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Has Anyone Else Been Through This? Worried About My 10-Year Old

(28 Posts)
Angstriddenmum Sat 03-Sep-11 15:04:30

I have a 10-year old boy, the oldest of two boys. He is a lovely son; healthy, tall, intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive and so on. He is fantastically articulate, does brilliantly at school, is highly academic, has many interests and achieves at most things he tries. I love him dearly and I am incredibly proud of him. Incidentally, he is also far from being an angel - at times, he does all those naughty boy things like running around, shouting, pushing boundaries, being cheeky etc.

I hope I don't come across as paranoid but in spite of all the above (and I feel incredibly lucky) I am also very worried about him.

He gets on well with family and our friends and can talk well (confidently and (relatively) interestingly to older people. He is also incredibly good with younger children; he often plays with his brother and his friends (2 years younger) - although he tends to dominate somewhat - and he is lovely with babies.

The problem is that he seems to find it very difficult to socialise with boys of his own age. He is not interested at all in football, which seems to be the big playground ice-breaker. He seems awkward in the presence of his peers and he also seems to realise this; when he is with a group of peers (for example, at parties) he often gets over-excited and, I feel, tries too hard. He does not have an especial best friend or even any close ones (unlike his brother who has 4 or 5 - I think he also realises this and finds it frustrating).

He reads a lot and has a very active imagination. He obviously spends a lot of his time playing in his own head - for example, if we are on car journeys he will usually just be making noises to himself, clearly acting out some story to himself.

I feel guilty; I think my husband and I have brought him up differently. They do not have DSs or computer games. They do not watch much TV. We have always spoken to them as adults. We have probably concentrated more on family than friends.

So. Is anyone out there in a similar position? Have others been through this? I don't mind him being different - he is lovely as he is. But I do want him to have some proper friends of his age and be happier mixing with people his own age as he goes through school.

Angstriddenmum

I'm not sure what to reply but didn't want you to go without any reply at all. My dd is nearly 10 and like your ds is very smart and was up until relatively recently, quite 'different' from her peers.

She did realise she wasn't fitting in and we worked together with school to find out what the issues may have been. It seemed that she was perhaps more mature than the other girls and had quite a sophisticated, sarcastic sense of humour and was quite derisive to the other girls, not understanding what the consequences were. We all worked on this and this year she is a different child.

However, with your ds it sounds like something slightly different. Have you talked to the school about it? What is their assessment of the situation? I really don't think you should feel guilty about how you have brought him up and you certainly don't seem paranoid. However I do think that he should be capable of socialising even if it doesn't come naturally to him and your instinct obviously tells you the same which is why you are worried.

What are his interests? Have you tried a club, for example like chess? He may feel more comfortable amongst those with similar interests which will then give him the skills to socialise with his other peers.

seeker Sat 03-Sep-11 18:20:44

You're right about the football! I have a 10 year old too. He is clever and, far more damning, posh(!) but he is also very good at football so the others forgive him his cleverness and poshness. Have you tried inviting anyone back for tea- one to one is often better than groups. And if all else fails, remember that once he gets to secondary school, there will be a much wider pool of friends to choose from so he's more likely to find kindred spirits.

Fo0ffyShmoofer Sat 03-Sep-11 18:27:35

In many ways you could be talking about my DS.

Only the other day he was in floods of tears because he thinks he doesn't have any proper friends. He is a nice kid and gets positively eaten up by the other children on the estate and in his class.All he wants is to play a game with like minded children.

All I can say is that we have tried to involve him in clubs and activities (he chose which ones) and a big winner has been drama. He started on a Junior theatre course 18 months ago. Loved it so much he decided he also wanted to take the dance classes too.
The Drama and Choir have given him tons of confidence. He lives from Thursday to Saturday to Thursday for his classes and it's full of really nice children.
I sympathise hugely with your DS but also with you as his parent. I know how it feels to be so worried and upset that he isn't mixing with his peers. Do not judge your own parenting harshly at all. Sorry I can't get over how much he sounds like my DS who is 9.

Fo0ffyShmoofer Sat 03-Sep-11 18:29:00

Also my DS loves playing football but is not good at it. The other children use this to get at him.

Eglu Sat 03-Sep-11 18:32:55

I've not got a child in this position, but since he is 10, he wil lbe heading off to senior school in a year, so maybe he will find people more like him there.

