Kids' Friendships & Socializing

Parent Q&A

  • Is this appropriate for a mother to say "Don't play with that kid"

    (6 replies)

    My son AA tells me about his "mean friend" (BB) who threatens him with "I won't be your friend anymore if you don't...(usually it is only over a toy).  But this friend reduces him to tears by telling him that AA's best friend doesn't like him anymore, and prefers to be with BB (which is also a lie in addition to being mean).  They tease a mutual friend together and makes this friend cry (this is not what my son would ever do, w/o BB around).  After my son accidentally hit him with a  frisbee last week, he hit AA more than 9 times in the face.  My son told teachers and friends that he fell down instead!

    I don't think this is a healthy friendship and do not think BB is a kind friend.  I've been telling my son not to play with BB at recess, and wonder if this is inappropriate for a grown-up to do.  I worry that I am being a helicopter mom, that I'm intervening too much.  And it is difficult for other kids and parents to hear that ""AA's mom told him not to play with BB"

    But the alternative is to let my son continue to follow him around like a puppy when the friend is so unkind.  We will start karate lessons and playgroups to learn how to navigate friendships.  But what do I do now?

    You'll probably get a range of replies, but I would say it is TOTALLY appropriate to tell your kid to avoid a kid who is obviously a manipulative bully, outrageous! My kids are a bit older so I don't even have to tell them, by now they KNOW to avoid what my friend would call 'ugly' acting people. Do you hang out with people who are manipulative or verbally abusive? Of course not! So why wouldn't you advise your kid - who needs you help learning how to navigate the world (we are not born knowing how), to avoid people who are not kind? Go for it mama!

    Instead of telling your son not to play with a particular child, give your son tools to decide to do this himself. It's an important life lesson that I still struggle with as an adult. Ask him (and teach him to ask himself):

    -Does being with this friend make you feel good?

    -Is it OK for friends to hurt your feelings or body?

    -What are some things you can do instead of play with this friend?

    If your son can learn to come to his own decisions about friendships, he will be much better off than just doing what h thinks you want him to do.

    I think it's fine to talk to him about what's problematic about the relationship. The danger in saying you don't want him playing with the kid is what I saw with my son's friend. He was instructed not to play with a child at school. No surprise, he would lie. Now, the reasons were sillier than yours but don't set your kid up to want to keep info from you. Good luck!

    Oooh your post felt familiar.  Because I have done just that.  I have told my friend that she needs to stop playing with BB.  The only variables that are different than your story are that I know the family of BB and felt there had been a long history of reporting to them various individual incidents that happened over time.  And my telling my daughter not to play with her came after many many incidents and me seeing no change in BB's behavior over time.  It didn't seem to be some passing phase that would end soon.  Also, I told BB's parents what I was doing.  Yep, it was awkward.  But I got a lot of insight out of the conversation.  BB's parents didn't think the behavior was that bad.  That gave me a nice clear indication that the behavior was not being checked at home and was unlikely to change.  Once I talked with those parents and made the decision to tell my kid she needed to stop playing with BB, I felt so much better.  No more tears and sad stories.  Also, in addition to this I got some therapy for my daughter so she could better learn how to deal with mean kids.  It is helping.  Also since that kid is in her social circle at school she doesn't avoid her completely.  They still play here and there usually when other friends are around.  But my daughter no longer seeks her out.  And I'm relieved.  I hope this helps.

    You don't state your child's age, which is pretty key to age-appropriate advice. But he sounds pretty young and impressionable and not yet able to navigate this on his own. BB sounds like an alpha who your child desperately wants the approval of, so there's self-confidence and loneliness issues that broader socialization may address.

    Probably re-directing your child's energy will be more useful than absolutely forbidding interactions. I'd suggest you talk to his teachers about the dynamic and see if they can steer your son (and the mutual friend) towards other kids and group games during recess.

    You can also arrange playdates with just your son and the mutual friend without the troublemaker and see how those go. Don't be surprised if your son continues to act out aggressively because of his identification with BB; without BB around you'll have a chance to intervene. If your son and the mutual friend become more bonded, BB may find himself on the outs--which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

    Have you talked to your child's teacher about this situation? I have found that teachers are very observant of social interactions and they have an outside perspective, which can be very helpful with this sort of dilemma. If the mean friend is making kids cry, that is bullying, and that needs to be reported. 

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • How Can I Help My 3rd Grade Daughter Develop More Friendships?

    (6 replies)

    I've been struggling the last few months seeing my daughter have ups and downs with her close friends at school. She had a best friend in preschool and they’re still friends but now go to different schools. She made a new best friend in Kindergarten but that friend left after second grade. Now there are a couple of girls my daughter is fairly close to in class, but sometimes I sense that she wants to be closer with one of them, but that girl seems to have drifted apart a bit from my daughter.

    I think in general I just want my daughter to have a best friend, or a couple of really close friends, and lately I’ve been worrying that she’s lonely. She’s an only child. Sometimes I think I’m just overthinking it but at times it really causes me anxiety to think she doesn’t have a close friend at school. I know the girls in her class can be a bit sassy sometimes, and my daughter is pretty sensitive. I’ve made several play dates with some of the girls in her class and I’ll plan to continue that. 

