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jmc3mom
jmc3mom asks:
Q:

How can I help my 13 year old son be more social?

I have a great 13 year old son. He is pretty much a straight A student, plays on a traveling soccer team and his school basketball team and a traveling basketball team, and is really sweet towards his younger sister and brother. He has lots of "acquaintances" but really just one best friend. If his best friend is not around our son prefers to stay at home and doesnt really venture out to call other people. His dad and i enjoy having him around but our hearts break when we hear of other 8th graders having plans with friends every weekend. Our son says he is not getting teased, that he enjoys school,  and he is "right in the middle at school," not popular but not unpopular. We are not shooting for our son to be popular at all but would just like him to have a few more friends to hang out with. Are we worrying too much? We were thinking of taking him to see a psychologist in case he isnt telling us something but we think he really needs more of a "social coach" then a psychologist.
In Topics: Teen issues
> 60 days ago

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Expert

MomSOS
Oct 4, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

I agree with your first sentence.  You have a great 13 year old son.
You go on to describe a teen who is engaged in academics, athletics, and a close personal friendship.  These factors point to a well adjusted child, not one who needs a psychologist.

Social skills and experiences come in a variety of ways. Having a bustling weekend social life is not the only indicator of social success.  The fact that your son interacts on three teams, is not unpopular at school, gets great grades and is sweet to his sibs offers much to be encouraged about regarding his social nature.  By the way, some mental health professionals view sibling relationships in childhood as predictors for success in primary relationships later in life.

What I suggest is this.  Keep an eye on him.  If his grades go down; if he loses interest in his usual enjoyments; if his temperament changes; or if he actually begins to isolate, then you would have more reason for concern, and possibly cause to see a psychologist.

If you want to vibe up a little more social action for him, you might try some of the suggestions in the parents' responses.  You might also talk to teachers, coaches, guidance counselors to get a sense of how they see his social skills.

Overall I see very little to be concerned about.  There is every reason to believe that as he grows, so will his friendship base.

My advice is to uplift your hearts, and enjoy having this lovely son around.
Take pleasure from seeing him partake in his activities and succeed in his school work.  He does sound great.

Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
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Additional Answers (8)

bob
bob , Parent writes:
It is easy for me to say "yes, you are worrying too much" but having survived raising three kids through that age (and one more to go) I'm not sure I wouldn't be a little worried, too.  Here are some things I would be considering if in this same position:

1. Is he happy?  This is often hard to tell at this age, but there are cues to pick up on...a spring in his step, the occasional whistling, self-motivated curiosity about things, being positive about the future, sleeping well, eating well.

2. Is the situation stable?  With just one connection to the social affairs of the school, that seems pretty fragile.  If that one friend moves away, gets interested in other things, gets a girl friend, or just grows in a different direction from your son, that would be sad.

3. Is the one friend a good kid?  Better to have one good friend than a gaggle of goof-offs or worse.  At that age, my older daughter didn't have many friends but they were all good kids.  She was selective.

4. From friends come new friends.  When I look at my kids' friends and how they all met, I see that a lot of them were originally two degrees of separation acquaintances that turned into friends through group activities.  At 13, there are some things that bring kids together.  My boys were (sigh, still are) big AD&D fans and a group gathers here almost every weekend. Now it is a fully-connected group.

5. Related, what about organizing one of those weekend things?  Your son and his buddy could invite a couple of others over for something...a game of hoops at a local park, Guitar Hero (for all the bad rap GH gets, it does bring the kids together), some FRP board game.  Start small.  Be prepared for it to go either way, but keep trying.  If it succeeds, you may lose your kitchen every Saturday night.

6. Talk to the basketball and soccer coaches, mention that your son doesn't seem to have many close friends and if he (the coach) sees any yellow flags.  Often the coaches see some things in kids than parents do...they don't have the mental inertia of "little Jimmy".  They just see the kids as they are today.

If more ideas come up, I'll follow-up.
> 60 days ago

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debracmorgan
debracmorgan writes:
I have the same issues with my 15 year old. Unfortunately, he is not a straight A student, but the rest of what you describe applies except my son has Asperger's Syndrome.

I agree with what the other responder stated about it being a "fragile" situation to have only one friend. What if that friend moves? It has happened to our son 3 times already. Fortunately, we live in the technological age of cell phones and XBOX live. He has been able to keep in contact with 2 of his friends this way, but other than the little bit of socializing (if you can call it that) that he gets during the occasional phone call or gaming session or during a cross country meet, he goes nowhere and hangs out with no one.

