizophrenia? Also, I don't mean to be presumptive but is he taking any drugs? Either one of these things should be ruled out for his sake and safety. My son did the same thing at 19 and I immediately had him tested. Unfortunately, he had taken some tainted meth (at college) and it messed with his brain function for some time. One of the symptoms was him talking to himself. It eventually went away and he is doing very well now, but I highly recommend you have him neurologically tested. anon
I'm not sure if others already responded to this, but your son sounds like my son, who is 19 years old, and has Asperger's Syndrome. Not being socially adept; having difficulty with peers (but not teachers); not having friends; inability to recognize when he's being too loud; talking to himself -- all of these things are very typical of Asperger's Syndrome (aka 'high functioning autism). Since it is a spectrum disorder, it may be that your son is more 'mildly' affected, and perhaps that's why no formal diagnosis has ever been made. My son has always talked to himself quite a bit, and is oblivious to the fact that others can hear him, even if he tries to hide it. I don't believe that this behavior will go away by itself, as it is probably rooted in a larger disorder. I accomodated my son's 'odd' behavior for a long time when he was younger, and then when he was 7 the school district specifically mentioned Asperger's Syndrome. I had never heard of it, but when I read about it on the internet, I knew he fit every criteria for it. Please investigate this -- there is a lot that can be done for individuals with this social disability. As well, I'd be happy to talk more about it. L.

15-year-old is struggling to make friends

Feb 2011

Hello- My son is struggling with making friends. He likes to build & play video games. He loves Science and is looking at various Science clubs to join @ school. Do you have any good ideas how to get him involved in video game creation or Science clubs outside of school? Thanks!


Hi, I have a 14 year old that sounds very, very much like yours! He creates games and animation in Blender, love to play them and loves science. I signed him up for Quantum Camps (http://www.quantumcamp.com). He's taking the physics course that started it all titled Quantum Camp. It's after school on Wednesdays for three hours. There are about 8 boys in the class with two ''trainers'' who are PhDs in physics. We'll certainly sign him up for another one.

I've been looking into these:

Game programming camps/classes: http://www.internaldrive.com/ http://www.digitalmediaacademy.org/

Maker Faire and all of the offshoots of that, like this http://www.youngmakers.org/, or this http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/open-make-cardboard/, The TechShop http://techshop.ws/

If you'd like to email privately to see if we couldn't interest our boys in something to try together, please get in touch. b.


Hello, My son is a (just turned) 16yr old who is doing Independent Study and has had a hard time finding friends with similar interests. He is very skilled in building video games and seems to be his passion. He seems to have alot of internet ''friends'' that turn out to not be so friendly when it comes down to it and I would love for him to find some friends where he can interact face to face. Maybe they can connect. D.

My teens are pretty much friendless

Feb 2011

To begin with, a disclaimer: My kids are great, solid, honest, caring kids. Doing well in school. Good citizens. No big disasters or problems to speak of, thank god. Here is the current issue: the kids are pretty much friendless (at least after school hours). I don't know what it is, perhaps the fact that they moved away during elementary school and had to leave their close circle of friends, then returned to the East Bay as middle schoolers, and had to begin new schools and navigate old/new friendships with kids that had moved on. Now the friendship thing just doesn't seem to be happening for either one. When out of school, they are both at home, almost always. One kid is a high school junior, one a freshman. Both go to school far from home. Neither one drives yet. I am available to drive all the time and happy to do. So the two questions: A) What do I do to support their social lives (when in truth, they just want me to leave them be)? Next question: B) what to do with my own time? Remain available or go off and leave them to their own devices? I am always wanting to go out, go to a movie, a school event...and they are not interested. So I am either home, stuck with them, or dragging them out to something that they may or may not like. Should I just go alone with a friend? Is it ok to leave them home alone, all the time? How do we work this all out? I hate to see them so alone, and what appears to me to so solitary. This is driving me nuts. I remember high school being a laboratory for relationships, friendships, exploration. I seem them engaged in this (outside of class at least)only a little bit. They report that they are tuckered out after a long day at school with a lot of interaction compounded by a long commute. Plus, because they are teens, they are way more grumpy than ever, and that is just a total drag, and I'm not used to it and don't know how to continually respond from a loving place to all the negativity they bring home with them. Contrary to how this might sound, I do give them a lot of space. Way more than other moms I know. I love them utterly and this is not such a big deal, but I could use some feedback on how to navigate this whole chapter. Way more social than my two kids


Hmm, Are they spending time online while they are home? Facebook? XBox with interactive capabilities? They may just be doing some of their socialization in other ways, especially if their school is some distance away. Both of my kids have had very strong online relationships with friends, some of whom actually became real, live physical friends as well as virtual. The online bit doesn't seem to have been detrimental to the physical aspect of friendship, they now hang out with real people more than virtual people. It was just a stage they went through. Liz
This is a difficult situation for your children because they are obviously tired and stressed from the long daily commute. No wonder they don't want to participate in after school activities! So choices need to be made. Do they like the school and want to stay there, or would a school closer to home be a better option?

