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DS 9 "I'm running out of friends Mummy...."

(27 Posts)
Solo2 Sat 13-Nov-10 17:40:03

DS1 9 has always been v good at making new friends and having friends. But this yr, Yr 5, he's struggling to find any friends at all. He's clearly both upset and ashamed about this and I don't know how to help him? sad

His twin, DS2, who has Asperger's traits, has, by contrast not been v good but has maintained 3 close friends equally as quirky as himself.

DS1 lost a close friend when he changed schools aged 7 but made a good new friend. He had the new friend all of Yr 3 but this boy dumped him the day they started in Yr 4. However, DS1 quickly joined a gang of other boys (who'd all been at a different school from age 2.5). DS1 found a shared interest in jazz/ pop dance routines and drama and enjoyed that year of friendships.

But by the end of Yr 4, his 'friends' had started to drift away again - either because they were/ are more bonded to each other who they've known from nursery or because they've moved more into football and table tennis.

DS1 whilst active and physical isn't interested in these 'typical boy' sports. So he no longer fits with the main crowd, although he'll go along with them, pretending to join in - but feeling bored and also not much wanted, as he lacks talent too in those activities.

However, he also doesn't fit in with the geeky/ bookish crowd (which is more his twin's thing) as he hates reading.

We have little time for socialising outside of school or school friendships and so I'm stuck as to how to help a 9 yr old boy develop new friends - in or out of school. Is there anything that a parent can actually DO to help at that stage? I've offered to invite over any child but he doesn't want any and says he has nothing in common with them now.

I've talked to the school's Pastoral Head but she denies anythings wrong and says from what she knows, DS1 always looks happy and occupied at break times. However, this isn't the case - but more DS1 pretending to enjoy being things like 'ball boy' around the table tennis tables etc. I've watched him do this and can see he's bored and sad.

He also wanders on his own at breaks, as his twin has told me or recently has befriended 2 of DS2's friends - as at least they'll diversify in what they do and aren't football obsessed.

Is 9 a difficult age for boys' friendships or is it just something going on with DS1? Whilst I'm sure there must be other boys at his school who are neither football mad or bookworms, these have now been in established friendships since Yr 3 (when this school begins) and so DS1 can't really get a look in. Each yr, the children are mixed up again into one of 3 different classes, partly to enable the children not to get stuck in cliques but DS1 is with some of last yr's crowd who no longer incline towards him nor he they and the others in the class are 'football-mad'.

Can anyone give me some advice about helping him with friendships and also share their experiences with this kind of thing?

Majorca Sat 13-Nov-10 17:51:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Clary Sat 13-Nov-10 19:51:00

Yes I agree, Cubs or a drama club would be good. Cubs meets quite late so usually OK wrt workign schedules if that's the issue.

In school, are there clubs at lunchtime? My DC have drama club, computer club, chess club, recorder club to choose from - any of those might be good for yr DS?

How about computer games? I have found they are a good lead in to friendshipsamong non-footbally boys at this age (eg latest thing for DS or Wii).

Solo2 Sat 13-Nov-10 19:51:59

Thanks. To be honest, he find table-tennis quite boring, except in short bursts whilst some of his peers are national champion level already anyway.

He does a scout related thing once a month but it's a school group. He does horse riding with his twin once a week - which takes up a quarter of the w/e and then fitting in homework and general w/e catch up (I'm a solo mum with no family support, running my own business f/t singlehandedly) takes the rest of the time really.

He already does lots of break-time clubs at school (including street dance) and 2 school-based afetr school clubs (including drama) and has 2 musical instruments to practice and one of these is after school lesson too - so whilst he's not nearly as 'busy' as some peers, our lives are quite packed.

I've wondered whether we should continue to cultivate the friendship with the boy he was mates with from age 4 to 7 but this child now has a new school and set of friends, for the last 3 yrs. I don't know quite how either of them would fit in regular playdates with each other too - though when they do meet, they still get on and still invite each other to birthday party each year.

There's no possibility of the school allowing him to change classes within the middle of a year now. They have different teachers depending on which class they're in for different subjects and there's never been a time when anyone's been allowed to change class.

If I suggest a playdate with someone I think he'd get on well with who he's mentioned talking to a few times, he says no because each child already seems to belong to fixed friendships, even if they're still happy to be 'friendly' outside that group.

Solo2 Sat 13-Nov-10 19:57:29

Incidentally, there's also a computer games 'clique' at school too but he's not into them either, certainly not ina big way/ Warhammer way.