I have often talked to him about the people in his class, on his team, those with whom he eats lunch every day. I have encouraged him to invite them over to watch a movie or play XBOX or go out to the movie theater, but he really has no interest. I think the social awkwardness attributed to the AS plays a large role in this, but also, as the other responder reminded - He seems perfectly happy! He really doesn't crave going to hang out with friends. He enjoys being at home with his video games, books and pet rats. He SMILES a lot. He LAUGHS a lot.

The hormone surge of puberty was a very trying time for us when dealing with an AS teen, but he seems to have regained most of his self control, and I have seen the pictures he takes at his cross country meets with his camera phone. Nice, funny, cute, happy pictures are what I am seeing. And I am seeing mostly the same faces each time. Perhaps he has gained a "few" friends now, and perhaps the amount of time he spends with them during the meets and practices is enough for him. I guess we will see how it all plays out when this sport's season ends.

I am thinking about trying what was suggested previous to my post. Halloween is coming soon, as is the end of the cross country season. I may try to host a Halloween party of sorts, but then there are the questions of who to invite and how many and will this be something in which my son is even remotely willing to participate?  So many questions, so few answers!
> 60 days ago

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carat77
carat77 writes:
My son had socializing issues in the beginning of 6th grade, he is now in the 8th and has a lot of friends.  I took him to a therapist last year because he became very insecure, and even had some issues with being angry because of his insecurities.  If you feel you want to take him to see someone, try a therapist first and more forward from there.  Sometimes they just need someone else to talk to other than mom or dad.  I'm sure it is just the age, middle school can be difficult for a lot of kids.  I hope this helps and good luck.
> 60 days ago

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edconsultant
edconsultant writes:
Have you ever thought about the possibility that he is so successful at school BECAUSE he isn't hanging out so much with peers? From your description, he sounds like a very "together" kid and one that doesn't necessarily require a lot of people around him. He sounds very content and introspective. My oldest child (of six) is very much the same way. She finds people her age (15 going on 16) annoying. She doesn't like the gossip, the drama or the fact that kids her age are (for the most part) not very academically driven. She can't find anyone who is interested in the same music or literature and so she finds joy in those things on her own. I could have let that worry me, but I let her find friendship in her own time and in her own way. She has recently found a really good friend that she enjoys being with and that is enough for her. She is a home educated student and also attends a local community college and interacts very well with students and professors and not surprisingly she is actually a little more mature than many of the students who have already graduated high school.

Your son will be fine. To pursue help for a child who is healthy and happy might turn a good situation into a bad one. You just might make him feel like he has to hang out with the wrong crowd and neglect his grades just to "fit in" if he ends up feeling as though there is something "wrong" with him due to the psychotherapy. Give him time and space to make friends and allow him to be "him". He sounds like he is doing really well....just not necessarily doing what you would do. And I would also suggest that you enjoy the time that he wants to hang out with you and your husband-- one day you'll look back and wish he would hang out with you again!

Monique Zarcone
M.A. of Ed in Teaching and Learning
> 60 days ago

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Raindawg68
Raindawg68 writes:
I appreciate so much your question and all the answers because you've described my daughter to a "T"!  It's encouraging to know that her behaviors are not out of whack and that I should enjoy the time that she wants to be at home.  I try to come up with fun things to do as a family and for the most part she wants to do them.  I feel better already.  Glad to also hear the research on sibling relationships as a predictor of future relationships.  She and her younger brother get along great!  And she even comments on that and knows that many of her friends fight a lot with their siblings.  I should feel fortunate, not worried.  Thanks again for asking this question so it can help and encourage others in the same boat.
> 60 days ago

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Thestephen13579
Thestephen1... writes:
A little of advice, I'm 14 years old and basically the same way. My mom always tries to invite her friends kids over so we can "hang out". I hate it! I'm extremely shy and only comfortable around people I know, so if your son only likes that friend coming over ten don't worry about it, he may be shy or un social but just let him do what he wants...He doesn't NEED to be around friends 24/7, let him spend time with family!
> 60 days ago

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TrudyNH
TrudyNH writes:
I just breathed a sigh of relief after reading your question and all the answers.  Especially from the 14 year old!  My 13 year old is social at school, straight A's and has a wonderful group of friends.  They are nerds by choice so he tells me.  They love Minecraft and could spend all day on line with each other.  I worry because my son does not enjoy sports (it's a chore getting him to badminton once a week!), finds no enjoyment in riding his bike or being outside.   There are no other kids in the area for him to hang out with so this summer he will be home alone all day.  I did manage to find him two camps to attend which is not easy at his age.  I guess what gives me hope is that he tells me he is so happy with his life.  I'm happy he does not need a lot of chaos to get through life.  I did not have friends growing up and now I am lonely which I do not want for him!
> 60 days ago

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Dpekin
Dpekin writes:
invite 1 of your son teams over for a pizza party or something
> 60 days ago

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