I agree with the football issue, ds1 (7) is football obsessed and I had 4 boys aged from 13 to 7 in the car today for 45mins and they talked football, food and football.

Is there any chance school could create a special playtime interest group for children like him?

Angstriddenmum Sun 04-Sep-11 10:57:23

Thanks for all these replies. It's good to know that he's not the only one.

No, we haven't discussed this in great detail with the school. We feel that his teacher (unfortunately, he has the same one next year) is not really on his side and that she is simply annoyed that he is not more 'boyish'.

He is interested in music (he sings and plays the piano and violin), chess, reading, walking and he is obsessed with Harry Potter and Dr Who. I appreciate that these are, for the most-part, solitary activities.

We have tried inviting people one-on-one. Again, perhaps I'm paranoid but in one case, having made the arrangement, they cried off at the last minute, with plenty of, "Yes, we'll rearrange it - he can come round to ours" and since then nothing. We have had one boy over this holiday and it seemed to go OK but they haven't contacted us back and I am sure that being pushy is counter-productive.

Yes, senior school next year but I am not convinced that this will be a solution - I am concerned that in many ways his differences will be more glaring and less acceptable - children can be so cruel.

Sometimes I get really upset and angry, wondering why our society requires so much conformity to allow acceptance. Not just conformity to social mores but to such trivial things as football. Other times I feel guilty; it is not my job to change society but to bring my children up armed to cope with it and I feel that I have failed with my boy.

You certainly have not failed him, please don't torture yourself thinking that way. Different people have different interests that's all, that goes for children too.

Forget going to his teacher if she is not getting your concerns and go to the head of year/deputy head/another teacher you feel may understand the situation better.

I get quite annoyed when our school focuses so much on sporting achievements for the under 13s, starting at year 3 upwards, mentions in assembly, captains, etc etc and yet there is little weekly recognition of those who have skills in other areas, music, drama, art and IT. We do live in a climate where sports play a major part of daily life, but I worry that those with other skills are not being recognised. sad

eicosapentaenoic Sun 04-Sep-11 13:45:45

Fooffy has cracked it.

My twin DDs ar same - 'weird' at primary - science interests, music, drama, art, uncoordinated in sport, Dr Who/Harry Potter obsession, moral values.

It's about discovering what they enjoy and enabling them to join groups of like-minded peers. Then they are happy. And any other kid who doesn't like it can then bog off.

Also the DDs discovered how to get on with a variety of people without 'trying too hard' once they found some common ground - this did include skill-based and challenging computer games like the Lego series and Mario, which are fab and good for mixed gender teenage play - and learned to appreciate other people's skills. They needed a lot of help with fashion and hair, for example...

Bless 'im, OP. Good luck finding nice friends.

BagdadCafe Mon 05-Sep-11 08:06:00

We had an extremely good deputy headteacher at our very mixed primary who actually liked implementing government guidelines.

Rather than playtime, he organised an after-school Thinking Challenge group. This was a ginormous success in meeting the needs of serious-minded children. The best benefit was increased playground and self-respect.

The school Chess Club, organised by a retired gentleman, was also brilliant and encouraged all ages and abilities without discrimination.

Volunteering in school with a relaxed style, particularly having a laugh with teachers and pupils, helped me to understand how to help my DDs.

nickschick Mon 05-Sep-11 08:22:00

YES YES YES.

I have 3 ds 2 who were at primary school 2 years apart - ds2 is lively has lots of friends and is a real people person - ds1 struggled,he was everything you describe it just seemed he missed out on that 'find a friend factor' and as I was in school a lot of the time (pta/general dogsbody with a crb check and a NNEB diploma)I saw this happening right in front of my eyes sad...we did the after school park thing where all the local kids hung around after school,inviting friends home for tea (they stayed and played and ate and had a good time but still it was lacking)joining sports clubs after school absolutely everything and still Ds had no 'friend' he had kids he could play with but no friends ..........one weekend after speaking to dh we hit upon a plan.

By the end of the week ds1 had friends!! had been to the after school chess club,been invited out for tea and he was smile <<happy!!.

The headteacher in the staff room asked me in front of the other teachers what had I done? how had I transformed my ds.