Your kids may also not be as social as you are, and given that the daily grind is wearing them down, they choose to be asocial. Are they less social overall? However, extracurricular activities will not only help them make friends but may be important for college admissions. So you could tell them they have to do something. What about asking each child to choose one activity at school--perhaps that meets just one day per week--and/or one activity in your hometown that they must participate in. Try to pick an activity that involves other children. There are volunteer activities also that the child can do on the weekend.

You can search around for activities in your hometown and the kids can find the activities at school. If their outside activities take only one day a week (or two), they may be able to do it. There are other activities that don't involve others--such as music lessons. This is an excellent time to explore what outside interests they have, or might want to have, and find out how to do it. But if they're overly stressed and too exhausted to do anything including having friends, what is that telling you?

Also, start planning now for the summer. Look for local camps that are easy to get to and fun and would be a great place to meet others.

The other idea is to try to find other kids in the neighborhood. Talk with their parents, and see if there is compatibility. See what activities those children participate in. Carpooling is always a great way to build friendships. Anonymous


My heart goes out to you; parenting teens is so hard. It sounds that you may be doing this alone as well--making it even harder. I don't have magic answers for you, but do have some discerning questions:

You don't say whether you kids are girls or boys, whether they hang out together as friends, whether they seem at all depressed, what they do when they're home (homework? videogames? music? sleep? do they go outside? do they like sports at all? hobbies?) Do they come to the dinner table and chat? Is there a second parent in the house? If not, where is their second parent? Do they stay behind closed doors? Is there a computer in their room? Are there afterschool events or clubs they are not joining? Is the school a place where all kids are commuting from distances or are your kids unique in this? All these issues are important in helping discern whether they are lonely, at risk,or just very self-contained kids, or just simply hate the idea of depending on Mom to take them places...

The fact that they are doing well in school seems a good sign. Have you asked their teachers about their in-class behavior? Everything else you describe (grumpy, don't want to hang with mom, etc.) of course is normal teen behavior. What I would urge is to look for signs of depression (which unfortunately, are the signs of most teens). It may be as ''simple'' as the fact that your kids live far from school and do not yet drive. If other kids are walking to school, hanging out at nearby homes after school, it can be tough for the commuting teen.

Do you kids have a non-parent adult to talk with? It might help just to offer them a friend of yours or some other trusted adult whom they like and who agrees to the arrangement to talk with in case they need to talk. Offer the counsel and promise privacy in the arrangement.

I would definitely urge you to go out! You need to have a life in order to be happy and healthy for you and for your kids. You deserve and need your own village. Also, it's important modeling. Is it possible to have people over whom the kids like as well? Old family friends with whom you could have a once-a-month Sunday meal? Creating ''social'' in the home may not feel cool to your kids, but it could help create a home atmosphere that involves others a bit.

If you want someone (whose sophmore daughter hangs at home this year) to talk with, feel free to call: 510 531-7342. Empathetic Mom


Hello - You need to get your teens involved in extra-curricular activities. This is where they will socialize with other kids. I recommend that you tell them they must enroll in some kind of class or sports team (or 2) and that you will get them the necessary equipment,clothing, supplies, etc. Your job will be to get them there and back, join a carpool to help with this, and attend their sports events, receitals, art shows, etc. They might be resistent, if so, this needs to be a mandate. You can ask them to try something for six months and if they don't like it, they can try something else. Are there people they like at school? What classes/teams do they do? I did this with my kids when they were younger, around age 7, and it worked well. mom
I could have written your post-I also have 2 kids in high school-they are great kids, and are busy during the week-but on the weekends, they want to be home, or with me. On a Saturday night they ask ''what are we doing tonight?'' I feel guilty when I go out without them, but also know my husband and I need to for our mental health. I feel like we are their main source of connection, and that just doesn't seem right. I know neither of them are comfortable with groups of teens, but I really really would like to spend a little more time with their peers. So, I don't really have good advice, just empathy! I think it's a balance, and you need to go out sometimes, just not too much. Once or twice a week at night seems fine. I have not been an overprotective parent at all, and really like to have time and space without them-but somehow they remain very attached. anon

