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Socially awkward son and his shrinking life(23 Posts)
My lovely, geeky 13 year old DS is struggling to make friends as the friendship groups seem to have swelled into “popular” and “nots” in year 8. He has a couple of friends but no wide friendship group and if not with them, he seems isolated. His older sister mentioned it to me and I’ve gently tried to ask him about it before but he assured me he was ok. However there’s been a couple of examples recently where I’ve realised he’s on the cusp of becoming unhappy and lonely in real life, although he’s a brilliant gamer and plays online with others. He’s a great runner but is not keen on the sports like rugby and football that would give him team mates so doesn’t have that pool to pull from. I’ve suggested scouts/ tennis/ park run etc but he seems scared to be putting himself out there. I’ve contacted a teen counselling service to see if they could advise anything to build his confidence but I’m at a loss. Is there anything that other parents have tried that might help?
I didn't want to read and run but I also don't have much advise apart from this is a fear of mine with my son.
I'm guessing he won't be the only non sports fan in his year group and will start to make friends with kids who have the same interests has him.
But my brother now 24 was a gamer and that give him enough interaction with others when he was growing up but now he's an adult and has social anxiety so just be careful of how much he plays and that he doesn't think that's the only interaction he needs
It was ever so with geeks. Rest assured that his friends now will probably be life long friends, and they’ll probably be gaming together instead of getting drunk and sleeping with sex workers in Ibiza in a few years.
The best thing you can do is show him that you accept who he is. It’s ok to be brainy and introverted - it really is.
Keep an eye out for bullying and shut it down immediately if it ever happens (if your school is helpful).
Help him follow his interests but don’t push him into anything he’s not interested in. There will be various clubs with other people he can join - it doesn’t have to be sport.
Playing online is a social experience.
DS got into Pokemon Go! Also goes out a lot with us (cheap country walks). Sympathies on the running thing... DS has no sporty friends & gets no social credit even though he's brill at X-country he doesn't get asked to represent his House for it.
Does he care? Does he want a wide group of friends? Do you and your daughter have a wide group of friends and feel that is 'the way' to do friendship? Obviously it is something to keep an eye on and be aware of but equally maybe he feels happier with a few close friends rather than a wide group. As an adult I have many people whom I would count as friends/acquaintances but I don't tend to like to socialise in large groups. I pick up one or two 'best friends' in each setting, so my closest friends don't even all know each other. If there is just me and someone else then I can chat for ages, as the group gets bigger it is harder to break into the conversational flow and I end up feeling more awkward. I am perfectly happy with my friendships- it is only society which seems to value breadth of friendship groups over the depth of a few really solid friendships. Neither is right or wrong.
Can you help him to arrange cinema trips with his friends? Or swimming? Or bowling? Or going into town on the bus? That might attract some new friends. I would try and encourage him to do stuff other than gaming (that's very easy to socialise as not face to face). Don't let him withdraw into the world of gaming as it's easy to become very isolated as an adult in this world.
My DS - 14 - is also a gamer and is online a lot but it’s very common now to be that way. I insist he sees his friends in real
Life too esp in the holidays - thankfully they don’t all game excessively. He’s got a reasonable amount of friends so this isn’t an issue but he’s not in with the ‘in crowd’ as he could never be bothered to keep up.
I had a mixed group of friends from ages 15, always wanted it and got it eventually, but not everyone does. My DD - 15 - only has a few proper friends but seems ok with it for now. All kids are different. Maybe if he’s a runner then parkrun would be good as I’ve heard of people making friends that way.
Thank you all for your responses. He admitted last night that he wasn’t very happy with having few friends and we talked about other things he could do that he’d enjoy and possibly meet other people. I take massive comfort in the fact that he’s kind and thoughtful and loving and if he didn’t seem to be shrinking into himself, I wouldn’t worry about only having a few friends. And compared to the detentions/ truancy and boob shots that his peers seem to be involved in, he’s a dream 😊His dad and half brother are also a little bit awkward and they have happy lives so I hope the same for him. But you are right, I’ll keep an eye on the “meaness” as he calls it and keep encouraging him to invite people to do things. He’s very loved and accepted for being himself at home so hoping that keeps his self esteem up
He sounds lovely OP and as you say, with a loving family I suspect he will be just fine.
Maybe coding classes or something techy would help him find his people.
FWIW I think Y8 is right at the end of the awful social sorting that goes on in schools. Kids at the upper end of secondary - whether classified as ‘in’ or ‘out’ - are more accepting and kind to each other in my experience.
OP, I don't want to dismiss your worries, but I think that's very common among the quieter boys at that age. DS2 had about a year-18 months around that age where I think he socialised in person about three times. I was sick with worry inside. but then I remembered DS1 had been similar, and DS1's geeky best friend's mum had worried about exactly the same issue with her son.
See if there's a pattern to who he games with, then invite them over for a gaming and pizza night at yours. Or see if there are any gaming conferences/launches/shows on locally and invite two or three of them to go with him. You may have to do the inviting.
I noticed a lovely mum started inviting DS2 out and realised that her lovely son liked DS but had no idea how to make overtures of friendship. They now see each other - not regularly because they're both introverts but they go to the cinema occasionally, for sleepovers occasionally and do fun stuff like escape rooms. DS2 is very gradually coming out of his shell.
I wouldn't worry too much about encouraging him to do something - just sign him up for something you think he'd like - scouts if he's outdoorsy is a great way of building friendship. DS did cadets for a few years and enjoyed it.
I made DS2 join a music group and then made him stick with it for the first year as each term he said he wasn't bothered to return. He really didn't want to. He's been going for three years now and they've started rehearsing outside school and even got a gig last term, unrelated to the music group. Now, he loves it.