We don't have a Wii or DS.

He's more the type who like acting, dancing, talking about ideas, making things like bows and arrows and dens and fires. So the school scout thing should be good but so far, the school have a policy of deliberately splitting up friends each meeting.

DS2 ended up recently with no one he knew at all in his group - just girls and one person who bullies him and all the rest were from the class above and DS1 last time ended up with 2 girls and a boy from the yr above him last time. So it's not v good as a social thing - just really the activity thing.

He'd like drama or dance outside of school but we simply can't do it as the local ones clash with riding, which he loves or are evening things and there's no time at all left on any evening....

Dracschick Sat 13-Nov-10 20:03:56

I think 9 year old is a difficult time for a boy,its about this time that they become aware of 'social standing'and 'fitting in' and boys seem to be divided into sporty and geeky with little room for difference.

I dont neccesarily think thatchanging school is a good idea I think that he needs to develop his 'friend finding' skills and to do this he needs the support of his teacher - a good primary school teacher will recognise his character and 'pal' him up with boys of similar interests not in a 'can xxxx play with you?' more in a way of involving him asking a few boys to do a special job etc.

Cubs and out of school clubs are a great way to build on these skills and to develop friendships outside of school also having a sibling in the same school is a great asset because that means hes not every all alone.

Im one to think that confidence is the key and you as his mum can help him build the skills and enjoy making friends,is their a park or anywhere near that all the children go after school?

Dont underestimate your help as a Mum if your able to collect him from school perhaps you could mingle with some of the mums and suggest coffee or a outing.....anything that gets him 'in the group'?.

Its heartwrenching isnt it when your dc seem to struggle with friendship.

Herecomesthesciencebint Sat 13-Nov-10 20:05:14

My DSs are younger so no advice with any basis! but really wanted to reply as your Ds sounds so lovely and it must be really hard watching him flunder a bit

I can remeber this happening when I was about 10 and the groups seemd to move on, diverge a bit and I was left with no one. I eventually found a new friend and things settled but it was a difficult cuple of terms so I feel his pain.

TBH I think the only thing YOU can actively do is to forge ahead and invite for tea boys he may be friendly with altho not in their group or a close friend. often friendships given time away from ringleaders can develop well and at the very least it gives him chance to get to know someone a bit better and have a fun evening. maybe you could ask if anyone else is into horse riding and work on a shared interest of his?

pinkthechaffinch Sat 13-Nov-10 20:16:04

Oh I had this from the age of 9 til about 10 and a half.

A very difficut, painful time. I used to sit and read by myself at playtimes.

I never told my parents though, so it's really good that you are in a position to empathize with your ds and come up with suggestions.

I do think it's a devlopmental thing-ds is nearly 9 and , according to his reports, all the kids in his class now seem obsessed with putting each other down verbally and being quite unkind to each other-which is perplexing him.

Clary Sat 13-Nov-10 20:18:19

Could you not fit in a 90-min club after school once a week? Cubs would be great for him by the sound of it. Surely he doesn't do two hours of homework/music practice every night?

Or does he have any pals from the clubs he does do?

autodidact Sat 13-Nov-10 20:56:08

V interesting. I have boy twins too (now 11) and their personalities sound not dissimilar. Used to worry and worry about the "geekier" twin making friends as my other boy was more of an instantly popular type and the contrast was stark. But over time my ostensibly less sociable son has shown that he knows who he likes and is a loyal and lovely friend. I now worry much more about my other one and his flighty ways! He's a fabster and many nice people like him but he seems attracted to inexplicably dull/not very nice kids with no discernible moral fibre or je ne sais qoi or joie de vivre. Keep hoping he'll start developing taste and discernment...

Majorca Sat 13-Nov-10 21:24:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NonVinaigretteRien Sat 13-Nov-10 21:35:33

It is gut wrenching to feel that your child has no friends.

I find it goes in peaks and troughs though, so be assured that this won't last for ever.

I'd persevere with the class teacher perhaps as it's her/his job to check your DS isn't on his own. Perhaps some specific tasks he needs to do to help out? Give him some responsibility so that he can boost his confidence and his status in the classroom.

Partly, also, you need to let him sort it out for himself. I do think we all go through phases of feeling lonely, and this is a chance for him to develop his social skills.

As I say, i do realise it's gut wrenching though.