Socially Uncomfortable 12-year-old Son

Jan 2011

I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for a 12 year old boy (7th grader) that has never quite fit in with the group. He has a fraternal twin brother that he is close with, and has always had 1 or 2 close friends. His challenge seems to be that his personality doesn't match with most kids and so he finds himself on the outside more often than not. He has some annoying habits (e.g. repeating something/jokes he finds funny way too many times, making goofy noises), and his friends tend to be social oddballs as well (written with love). I've tried explaining to him when I find his behavior to be of the pesty sort but he doesn't seem able to internalize my suggestions or make any changes. We just met with a teacher of his (about unrelated issues of missing work), and she mentioned that she's had to move 3 different kids from my son's table (since September) because he can't get along with them. He reports that no one ever wants to listen to him and they always tell him to shut up. His theory of why he doesn't get along with the other kids is because we are new to CA (we moved here 2 1/2 years ago), and so he doesn't have the same history with them that they have with each other. It's a good theory (and I must say that I'm glad his ego is so strong that it prevents him from blaming himself), but unfortunately he had the same issues before we moved and he had known those kids since preschool.

Anyway, I wondering if anyone could suggest a paid professional that could help him to be more aware of social cues and perhaps get along better with others. Or a group therapy that's been helpful. Or a good book for us to read that's full of suggestions. Or anything else that might help. Anything. --mom that's hurting for her kid


I have a son a bit like yours and have found a book that is very helpful - The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends. The book has various chapters on types of kids. Yours sounds like, ''different drummer.'' Each chapter summarizes the behaviors and consequences (these will resonate with you) , then names the annoying behaviors clearly. The chapter then identifies unwritten rules that this type of kid is not getting (for ex, ''If no one is looking at you or asking questions while you are talking, no one is listening) and gives concrete strategies for improving. The book is well-written and practical. You can read it with him or yourself and work with him. The book is also suited for a range of personality types. My other child is a ''little adult.'' Authors are Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore. I looked at local bookstores and couldn't find it so ordered it on Amazon mom
I've heard that a good place to get help with social discomfort is Communication Works in Oakland. Their website is http://cwtherapy.com/. Jennifer
Dear mom of Socially Uncomfortable Son, I know a great person in Oakland for your son. Shelly Hansen is wonderful with kids of all ages, and adults. She runs the ''think social East Bay'' program on Grand Ave in Oakland. You can get all the info you need at her web site, http://www.thinksocialeastbay.net/.

I also want to suggest a wonderful movie that will be shown this Friday (Feb 4) from 7-9 at the Mormon Temple in Oakland, called Original Minds. Your son might also like to go, even though the focus is on learning differences, it shows youth who struggle to ''fit in'' and find their way in school. Their strengths are highlighted.To see a trailer go to http://www.originalmindsfilm.com/ and to find out about the event to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/143833

Good luck! And don't forget about all of the successful adults in Silicon Valley who hare socially uncomfortable. Rona Renner


I recommend Shelley Hanson at Thinksocialeastbay.com. Our son worked with her on social communication in one of her groups. She involves parents weekly so we can help our kids generalize what they learn in the group. You might also read about Asperger's Syndrome; your son's repetitive behaviors and not ''matching'' others in terms of personality and humor are characteristics.

Since his behavior is affecting his ability to learn cooperatively in school, you could ask your district for a student study team meeting (SST) to brainstorm and develop interventions to help him. Once these have been implemented, if there are still significant difficulties, you can request an assessment for a 504 or special education eligibility. If he qualifies, he can get social skills and pragmatics help at school. The district may not be willing to perform an assessment because of their ignorance about social-communication deficits, or because your son gets adequate grades, so it's good to get educated so you can advocate for him.

Middle school is the toughest social place, but kids with social-communication deficits also can have difficulties with abstract learning so it's important to figure out what's going on as soon as possible.

Michelle Garcia Winner is another local expert with info. online: http://www.socialthinking.com/

Good luck! a mom and professional in the field


15-year-old's lack of a social life

Oct 2010

My son is approaching his 15th birthday and has just begun ninth grade at a local private school. I am writing to express my concern about his lack of a social life, and to ask for advice as to whether there is any role I can play to support him in this area. He had a few good friends in middle school but did not hang with them often after school hours or on the weekend; now they are all in different schools and my son has just entered his new school not knowing a soul. The phone never rings, he is only very rarely invited to other kid's homes, he has no posse to hang out with. He is a bright articulate intellectual kid - loves politics, music, soccer - pretty normal stuff as far as I can tell. He's a straight A student but not a brainiac. Hates parties and big crowds. Likes to spend time alone but I can tell he's lonely. He's on a new sports team at school but who knows if that will translate into new friendships. We live on one side of the tunnel and school is on the other, so classmates are widely dispersed. He was on a local club soccer team last year and got along well with all of his teammates, but it never translated into friendships or activities off the soccer field. And now he doesn't really have the energy or time to do a big after-school program, so he says. So here are the questions: how do teen boys connect? Where do they hang out and what are they up to? Is it appropriate for me to play a role in helping him connect with other kids, like I did when he was little? If so, what would that role be? Should I just let him sort this out for himself? I can tell he's outgrowing wanting to be with me, his mom, but I just hate to have him be alone from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. And he's such a nice guy, I think he'd be a good friend to have. Thanks for any suggestions. What to do?


