13 year old struggling with friendship issues

(18 Posts)
RosieLig Fri 26-Jun-15 10:22:31

My son (aged 13) is at a small private school. He's a bit quirky and the environment has always suited him.

This year he moved up to the senior school within the same school. More children have joined and the group dynamic is very different. There seems to be a cool crowd and because everyone wants to be in that crowd they're avoiding/ignoring the more obviously uncool ones, like my son. He's been on the receiving end of a few nasty comments from quite a few different kids- "gay", "spoilt" that sort of thing.

He had a very intense friendship in the junior school with an equally quirky boy. They have now grown apart and my son is fine with that.

He's quite quiet and unhappy at the moment. He spends a lot of time at school as its a boarding school timetable so long days.

We've spoken to the school but it's nearly end of term here in Scotland and I don't think they're doing much. His new class next year seems to put him with most of the uncool lot which I think is unhelpful. One of the other boys was heard saying he was in the "rubbish" class.

I'm really sad as he's been at the school since he was 3 and it's on our doorstep. Also our other 2 children go there. His teachers are generally good and the support for learning (he has dyslexia and attention problems) are excellent.

I don't know if I'm overreacting and giving too much airtime to individual unkindnesses. I'm worried by discussing it too much we're highlighting it too him, making him feel like a victim.

He seems to feel quite helpless saying he's made bad choices of friends. He feels that because the school is small he's stuck now with this label.

I'm hoping that new children and the perspective of the summer off will help but I don't want to put him through another year like this. It doesn't help that he struggles with the academic side too.

I just feel sad about it. My husband who is normally the voice of reason is very emotional about it all as I think it brings back bad memories for him. So I'm struggling to find perspective...

Any thoughts/advice would be great. I've emailed his year head again and will hopefully meet up next week to discuss it.

PolterGoose Fri 26-Jun-15 10:36:34

Maybe instead of focusing on finding him ways to be in with the 'cool kids' (who sound horrible to me), work on his confidence and encourage him to make his own judgements on the kids in his class who are probably a lot nicer than the 'cool kids.

RosieLig Fri 26-Jun-15 10:41:33

Sorry I should have been clearer it's not the "cool kids" who are being mean (they're actually pretty nice kids and I'd be happy for him to be friends with them) it's the other ones being mean as they all want to be in with the crowd. Thats what makes it harder. Even his "friends" are being mean.

PolterGoose Fri 26-Jun-15 10:45:23

Ok, it sounds pretty awful tbh, but I still think your ds would be best serves staying out of it and finding friends among the kids who are being sidelined (and bullied perhaps?)

PolterGoose Fri 26-Jun-15 10:45:51

^best served

MajesticWhine Fri 26-Jun-15 10:48:32

I don't think you are overreacting, and speaking to the head of year is the right thing to do. It's also important though, to not show him getting too upset yourself, as this might give him the message that if you are feeling overwhelmed about it, then he can't cope either. Handle it all calmly and confidently and this will model for him that he can cope calmly and confidently too. Unfortunately thinking he is stuck could become self-fulfilling prophesy, so reassure him that friendships chop and change all the time, and that he doesn't have to feel stuck. Things might feel different next year.

Is there anything that he would like to do in the holidays that could help him build his self-esteem and confidence? Any hobbies or summer camps or friends outside of school?

Floggingmolly Fri 26-Jun-15 10:50:29

So he's not actually being excluded by the cool set?

AddToBasket Fri 26-Jun-15 10:54:00

Aw, this is so hard to watch but it is also pretty hard to influence. I would be careful about going along with the 'rubbish class' thing as it sounds as though you are also writing off those children.

My suggestions would be, first, to help build friendships with school friends away from school. (Are there nice kids who you can have over? Do you know the families and can you organise summer things to do with them?)

Second, make sure you DS has friends outside school through sports or hobbies or old friendships or whatever. It is really important for DC who are having a hard time at school to know that social life does not begin and end with school. So catch up with old friends, cousins, new neighbours or the same age - whatever - but make sure that all his friendship self-esteem doesn't rest on school life.

RosieLig Fri 26-Jun-15 10:58:41

Thanks all. I'm waiting to hear back from the year head. I don't think he's been actively excluded in a nasty way from the "cool group". The nasty stuff seems to be from others jostling for position.

I have signed him up for an outward bound course this summer. I'm good friends with some of the "cool boys" (the nice ones) mums so I may have a chat with them (one has been through something similar with her eldest). One of the boys lives really near by and I asked my son if he wanted him to come over (they used to be good friends when they were younger) but he says he wants to make friends himself (i.e. without my helping!!!)