Transformation had cost under £35........hmm

I had watched the children in the playground swapping yu-gi-oh cards ds1 wasnt really interested in them ......ds2 was.

So that weekend we set about building up our yu-gi-oh knowledge smile ds1s interest grew ....and grew and grew and by Monday he had ds2s doubles plus a 'deck' we'd bought him,then we bought him astro turf football boots he had been wearing school shoes but a lot of the boys wore these trainers and we got him the new ones out.

Different is good and positive and accepted but if you want to fit in sometimes you have to follow the crowd.

lingle Mon 05-Sep-11 10:11:41

Hi OP, my kids are a bit different too. The "Unwritten Rules of Friendship" book is really good - really high quality. One of the recommendations they have in "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship" is to find out about the latest craze and get your child up to speed in it - exactly what Nickschick was saying. I think her idea with the shoes is brilliant too.

I think you won't know how to help him until you know his priorities. Is his priority to pursue his passions in peace with a like-minded child? Or is his real priority to be socially accepted - is he an awkward extrovert? You sound really nice, I'm sure you could observe carefully and get a bit of information from him to figure out which way he really wants to go.

So a boy who actually likes being different and just wants kids around him to be nicer might - I think - be best off finding specialist interest groups to pursue his passions with like-minded children - youth orchestra and chess clubs, here you come!

But a shy extrovert is different. If his priority is to fit in, I would consider helping him adjust his interests to ones that are "cool".
I hope this won't sound awful (and I stress here that I am a keen amateur violinist and spend every Friday evening playing violin) but would you consider asking him in a very open way what instrument he'd like to play as a teenager? A teenage boy playing violin has to be very socially established/confident to deal with the fact that violin is widely considered (i)not cool and (ii) feminine. If he loves the violin because he chose it, great. If what he in fact loves is music, then the guitar is the key to social acceptance. Carrying a guitar around is, I think, good protection for a teenager who isn't into football or skateboarding. There is a lot of technique that transfers from violin.

ragged Mon 05-Sep-11 10:31:19

OP:
Your DS1 gets invited to parties? shock
You don't know what it's like to have a socially awkward child until you've had one that never gets invited anywhere.

I really don't think you do have anything to worry about, tbh, though it probably wouldn't hurt to try some of the suggested ideas. I suspect your DS will blossom at Senior School, too. I do relate, DC1 has no close friends, and DC3 has no social life at all outside of school hours/clubs. My DC1 is probably a lot like your DC1, only mine is not as confident as yours, but my DC1 is also very quietly very jealous of a younger sibling (DC2) with much better social life (than the rest of us put together wink).

I have raised them the same (pretty much); they are just different in themselves.

BagdadCafe Mon 05-Sep-11 13:31:48

Love the film About A Boy from the book by Nick Hornby. Also the boy in Love Actually who learns drums to play in the coolest school band.

lingle Mon 05-Sep-11 14:18:40

oh yes Bagdad the best chase scene of all time as Hugh Grant tries to prevent the boy from humiliating himself at the school concert.....

nickschick Mon 05-Sep-11 20:41:50

I cant bear Hugh grant anymore since his despicable treatment of Bridget Jones.

BagdadCafe Tue 06-Sep-11 11:44:42

Angstridden
Reading your OP again, maybe consider not ruling out the female of the species as friends.

My late primary/early teen DDs, who are similarly inclined, have always had very good friendships with boys who sound like your DS based on: youth orchestra and ensembles, theatre club, school productions, no interest in sport, equal competitive ability on the Nintendo Wii (icebreaker), or, one you may prefer, board games. Same with learning how to get on with mixed-age mixed-gender relatives eg older teens.

I have a friend with a DS slightly Asperger's who has made admirable effort to facilitate her DS's friendship with my DDs. We are both chuffed that this has worked so well for all parties. We all particularly enjoy the fact they have beneficial mixed gender friendship without the usual 'nonsense' because they have grown up together from primary. His and DD's friends are particularly gob-smacked and jealous now they are early teens, big kudos in the playground, extra points for mature social skills wink.

A new angle? What do you think?

Angstriddenmum Tue 06-Sep-11 19:02:39

Thanks for all the responses, everyone. Really thought-provoking.