Your son sounds like a wonderful kid. I have two teen boys, and a lot of friends with teen boys. My friends and I have often talked about how our sons don't have much ability to create a social life for themselves. I don't have any answers here, but I look forward to reading others' replies, and wanted to let you know that your son is not alone.

It has helped sometimes to provide light support to the socializing -- making suggestions about calling so-and-so to get together, didn't you want to see Scott Pilgrim? Who of your friends also wants to see it? I can drive you... Of course, this can totally backfire if they think you are being too pushy.

Does your son express the desire to be more social? My kids don't, which makes me realize that I may be projecting my own stuff onto them. I'm a social person, and maybe I expect them to be too much like me. Anon


My son sounds exactly like yours and I used to worry about his social life. He is now a sophomore at a private high school. He has never had a friend over or been to anyone else's house in years. It seems to be his choice. He did get invited to the movies recently but turned it down. One of the reasons is because he knows these kids, although nice people, smoke pot and drink. There are a lot of kids at his school who indulge and he is an athlete and just doesn't want to be around it. He does go to get togethers with his sports team though which is a mixed boy-girl team and that is enough. Maybe your son feels the same way. He very well may have a posse he hangs out at school with, as does mine. I wouldn't worry about it as long as he is happy. We all want our kids to be popular and have fun with other kids but not all are cut out for that. His older sisters say to leave him be-in college that will change. mom of un-social son

12-year-old not really making any friends

Oct 2009

My son is 12 and has just gone into middle school . He had only 1 friends at his old school, but went for the whole 4 year without really making any friends . Now he's gone into middle school and it doesn't look like it's going to be any different this year! He usually eats lunch on his own (after being told to go away by most of his classmates!) and then he plays on his own too. Sometimes I think it's his choice as he doesn't enjoy what any of his classmates play, but he's such a sociable child out of school that I can't think he enjoys it! He has ADHD and act younger for his age . not having any friend wasn't big issue before but now he feel it more and more . we live in walnut creek area and we are looking for friend for him . Any idea ??? Thanks Ben


I think activities would be good for your son, including school electives that encourage interaction between the kids. So, I would look at art, drama, music, chorus, scouts, sports, etc. Anything that touches on his real interests will hook him up with similar kids. My son was always shy, but through drama and music, he has made a lot of friends, some of whom don't go to his school, but he still stays in touch with them via facebook, etc. Making these friends has in turn made him more outgoing, leading to even more friends. My shy geeky boy now has a pretty great social life and some wonderful friends at age 14.
My son was very similar to yours at that age. We found that our son's problem was understanding social cues and acting appropriately. We found a ''social skills'' group for him and he did a couple of sessions. (He liked the first session so much, he wanted to do another.) They did a lot of school-yard role-playing and puppetry. I think it helped him immensely. That was many years ago, but I've seen posts here in Parents Network for other social skills groups. Great Son's Mom
You might get some good ideas by attending the CHADD Parent Support Group (and might find some playdates there too!). The meetings are a mix of speaker presentations and sharing. It's a very welcoming and lively crowd. Check the schedule at www.chaddnorcal.org. There is a meeting in Berkeley, and a new one is supposed to be starting in Lafayette, soon. linda

16 yr old son does not socialize out of school

July 2009

My 16 yr old son has a similar issue to the previous post about the 13 yr old who only wants to use computer, ipod. My son seems slightly obsessive when it comes to his online computer (dungeons and dragon type) games.

Playing the games is fine of course in moderation, but he never calls or contacts any other kids. Not even the ones that he socializes with at school. He gets very excited when his sister or cousin come over with their friends and talks with them. So it is clear to me that he wants social outlets.

I don't know if he doesn't realize his own need to socialize, and that's why he doesn't call anyone, or he has some sort of fear of doing so. I am hoping it is a phase that will pass, but I am trying to help him socialize more because I think it will make him more happy. Has anyone had any luck helping their child socialize with other kids outside of school? Matthew


Well if it's any comfort Matthew, you are not alone. My 16 year old son is hanging onto old grade school aquitences that play his on-line computer games, but have no interest in doing anything out in the real world. He is funny, smart, cute and socially adept, so I am puzzled about his reluctance to ditch them for more socially engaging friendships. He doesn't do sports, so that is another arena he is missing out in in lieu of his virtual world. His games are compelling and he does interact with many kids [some he hasn't even met] by talking thru a headset from his command center, but I agree, it's not healthy in the big picture.