It's hard because it's like he's lost his confidence. He's always been a bit of a one friend/best friend person.

RosieLig Fri 26-Jun-15 11:02:48

Thanks AddtoBasket - I totally agree. Unfortunately due to the nature of the school day and Saturday school/games there is little time outside school. It's all encompassing. He doesn't really have friends out of school. This is what makes it so hard. Most of the local kids his age are at the same school. I will have a think though as you make very good points.

ZeroFunDame Fri 26-Jun-15 11:07:01

To be honest, and this is of no help to you, I would be (quite urgently) considering a school move. I know it might be virtually impossible at this stage and logistically awkward - but wouldn't it be wonderful for him to have a chance to reinvent himself in a new environment?

RosieLig Fri 26-Jun-15 11:13:31

ZeroFunDame - yes a logistical nightmare! But we can do it if need be.

It's bad timing with all the schools now finishing for the summer too. I also worry it's teaching him to run away from his problems.....

ZeroFunDame Fri 26-Jun-15 11:19:46

Mmm ... I don't know what it was but something in your OP stunned me with empathy for your DS - looking forward to years of familiar misery. (But perhaps it's not as bad as that!)

Full disclosure - I'm somewhat biased against all-through schools. Such a burden of habit and impossibility of escape.

Cloud2 Fri 26-Jun-15 13:11:04

Can your DS find anyone who has the same interests with him?

I asked my DS1 how friendship group formed in his school, they have some children always play football in the field during breaktime, some children always chat in the courtyard,some children always go to Chess club etc. And I think there are a few popular boys in his school as well, but it seems not affect most boys' life.

As for calling names, can he just ignore it or say it back? Of course, you are yourself, you won't change just because some children say something nasty to you. That's what I told DS2 who is 7, the other day he was called a stupid banana stick by another boy and he was upset. So I asked if he was, he said of course he was not. Then I said just ignore it then and he could say it bak to the boy if he feels better.

I always think the best way to deal with those sorts of name calling is igoring it. Then there is no fun for the children to do it.

But of course, the most important thing is find a group of friends.

DeeWe Fri 26-Jun-15 14:24:02

So roughly there's a cool group and a not-cool group.
The cool group seem okay and fairly okay with others.
However the non-cool group seem to mostly want to be in the cool group.
So to try and prove themselves to the cool group they put-down each other.
The school has decided (possibly in answer to that) that putting the cool group in one form and the non-cool ones in another may help.

I think your issues are:
Will separating them into cool/non-cool mean that the non-cool will stop wanting to be cool? If so then the non-cool group is probably the nicer one to be in.
If he did get put into the cool class then what situation will he find himself in? Will there be others non-cool who will pal up with him. Or will those in the class be even more desperate to be seen cool and still be nasty.
And will the cool group continue being nice to your ds if he was in with them. Will then include him or could he find himself isolated.

Could you do something without his "permission" with the cool-boy mum perhaps. Tell her what's happening and cook up something together. Either something fantastic they both would love to come on that you're going to together. Or go to it separately and "just happen" to meet up. Of course because you're too busy catching up maybe the boys would like to go off together?

ZeroFunDame Fri 26-Jun-15 14:31:48

Goodness DeeWe I do hope you're not running the country.grin Thats just perpetuating the two tribes culture. My party will work to create a society where no child is seen as uncool ...

DeeWe Fri 26-Jun-15 15:20:56

If I ran the country it'd be very different. grin I'm forming the war on spiders inside my house for a start off. grin
I was writing it with some of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons where he's musing on being Cool in my head.

I suppose I'm going at it from the aspect that generally the crowd that regard themselves as "cool" (we'd have called it the "in crowd") ime isn't particualrly nice or inclusive.

So I'd have been rejoicing my dc wasn't in the "cool" class. (neither me nor them would have been in that crowd)

But the Op's situation seems to be opposite to that, where she feels the "cool" crowd are also nicer. But I think that's also harder because there isn't a safe place in the other group.

RosieLig Fri 26-Jun-15 15:30:26

Thanks both! Yes DeeWe, you've hit the nail on the head with your last sentence!

I would like a world without cool/non cool too and I certainly don't use those words around my children.
I'm now meeting the year head on Monday and have asked for pastoral care to be there also. I think they need to do some work on relationships with this year group.

I plan to try and organise some stuff over the holidays for him. I'm afraid I'm going to do it whether he likes it or not as I think he needs a push to get out of this negative mindset.

Luckily, he has a great relationship with his siblings and they have a lot of fun together so he has built in playmates at home and on holiday!

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