Solo2 Sun 14-Nov-10 06:58:15

Thanks everyone. There is no real definable class teacher for him this yr. His class teacher is a newly qualified young man who doesn't teach DS1 for any subjecst at all, barely knows him and will only see him in passing about once or twice a week at the pseudo-form time for 15 mins when this teacher seems only to make the children read a book or draw and shut up.

The pastoral Head teaches for one lesson - PHSE - and is much more switched on but she's busy and I think she already thinks I'm moaning unecessarily, as DS1 isn't obviously one of those children struggling socially. So DS1 has different teachers for different subjects and no real 'coordination' of how he's managing socially or even organisation skills - at all.

DS1 already attends in-school clubs four out of five lunch break a week, one pre-school choir at school, one in-school instrumental lesson, one after school instrumental lesson and 2 after school evening school based clubs. I don't think we could really find another block of time for more out of school stuff and they now get about 1 hrs homework a night plus 20 mins minimum instrumental practice (10 mins each instrument - although we rarely fit this in at all!).

The Pastoral Head was his form teacher last yr (she doesn't teach anymore) and this really helped as she was so goog at putting like-minded children at the same tables in classes and inviting certain children to certain school clubs to help friendships. Nut now DS1 is in Yr 5, I think the feeling in the school is they're old enough to get on with it and the attention is focused on the new Yr 3 and also the Yr 4 lot.

There is also more 'publicly humilaiting' the children in classes like in Maths, where DS1 is struggling has alreasy had to put up with the Maths (male) teacher saying in front of everyone how they might demote DS1 from the middle to the bottom group and announcing things like - "and X (DS1) only got 7 out of 25 for this test!!!! You'll have to try harder X, won't you?! hah ha!"

On another thread (Gifted & Talented) I've posted about DS1's loss of confidence academically and not meeting his ability and I think this is partly contributing to his social struggles this year but not sure if it's causal or as a result of this.

DS1 is not a leader but a follower and I think that this has both helped him to make friends - as he'll comply with what the others want him to do - but also not sustain friends - as he's more a follower to a more dominant character - who then moves on - or an easy child to have around but not doing really the kind of thing he wants to do.

EG in the morning when I drop him off at school, he finds it really, really hard to know how to join in with anyone playing and won't go up to anyone and suggest they do a/b/c. He'll hang aroudn the edge of a group and eventually find a way of joining in but you can tell, by watching him, that he's not secure and will comply with anything at all, just to be included.

His twin by contrast will happily wander around alone, exclusively waiting for his named friends to arrive and then accosting them with his own ideas, chatter and suggestions.

I think that DS1 has learned to comply and take a passive role because of his twin's Asps traits and needing to make allowances for them. But now he hasn't really found the ability to say, "I want to do a/b/c - would you liek to do it with me?" and of course he's afraid that the response will be no - so he doesn't try.

I wish that schools taught - boys particularly - basic social skills!

NonVinaigretteRien Sun 14-Nov-10 09:41:18

No real class teacher in Yr 5? And publicly humiliating children?

That's very odd and concerning.

GiddyPickle Sun 14-Nov-10 10:34:04

I have found Years 4 and 5 very hard for a boy who doesn't like playing football at break times. For medical reasons DS cannot really play and because of his condition he gets demoralised by playing when he is so rubbish at it that nobody wants him on their side.

Some schools now ban ball games one day a week because it can become a huge problem (lack of friends and social interaction for the boys who can't / won't play). In some schools 95% of boys play football every single break and lunchtime leaving the others isoclated and (as OP says) just because there are 3 boys left who DON'T play football doesn't mean that the 3 of them have anything else in common.

Maybe I am a bit bitter as a Mum of a boy who is always sidelined and left out but I wish our school would do the same. It wouldn't magically solve friendship issues but for 1 day a week he'd have the chance to join in a game he might like or just chat to someone instead.

rabbitstew Sun 14-Nov-10 20:58:45

Hi, Solo2,

It sounds as though your ds1 is very busy, but virtually all of his "busy" time is linked into a school that is currently making him unhappy. If you feel unhappy and demoralised in a particular environment, then you are going to find it hard to make positive moves to alter your situation - so he is more or less giving up on even trying to make new friendships and living down to his own negative expectations. If the school cannot see that and help him and you in some way, then maybe he needs to see that there is more to life than this school and the people in it??? Is there not any way you could cut back on his school-based activities so that you can find him a bit more out-of-school time? I know the answer is likely to be only with exceptional difficulty, particularly given that he has a twin brother who probably spends a lot of time in the school, so picking up and dropping off, etc, would be problematic, but it really might be worth it if you could arrange it at all.