I have arranged for him to apprentice at a friend's coffee shop a few days a week this summer. He will collect tips, but not a salary since she is desperately trying to survive this recession and he has no job experience. I would encourage you to perhaps dig into your community for something similar. If nothing else he would be gaining some real world job experience and have less time available with his gaming.

I hope this helps. It would also be interesting to start a social group for these boys... perhaps their interest in gaming would be the commonality that would allow them to venture into the world of other activities... even eating a pizza out together once a week would be fine. I guess we can be thankful it's not a substance abuse thing, but it is an addiction... so something needs to change.

I look forward to hearing about other parents struggling with this situation too.


I thought you might want to host an international exchange student in your home. You describe that your son does socialize when his cousins show up, so having a host brother in the house would not be a bad idea. Good luck to you and your son.
I, too, have a grandson that doesn't socialize in school. Although his ADD/Asperger's Syndrome disability does take this into matter, WHAT REALLY CHANGED HIM was enrolling him into the Sea Scouts program. He's on a 10-day cruise right now up through the Delta with other boys on the Scouts 102ft boat. What a difference this group has made in my grandson. I try to do anything I can to help this group because they have made such a difference in my grandson. Their website is www.northlandnautical.org. He's learning to be part of a ''team'' which is one of the hurdles he's experiencing as well as learning valuable nautical and life skills including: rowing, sailing, navigation, small boat handling and ship operation, knot tying and rescue techniques, engine mechanics and repair, carpentry, painting, fishing , waterskiing and watersports. Where else could you find a wonderful outlet for these boys! Their website is www.northlandnautical.org. If you need more info, just give me a buzz. macy

13-year-old only interested in computer, ipod & programming

June 2009

My son does not want to go swimming, ride the train, go to Tilden, see parades, have barbecues or do anything except eat, sleep and use electronic devices. He quit his martial arts class (he was doing so well & enjoying it) and refuses to go to any summer camp unless it's tech camp (we got one week in July, only). I dread the long summer, with him stuck in the house all day staring at screens. I have to plead with him to get him go to Tilden to swim on hot day. We have therapy but few visits (2 per month max). I hide I-pod as punishment for bad behavior, but eventually give it back. Once, after i hid it, a loud alarm went off (he had it programmed), so he found it! We don't have TV, as i consider it a bad habit, but this is just about as bad, except at least he has to think while programming java, etc. I need computer for many things, so can't give it up. He has a few friends but they seem always busy on weekends. I'm reading Motivation Breakthrough by R. Lavoie, but it doesn't seem to pertain to him. He's a good student, does most of his homework & usually gets high grades. He just doesn't have a social life, and he is making it worse by refusing to go out.


Seems like the hardest part of being the parent of a teen is to know when they need help and when they just need to be left alone to develop in the way that's natural for them, but not necessarily for us...

From what you've written, I don't detect anything unhealthy/abnormal in your son's behavior. I was a reclusive nerd at 13 (but with model airplanes and Dungeons & Dragons - no computers back then!) but by the time I was a senior in high school I was ''normally social'' and went on to a good college/career. Your son sounds like the modern version: a real computer geek :) These kids can grow into very creative and successful people (ever hear of Steve Wozniak?). Consider buying him an iPod touch and a book on Objective C, as a reward for some chores or something, so he can start writing his own applications for the iPod and iPhone. A not insignificant number of people have made large amounts of money by writing moderately popular apps for the iPhone. Picture a self-financed degree in computer science from Stanford.

If he's good at what he does and he likes it, then that's a happy life, let him be. If he seems unhappy even when you're not bugging him to go swimming, and his grades are dropping then that's a different story. Signed, Nerd-at-13


I don't have a solution, only can empathize and share my experience. My 13 year old son has lots of friends, but seems to have passion for very few interests. He does not see his friends outside of structured things like camp or school. He wants to play video games on computer or i-pod, most of the time. We also do not watch tv. I limit his computer time to 2 hours daily, and I think he uses the ipod a fair amount. Now that school is out, I insist he read for 30 minutes a day, in order to get the 2 hour computer time. I get frustrated with his behavior, he says he misses his school friends, but does nothing to contact them. So I try to approach him with affection: I think he is shy, and introverted, and likes a fair amount of time alone. I also think my 13 year old son is changing so much, he probably doesn't quite know how to handle all the feelings, and so is withdrawing. My goal is to stay connected with him, as he moves through this period of his life. eve

How to re-start freshman daughter's social life?