The lovely quiet boys just take their time. For DS2, what was important was for us to strongly encourage and support his interests and nudge him to involve himself socially with likeminded people, because he was never going to do that unaided.
FWIW a couple of friends of mine have popular cool kid sons - A team rugby, invited to all the parties. There's a lot of bullying and rivalry among those boys - sometimes physically and emotionally really vicious. And they also have far more exposure to drugs and underage alcohol.
My son shares similar characteristics but he's very lucky as his school (grammar) has quite a few similar boys. However it's only now in year 10 that they seem to have started meeting up out of school.
He's been with scouts since year 7 and has loved it, everyone is accepted there and going camping and sitting round campfires suits him. He can contribute there (to clearing up etc) and not worry about his lack of sporting ability and now he's older he chats to his Explorer Scouts group on WhatsApp.
He also does drama once a week (at a very creative group where they devise their own plays) and that has helped with confidence and widening his circle of friends.
Plus he plays an instrument so also goes to orchestra once a week (though he'll give that up in Sept).
These three weekly activities give him something to do that's not screen based and give him chance to meet people.
Interestingly in the last six months he's started to prefer spending some time doing things that aren't screen based. He's got into music and saved up for a turntable and is busy playing my old vinyl records. Yesterday he was reading in the garden. He still loves gaming but it's nice to see him doing other things too.
He sounds similar to my y8 son. He is also very good at running and has joined the junior wing of the local running club. He loves Parkrun, we often all go, either to run or volunteer and it's very friendly (I'm a slow runner but it doesn't matter). You could maybe volunteer together at first to get a feel for it.
I did also speak to his form teacher and head of year when the 'banter' got too much and they managed to sort it out without letting them know that it was DS who had complained.
I think people like this often find more of a niche when they are older e.g. at university or work and can meet more likeminded people.
You’ve almost made me cry with your kindness, worrying about my kids will be the death of me! I’m going to have a chat with the school today and make sure they are aware of what’s going on in case there’s anything they can do to help and try and keep organising/ encouraging him to do more social things - I feel a gaming pizza evening would be a great start and will look into coding and gaming shows ,he would love that. Thank you all, strange how just sharing it and knowing you are not alone makes it feel less daunting
Year 8 and 9 is quite like this.
Why not have them over for gaming and dominos pizza. Good idea.
Your son sounds lovely, he's just an introverted geeky type. Nothing wrong with that! I was like that too (so was DH) and while it took us a bit longer to find our people in high school, once we did between 16-19 or so we had a solid group of (similarly geeky) friends, both locally and online. We're in our thirties now and still hang out with most of these people - they all turned into awesome, successful adults.
Hi Tinker your son sounds lovely (as do you)..I have a quiet slightly geeky DD 16 yr and DS 18 yr, both have lacked confidence and struggled a bit. It is really important when you say He’s very loved and accepted for being himself at home so hoping that keeps his self esteem up.that is what kept me going through the worries I had/have with my two!
Being scared of branching out at 13 isn't unusual at all, with the right gentle support he will find his feet. I think it's important for him to accept himself as he is and that not all boys are going to like rugby and football and that is perfectly fine! Just take a look at what is on offer around the running theme and the stuff he is interested in, as others have already said. Does he like board games or mainly the online ones? I think sometimes DC forget board games can be fun, maybe that could be a nice pizza evening?
My daughter is quite conventionalish, on the outside, but actually has PDA (a form of autism), is quite gothy/emo and her bf is socially awkward, v intelligent, a lovely boy, but complete nerd, in a good way, he also has cystic acne.
Between them they have a v small social circle, but all friends who accept them.
Thats a difficult age as they move from dms arranging stuff to planning stuff themselves and thats not easy if you are quiet and shy. But believe me there are other quiet and shy guys too and often they make friends with lots of girls in a while too. Are there any youth groups around as organised activities suit as they have no idea what to do with themselves. Chess is a great one as not much talking but something to look forward to and bond over. Try not to give him any idea you think he can't manage or is less than in any way. Could he go to stuff like movies with his dsis too.
@shadypines thank you 😊 it’s so good to hear of others in the same situation and that lots of others have found their tribe after some wobbles. I’ve spoken to the school so they are more aware now and they have said they will try and help him if they think he’s struggling during the school day. I’m going to try and help him broaden his circle and keep supporting him in the things he loves and hope that he feels happier soon. Thank you all for your help
DS (Y7) has just joined an athletics club, simply because he loves to run and trains once or twice a week. I didn't imagine it would be at all sociable (lots of running not so much chatting) but he's definitely making friends amongst the other kids and there's a very supportive team atmosphere at athletics competitions. Perhaps your boy might like to try something similar?
He might be good at karate as karate appeals to introverts,or you could try war hammer.
Joining a team is a good idea, even if he prefers individual sports - my DS also hates team sports but he is in a cycling club with a very sociable non-competitive ethos and he enjoys that.
Two years ago he was the geeky awkward 13 year old with no friends at school - he is not horribly shy, but he is very reserved, and his interests (mainly programming) weren't really shared by any of his classmates. I think with the benefit of hindsight that he was really quite unhappy at school in years 7 to 9.
He started to come out of his shell a bit last year (after a change of class), and this year he started a new school and is like a different person. For him, it seems to be a combination of gaining a bit of confidence and maturity, and being genuinely happy at school for the first time in his life. He is in a class where most of the students are girls and this has helped - he really does seem to get on better with girls! He also has a girlfriend and an active social life.
Not sure if this helps at all but it might give you some hope that this is just a passing stage.