As for the school's attitude, from the way you describe it it makes me feel quite angry. It sounds like the sort of school that tends to pigeon-hole people, expecting them either to be intelligent geeks or alpha males, and having little time for those who do not quite live up to the requirements of either category. If a child does not fit into either of these limited categories of people, this should be worked around - humiliating a sensitive person in front of their peers as per your ds1's maths teacher, does not make them work harder or get over their problems, or help them develop a thicker skin, it just makes them feel like a miserable outsider, embarrassed even to be seen to be trying in case they still fail.

Clary Mon 15-Nov-10 00:21:15

What kind of school has no class teacher for yr 5 and an hour's homework every night? And that stuff about the test in maths is awful, surely.

Where are you OP? This is not like any yr 5 I've encountered. Not that that has much to do with yr DS's problems - but maybe if he didn't have that much homework to do he might have time for Cubs or drama group?

earwicga Mon 15-Nov-10 00:28:30

If you are running your own business then you will be able to sort your schedule so that your child can go to dance/drama/scout groups outside of school so he can relate to other children who are like him and who may like him consequently gaining confidence.

And I don't say this flippantly, I say this as a single mother who puts her children first. Give your child a chance!

earwicga Mon 15-Nov-10 00:30:35

I feel so sad for your child having no access to like minded children.

Solo2 Mon 15-Nov-10 08:48:38

Thanks for the feedback. It's true that our lives revolve around the school, as there's so much on offer there, extracurricularly and DTs want to participate in as much as they can. DS2 - who needs sameness and routine - find anything new and outside his ordinary envirnoment tricky, so that makes it hard not to continue to give him a base where he's secure and knows everyone and how it all works.

Of course I put my DCs first, earwicga and the issue is how to fit in yet another activity - just for DS1 - when he's already got lots on. I like them to have time with me in the evenings and am always there to pick up at the normal end of school day, except on the 2 nights they want to do the after school clubs in drama and in DS1's case Science (DS2 does a creative writing club at same time that night).

I don't really want to have to whisk them straight from school to an out of school club, making supper v late and homework and instrument practice v late too. It's the logistics of all this plus not wanting to overload them - and they do v little in the way of activities compared to most of their peers BTW.

The homework is supposed to be 30 to 40 mins/night this year (this is an academically selective school) but DS1 takes ages to settle to work and both can resist getting down to it etc so that I need to give loads of time and support to help them (eg, it took 2.5 hrs this w/e to help even DS2 get through one of 4 homework subjects alone!)

The school is FULL of quirky and different children, which means it's a good place for DC2. It COULD be a great place for DC1 too but as I said in an earlier email, it seems as if friendships are now established by Yr 5 and lots of children who are similar to DC1 - neither football mad nor geeky bookish - don't seem 'available' to DC1.

I think I should go back and talk again with the Head of Pastoral Care. I know she believes I'm fussing about nothing as DC1 - compared with DC2 - is well known to make friends easily and to have lots of friends. It's just that these seem now - to DC1 - more like friendly acquaintances than proper friends.

DC1 loves the dance and drama clubs and the scout club he does with the school. But as someone pointed out, this still means that the children he meets there are from his school anyway.

The humiliation of DC1 in Maths is 'supposed' to be jovial, joky comments that 'help' children become more competitive and work harder. DS1 is not the only one who's been 'ribbed' by a teacher in this way but I think it's completely the wrong thing to do and certainly has no positive effect on DS1.

The lack of a 'proper' coordinating form teacher this yr is unusual as the other two Yr 5 classes have much beetr form teachers and the one female of those two is extremely good at creating a family atmosphere in her class and she teaches 2 of the subjects to all Yr 5. It's just bad luck that DS1 ended up in the class run by the new male teacher, who lacks experience and good social skills and is still 'learning on the job' - and doesn't teach any subjects to DS1.

The school does warn parents however that in Yr 5, children are expected to start coping alone much more, in preparation for the move to the seniors in Yr 7 and I think that's also part of why it's seen as perhaps a 'goo thing' that the form teacher isn't always there to help children organise themselves. However, I think it's stupid to expect a typical 9 yr old boy to be able to know exactly what to do and when by himself, all the time!

earwicga Mon 15-Nov-10 09:23:45

Thanks for the reply but it is all about what you want.

'I like them to have time with me in the evenings'

'I don't really want to have to whisk them straight from school to an out of school club'

Who is being put first here?