July 2008

My daughter had a pretty rough end to her freshman year in high school and is feeling pretty disconnected socially. She's having a good summer with time to regroup, but she's feeling anxious about going back to school. Her school is pretty small so the social group isn't huge, but I think things can be better. We've talked about how she'll have different people in her classes, can join new clubs and can restart her social life. She's still skeptical. I know if she goes in expecting the worst, that's exactly what she'll get. Any thoughts on how I can ''hypnotize'' her to be open to having a better year socially, and being more active in making things better for herself? (Academically she's fine.) I hoping she'll be able to avoid falling into an old pattern and not having the fun she could have. Any ideas how I can help her? Thanks! Need a Do Over


Ideas:Can you invite a kid or so over during the summer? How about carpooling in the fall? That can create relationships.
Question:Do you know for sure she wants a bigger social circle? ( MY son didn't and it was my stuff not his.) jenny

14-y-o has no social life, mostly TV & video games

April 2007

My 14 year old son is driving me and everyone else in our household crazy. He has always struggled in school and as he has gotten older has less and less of a social life (like, none). He has friends at school but will not make the effort to get any of their phone numbers or seek them out on the weekends. He is mostly interested in TV and video games and not at all interested in anything physical.

We have tried several therapists, anti- depressants (Prozac), changing schools, etc, all to no avail. We have also tried a wide variety of sports and other activities but he either refuses or loses interest. Getting rid of electronics hasn't been an option because we have other kids for whom this is not a problem. He has no behavioral problems, loves animals and can be quite profound. He can also be incredibly immature and selfish. Last night ended up with yelling and hurt feelings because he did not want to watch a movie with the rest of the family but insisted on coming in several times to ask what was going on and to make comments. He also had a coughing fit (getting over a cold) and threw up on the floor and then flipped out when told to clean it up (''I don't know how!'').

These are examples of ongoing problems. He has lots of eating issues (won't try anything new, won't eat family staples like spaghetti, beans, mac n' cheese - I mean really benign stuff) so mealtime is often very unpleasant. I am worried about his future. He is entering high school next year and I am dreading it. He is getting fat from diet and lack of physical activity. Lack of a social life is not a good thing. Really, really what this kid needs is to be in an environment with NO electronic stimulation and LOTS of outdoor stimulation. He needs to develop independence and self confidence. I've searched the internet for teen wilderness challenges and some look promising (and hella expensive!). One of his therapists strongly reccommended NOLS but the kid refuses to go. And this is one stubborn kid.

Sorry to go on and on. Any advice on how to motivate this kid who just doesn't want to grow the heck up? sad and frustrated


One thing crossed my mind was maybe going on an extended family camping trip this summer somewhere remote. Or maybe just him and one parent so he would really have to pull his weight. Or would he be interested in working at a stable or a farm with animals? Just brainstorming here, I can't think of a place, but it sounds like it might be a good thing for him. If he can get involved with something that interests him, like animals, maybe it would open his mind to other things a little. He could also volunteer this summer at the animal shelters or rescue places around the bay area. They like people to walk the dogs or pet the cats. My daughter went to the Milo Foundation when it was Solano, they moved, don't know where. Really, good luck. anon
Sorry you are having to deal with this. Sounds a bit like my son - sometimes just plain lazy, though I love him to death. This is non-PC, BUT since initiative/motivation is the thing he won't do, pull rank and make it not a choice. Or a choice between Wilderness Experience A and B. Explain why briefly then let him be mad at you. I only say this because after that type of experience, the more relaxed, upbeat personality comes through and who cares that you made him do it.

I have another friend who says to her son, ''You're doing this, this, and this over the summer because it's not healthy for you to be hanging around the house non- stop.'' ''This'' and ''this'' might be stuff he already had planned, and the mandated things might be some choices, like spending a week at grandparents, choosing between camp A and B, maybe some small paying job - varying stuff over the summer so there's no more than 7-10 days of sitting around at one stretch. During the school year, they have mandated some sport or non-competitive physical class - he likes that anyway, but they'd probably do it regardless, citing the same reasons.

Could you come up with a time limit on electronics that would accommodate your other kids' needs? Hard to enforce, but I don't think there's anything wrong with him at least knowing where you stand on that issue. Good luck! Anon


Your son may be on the autistic spectrum, with what the pro's might call co-morbid depression.

I suggest you explore the possibility that he has Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism, and, if not yet done, get an assessment (for IEP) through your school. You might take a look at Orion Academy in Moraga (a Non-Public School, WASC-accredited) as a possible HS for him, since their mission is pro-social education and college prep for students with high functioning autism and related conditions.

