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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Non-Social Teens & Pre-Teens
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!
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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?
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[editor note] there are past discussions about selective mutism here: http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/health/selectivemutism.html
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
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
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.
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