Have you given your son options? A choice between a club/group outside the school or what he is currently doing? If he has the chance to make friends outside of school this will give him confidence to make friends at school, including when he goes up to High School.

rabbitstew Mon 15-Nov-10 10:05:39

Hi, Solo2. Maybe you are mistaking what your son says he wants (which is likely to be skewed by what he thinks you want him to want, given that he is a follower rather than a leader) for what he actually needs? I mean that in terms of the amount of time he says he wants to spend doing school clubs and being involved almost solely in the life of the school. Obviously it is not for me to comment as though this is a fact, as a person's life is never as simplistic as a stranger thinks it is, but from an outsider's point of view, it does look a little bit as though the family dynamic is skewed a little bit too far in the direction of ensuring your ds2 is kept happy and secure, at the possible expense of his apparently more NT twin.

Solo2 Mon 15-Nov-10 11:18:06

Well, yes, we DO have to accomodate to DS2's needs quite a lot. One of the main reasons to get them both home as early as possible after school is the fact that DS2 is depserate to use out loo (have posted about this before on the Special Needs forum) as he can't make himself use the school loo. So we always need to make it home quickly, if we can.

However, DS1 ALSO likes to get home too, as he always wants to watch The Simpsons at 6pm and get his homework done before that. He's also really hungry after school and wants supper (neither much likes the school lunches). So whilst I'm happy and able to keep going out and about after school hrs and in fact often frustrated that life has to 'stop' once the children settle in for the evening, the children prefer it this way. So it's really about them, not my own needs at all. They always come first.

Earwicga, I'm not sure I'd explained things v clearly. Hence your reply above.

Rabbitstew, there's certainly a degree of DS1 having lifelong to accomodate to DS2. Not sure what to do about this and am often concerned about it. However, DS1, until this Yr 5, was always the one who was asking for more and more school-related activities and who had at least 8 'good friend' that he could name, who'd be doing those activities with him.

It's only this year, since Sept. that things seem to have changed and children drifted away. So until now, there has been lots of requests from DS1 to be MORE school involved rather than involved in things outside school. It was DS2 who only had 3 friends and who I worried about, socially.

If there were any other adult involved in our family life, it'd be more possible to take DS1 to a new, outside school activity at the w/e, whilst I stayed home with DS2. they both LOVE riding lessons outside school - but it's not a 'social' thing. This clashes however with 2 different things I've always thought DS1 might like - a local dance/drama group on Sat mornings and a local drama group - again on Sat mornings. However. it's DS1 who will NEVER let anything get int he way of his riding lesson - so not sure how to do anything on that front really.

But yes, one of the issues is that they only ever have me and have only ever had me. Both of my parents are dead and my siblings and their families live farther away and are not interested in any regular get-togethers. So I have to juggle each of my twins differeing needs on my own, all the time - no mean feat, when they're like chalk and cheese - except in their joint love of riding!

earwicga Mon 15-Nov-10 11:36:58

I'm really sorry Solo2, I've been jumping down your throat without knowing the whole situation. Thanks for explaining more. You are obviously doing what your son wants. I had a horrible time at school and it was only outside of school that I had friends.

My twins have stopped all after-school activities now. They both used to do loads but it turned into such a nightmare to get them to go back out after we'd been home for a bit that I stopped them all last September as all they want to do is play after school. Friendship is always a worry, but I don't know what to do about it other than doing all I can to install confidence (which my parents didn't do for me).

I don't think I should of commented at all on this thread and will now watch to see what suggestions come up.

Solo2 Mon 15-Nov-10 12:52:37

That's OK Earwicga. It's always difficult to pick up the full picture and non-verbal nuances from email/MN and given your own bad past experiences, it's only natural to perceive something that sounds similar, through the same template.

I also didn't really have many friends at school until 6th Form, when I had a gang of girls equally quirky and swotty as myself! I've spent my life, first trying to 'fit in' and then celebrating my own eccentricities and the fact that I thrive on my own company.

However, I fight against my own urge for 'down time' and personal space (which DS2 also needs), as I know that DS1 craves much much more social contact than either of us and I don't want him to end up isolated. I also want DS2 to know how to fit, to a point, in the normal social environment, despite his differences.

But it's a struggle and I've just spent a v typical w/e completely orientated towards fulfilling the twins' needs 24/7 and domestic tasks and none of my own at all. So it's in this context that I'm also trying to fulfil more of DS1's needs!!!

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