Our son went there for 2 years and benefited greatly. For the first time since grade 1 he made friends, had a peer group, and got happy and successful enough to enter UCSC. parent of a son with similar behavior at 14


Hi, I am not a psychologist but your son sounds a lot like my kid and he's been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. I think it is really important that you take your son to be evaluated for Asperger's Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Then you will learn more about why he thinks and acts the way he does. You can get some information online from sites like www.maapservices.org or wrongplanet.net, and see if the descriptions fit your son. For example, my son has difficulty watching movies because the sound bothers him, but he is still interested in what the story is, so I spend a lot of time pausing the movie and explaining what's going on. Of course, that would be much more difficult in a family with several kids. Even if your son doesn't have a diagnosis, I would strongly urge you to accept your kid as he is and not try to force him into activities in order to ''cure'' him. I have learned to respect my son's differences and have worked hard to get him the support he needs for the things he's weak in. Your son may be more receptive to help if you are willing to negotitate with him instead of demanding compliance. This means honestly trying to accept his viewpoint, even if that is really difficult. My son has driven me crazy over the years too, but he knows that I respect him and in turn he's been much more respectful of what I've asked of him. Fighting with him doesn't work because he is extremely stubborn, although that stubbornness has led to a fierce sense of independence, which he will need in the future. I wish you well and hope you find the support you need for yourself and your kid. Nancy
I really feel for you and your son, and I know there are not any easy solutions. However, I just wanted to comment on one thing you mentioned in your posting: ''One of his therapists strongly recommended NOLS but the kid refuses to go.'' I am a graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). NOLS is specifically *not* a place for a troubled teen. Instead, it is a place for (in their words) ''highly motivated students''. It is an outdoor wilderness skills and leadership development program. Teens can attend, but it is very important that they want to be there and participate willingly, or they could jeopardize the safety of the rest of the group. NOLS is intended for the type of person who reads their catalog and *begs* their parents to send them to NOLS! - NOLS Wind River Wilderness graduate
Before considering any teen wilderness program read ''Help At Any Cost'' by Maia Szalavitz. Not that they are all bad, but some of them are deadly. lizo
Eight years ago we were in about the same situation as you with our son who was just passing 8th grade (with D's) and was about to merge with his bed and his screen activities. Us parents were going mad/crazy. Our other children were getting inadequate attention and parenting. If it persisted, our family would completely fall apart; we would likely end up divorced.

We told him he needed to go to summer school. We ended up sending him to the Hyde School Summer challenge program, in Bath Maine, which was not really a ''summer school.'' It was helpful. The Summer Challenge program, 5 weeks long, is a way for all parties to get to know the Hyde School and each other. In the middle of the Summer Challenge program, my son said he thought that maybe he should go to high school there.

He did end up going to high school there. In fact, he went for all 4 years. It really worked for him and for us. I can't say it works for everyone. It's not perfect. It's alot of money. But it helped all of us - enormously. All kids have to do sports, all year. This was huge and fabulous. We got him out of an environment we could not control. We made it through, one year at a time. Eight years later, this June, he's graduating from a UC.

You should check out the Parenting Teens Workshop the Hyde School is having on May 6 (which someone just posted) or any other events that they are likely to have around that time/weekend.

It may not be right for you or your family but it's certainly worth investigating. karosel


Sounds like a typical asperger teen. A great resource to start is the OASIS website (on-line asperger syndrome information and support). They have a ''Raising Teens and Young Adults With AS Support Forum'' as well as general information you will need to get familiar with. brad

Somewhat isolated 16 year old

May 2006

Can anyone suggest a social skills group for teenaged boys? My 16 year old has had good friends most of his childhood, but is going through a rather lonely phase now, partly because he is somewhat immature socially (although bright, intense, talented) anon


Your son may be suffering from a lack of stimulation. See if you can determine an endeavor that interests him (science, gardening, sports, artistic pursuits) and then try to get him involved in a group (or summer camp, etc.) which specializes in those areas in which he is interested. ''Lonely phases'' are often associated with boredom. Robert
Hi-- Your son sounds like the kind of person who will suffer in high school and blossom in college where his intensity and intelligence will be an asset. People with high IQs often have a harder time with social skills.

I can't answer your question directly. In our house, we try to encourage consideration and empathy (''Try asking people about themselves-- think of how you would feel in their shoes-- how do you think that makes them feel?'') and basic body language (like smiles & frequent eye contact) and frankly it doesn't seem to change some of the self- defeating behavior. Encourage him to pursue his own interests and also to pursue new things (music?). School clubs and physical activities are often a good thing. Non- school stuff may be better. good luck


Sophomore daughter doesn't have a social life

September 2003

My daughter is a sophmore in high school and is very shy. She doesn't seem to have any social life at school or at home. It is hard to carry on a single conversation with her. You just get one syllable replies. She spends most of the time reading books or watching tv. It would be ok if I thought she was happy being the way she is, but I suspect she has a hard time making friends and is very miserable. I tried to get her to go out more, take classes and join clubs, but she doesn't want to. And, it's not that she is overweight or unattractive. I don't know how to help her. Can anyone please give me some advice?