Incidentally, he is not 'routinely' invited to parties; just a couple last year where the whole class was invited. In fact, there was a real issue when he certainly should have been invited to a particular boy's party (for parental reasons) and was not - a solitary girl was invited in 'his' place. For various reasons (as I say, to do with the parents as well as the slightly odd single-girl-at-boys-party aspect) we were more than a little miffed.

In answer to lingle, it's a bit hard to say. I think he is often quite happy in his own world but he is intelligent enough to realise that he is not having the same peer-relationships as others around and so he does, I think, get frustrated by this. Hence, he will try, too hard and hence not appropriately, to interact. Yes, I think the guitar idea is a very good one for the longer term - perhaps when he is in big school!

Themasterandmargaritas, I get furious every year when we have the ritual annual humiliation of Sports Day where he routinely comes last in a very public way and is often subjected to ridicule for it. Imagine if he made fun of people who kept coming last in mathematics, which he is very good at - he wouldn't because he is a sensitive child but why do we live in a society where it is fine for people to make fun of your inability in sport?

With regard to fitting in and fads, I am really in two minds. I do feel a bit like eicosa - he is a fantastic boy and if others don't like him that's their issue. But then again, I know we all have to compromise somewhere. Sigh. I'll need to think more about this! But he is already a bit prone to obsessions, collections and the like. His tourist thimble collection will one day, I'm sure, be worth several pounds! I'm not sure that I want to encourage more...

Girls are a good idea and I think he has a lot in common with them. In fact, he did make friends with a girl before we moved several years ago and he is still in touch with her.

lingle Tue 06-Sep-11 19:18:04

he sounds lovely and you sound very flexible and thoughtful and willing to be led by him.

exoticfruits Tue 06-Sep-11 19:23:54

I know quite a few similar DCs and the key seems to be to find something they are good at and enjoy and make friends through that. The DS I am thinking of most had a hard journey through primary school until year 6 when he got a very good teacher. He is an only DC and spends a lot of time with adults. He is very intelligent and has not interest in football. He took up kayaking, is good at it and has friends through it. He is now in year 8, the transition to secondary went much better than expected. He is a comprehensive and there is a much wider 'pool' for friends. He has found that he can do things like 'science' club at lunch time.
My nephew is similar-the eldest and the other 2 have no problem fitting in. He took to acting, which seems strange as he is very reserved, but he is able to lose himself in parts and gets good write ups in the local paper.
I also think that it is easier as you get older.I hated being a teenager-I just wasn't very good at it and was much more comfortable when I had got through it.
I would say -accept what you can't do and try and find something that you can do.

winnybella Tue 06-Sep-11 19:53:32

I have the same problem with DS(9). he is lovely with his sister (2) and can hold his own in a discussion with adults. Does well at school without having to work at it.

But he is not liked. has no friends. he used to have a couple of friends in nursery and previous school (we moved) but now he has none. He does not get invited to anything.

He came back yesterday saying he tried approach some kids and heard them say "Oh, look, it's the loser, let's go" hmm He told me "I don't care, i'm used to it' sad

The only explanation I can come up with is that although he's a great brother and generally helpful at home etc he does have a sarcastic streak in him. He likes being on his own but also would like to have some friends and so he tries but way to hard-so either he's pushy/bossy or tries to be funny (ends up not being it)...

I'm signing him up for sailing/kayaking next week. I've been thinking about guitar as well.

exoticfruits Tue 06-Sep-11 20:18:32

You just want to hug him, winnybella. I'm sure that schools could do more to help.

Winny that's exactly what dd is like, sarcastic, too clever with her words, that it scares the other girls off. She is also not great at the whole fashion thing, she tries but she doesn't quite have the 'style' that the other girls have, she is happier simply in a pair of shorts. smile

She does have friends and it helps that we live in a very close knit community where all the families get on well, but she also has to try quite hard to make the friendships work. We were very conscious of not getting her to change who she is and crushing her personality, but more to understand that others may not feel comfortable with how she acts when amongst them.

She has a great boy-friend with whom she feels totally comfortable and I often find them laughing about something that I have no idea about. Perhaps that is the way forward?

BagdadCafe Tue 06-Sep-11 21:23:17

One of my favourites: DD was in local theatre show, chaperone says 'I hope she's OK because while she's waiting she reads a book', as if it was very odd behaviour confused. Yes, ma'am, you get strange people like that.

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