Very Worried Parent


You can really help your daughter by setting an example and showing her how to reach out to people by reaching out yourself. Reach out to parents of her classmates (if you aren't already doing so) and try to establish some connection that may help your daughter to make relationship connections. Invite a family with a child in her class over for dinner, or invite their child to come along on an outting with your family, and get acquainted. Our generation has gotten away from entertaining in the home, and it shows in our children. I have some very strong ties still to people who I grew up with because my parents entertained more in the home. It teaches our children so much about engaging with other people on a social level. Good luck!

Concerned


My daughter is in the 5th grade and is having an extremely difficult time socializing with others in her school. Like your daughter she likes to read and be by herself a lot. She rarely speak in school nor does she plays with her children during recess. When we are out in public, she would whisper instead of talking in normal voice. She covers her face with her hair. I brought her for counseling but it did not seem help at all. I read up a lot on ''shyness'' and discovered something call selective mutism. When a person is extremely shy, they may develop social anxiety which can cripple his/her ability to socialize with others. There is a lot on the Internet about selective mutism (something a lot of people labled as shyness)and how to help your child deals with it. I feel for you and as a mother understand what you are going through. I hope that you can find help for her and good luck to you and your daugther!

anonymous

[editor note] there are past discussions about selective mutism here: http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/health/selectivemutism.html


I completely understand your feelings of worry. I have a 10th grade boy who also has difficulty socializing and has very little social life outside of school. He has never had a close friend. My husband and I have been pushing him to get involved with clubs and plays etc and always meet with resistance. I have been worried about his lack of social skills for a long time and this past year finally took action. I read up on non verbal learning disorders and aspergers syndrome which are possibilites for you to look into. I've ruled them out but was glad to understand them. I found a therapist in Berkeley named Katherine McCarthy 649-3399 who runs social skills groups for adolecents. He is on a list for a group. He has begun therapy with a wonderful therapist named Lenny Levitz in Berkeley.

Since we have really taken it seriously and have acted on helping him he has been admitting his struggles and seems to be moving in a more positive direction. He just got into the school play and has been making some social plans. So I really beleive getting help for you daughter is something to consider seriously. It is difficult for them to meet this challenge alone, and difficult to watch them isolate themselves more and more. All the best A sympathetic mom


To parents of non-social teenagers--please be careful that your well-meaning efforts to make your child happier don't end up making the situation worse and undermining their self-esteem further. As a former non-social teen myself, I've been there. A teen's own peer group already sends a clear message that popularity is important, they don't need more pressure from their parents. My parents urged me to continue in band, join clubs, etc., etc. The message I internalized was that I was disappointing them, that I was a failure and that I was destined for an unhappy life.

High school is a tough scene that some of us aren't prepared at that age to deal with. But fortunately, there is life after high school. Lots of us who don't fit in then go on to have happy lives and good relationships. Spending a lot of time reading is not a bad thing! I did end high school very depressed (which went unrecognized by my family) and I do think therapy would have been a good thing for me. But the goal should be making sure the child feels good about themself, not that they become more social. Feeling that their parents love and accept them as they are is essential to a child's sense of self-esteem. Making a child believe that they have to fit in, or that their worth is measured by the number of friends they have, does exactly the opposite. If they can end adolescence feeling good about themselves and loved by their family, they will be alright.

Shy Teen Grown Up


Freshman son having a hard time fitting in

October 2000

My son is having a hard time adjusting to high school. He's a freshman and can't find a social group to fit in with. Does anyone know of a downhill biking group or rock climbing group for teens? We know about summer camps. We're looking for a group that meets on weekends that would give him social opportunities outside of high school.


To the parent looking for social activities for a freshman son ... you didn't say where he goes to school ... I am only familiar with Berkeley High, but if that's where he is, there should be at least one student-sponsored club that appeals to him. The variety is unbelievable. Has he checked into that? Another really good way to get hooked into a peer group is to sign up for an athletic team. Again, I don't know if he's at BHS, but he might like to try one of the teams - this has been very rewarding for a kid of mine. Check out some of the more offbeat sports like golf, crew, lacrosse, water polo -- often they don't have try-outs or they will take anyone who's interested. Less traditional sports seem to attract many kids who have not played the sport before, or any other sport, and are just coming to the game as freshmen, so now's a good time for him to try something new because he will be in the company of learners. In terms of afterschool groups, if he takes a weekend or evening class he will meet other kids who like the things he does. Rock climbing classes can be found at Cal Adventures and Berkeley Iron Works. Most bike stores should be able to point him to weekend riding groups. Lastly, I think you should also consider the possibility that he prefers his own company, and enjoys solitary activities more than being in a group. One of my kids is like this, as am I. Nothing wrong with that and it might be counterproductive to push him into a social activity that he doesn't want or enjoy.
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