    I know she’s doing OK but if anyone has any advice on how I can help her or support her, I’d truly appreciate it:)

    Could have written this about my own third grade girl. I try to keep the lines of communication open with her about "friend issues", we read the nonfiction American Girl friendship guides together, and do occasional role-playing about how to reach out to new people. I try to actively discourage talk about one best friend and talk instead about "classroom friends", neighborhood friends, etc. I would like for her to do a team sport but she's really not interested; otherwise, that would be another route. My main goal is to not make it a big thing that she doesn't have a ton of friends, and trust that at some point she will click more with a small group.

    I can totally relate. Our DD lost her best friend in a terrible accident when they were 10 and since then I know she's longed for that kind of close relationship (as I did when I was her age) and I also feel it all very deeply for her. That said, it will be ok. She has some friends, one closer friend but still not quite that bestie thing yet, but I have no doubt as she navigates through life she will. Keep the communication open, sometimes we do overthink/overfeel for them and it's more about us, and sometimes not. It's also helpful to be involved in lots of activities (music, dance, scouts, etc). There are a couple of girl based groups in Berkeley that might be of interest to you (they regularly advertise on BPN). Mine is heading to high school and doing great, so just give it time!

    You are sensitive to what you think she is experiencing and you suspect she’s lonely. What has your daughter said to you? Has she been able to express what she is feeling and what she wants in friendships? If her best friend moves away, she’s “lost” her best friend. Maybe she’s wary of that. She may have a “friend needs” that are significantly different from yours. One thing you might try is to help provide additional arenas in which to cultivate friends. I found swim team to be wonderful because everyone swam together and cheered one another on and it was coed as well, so there was the opportunity to spend time with a diverse group of kids. Making friends outside of school is great as it expands the pool and lets children realize that school isn’t the only place for making new friends.  You might also suggest a planned outing with you—to the beach, Golden Gate Park, or to a movie and suggest she invite a friend. Sometimes that “specialness” helps spark a friendship. 

    Post on nextdoor to find neighborhood friends. And she should join some kind of clubs and organizations to meet kids, too. School friendships are not enough. 

    Hi there - I know the stress you're feeling on behalf of your daughter is real, but (as many folks have asked on other topics), is this your daughter's issue or yours?  Is she as stressed out or sad about the friend situation as you are?  My daughter (now 11, in 6th grade) went through elementary school never having a "best" friend.  She was just friends with several kids, but she often hung out by herself at recess, while other times she joined games or small groups of girls.  It really varied, and we checked in with her teachers at parent-teacher conferences regularly and all said "she's fine - she's just an independent kid."  My daughter never seemed at all concerned about not having a "bestie."  I worried that all the cliques would form and she'd be left out, but that never happened - things tend to be kind of fluid as they get older and girls who were inseparable in 3rd grade hardly hang out 3 years later.  Anyway, fast forward to now, she has a TON of friends in middle school, she's in several different groups of girls from her own elementary school and others, and seems to be the bridge between those groups.  She's very well-liked but still doesn't prefer to have one best friend.  This is not who I was as a kid, and probably not you either, but hopefully like my kid, yours is fine with the situation.  And if she's not, then like I said, things can be very fluid as they get older and there will be a lot of shifting and rearranging of loyalties.  Good luck!

    Hello there - I went through this with my only-child daughter in 3rd grade (she is now in middle school) and my advice to you is this - 3rd grade is a transitional time for friendships and, though it feels very painful, it is a normal process for kids who have been friends to separate and find new friends.  It's really hard for your child to go through this, but the good news is that she WILL find other friends. The hard news as a parent is that she is now at an age where she has to navigate this herself and you can't force friendships.  I would agree that you are overthinking it and it sounds like you are letting your own anxiety get the better of you. The best thing you can do is to support your daughter and provide your understanding - don't let your anxiety cloud her own feelings about having friends. Frankly, it's normal to go through periods where one experiences loneliness, and she should not be made to feel bad about it, plus she needs to figure out her own ways of finding friends - it's part of growing up.

    Some positive suggestions from my own experience: (1) talk to the teacher about your concerns and ask what they have observed about the class dynamics. We did this, and found that the teacher was extremely aware of the social dynamics, and actually paired our daughter with another child on class projects who seemed to share her interests and it turned out that they became good friends. (2) Rather than playdates, find other ways for your child to connect with kids outside the classroom. For our daughter, Girl Scouts has been great for this, but any other activity where she can make friends with kids outside of school based on a common interest.

    Finally, as a parent of an only child, just to provide you reassurance that your child will work through this and that you should step back and not be so anxious about it.  These things go in cycles, and this is just the first of many waves of friendship vs. loneliness that she will encounter and sort out (just like you did, I am guessing). It will all work out!

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • How do I help my shy 2nd grader make new friends?

    (7 replies)

    Some kids are lucky to be naturally outgoing.  I have a boy who is more shy and reserved, and has a more difficult time making friends in class.  Once he is completely comfortable with them, he is outgoing, fun, and very entertaining with his goofy sense of humor.

    Watching him from the outside, there are all these cliques of friends already formed for 2nd grade.  He has his own group of friends, but the dynamics are not very healthy (3 boys, always 1 is excluded), so I am encouraging him to find another group.

    How is this best/most efficiently achieved?  Through playdates?  We have done a bunch of those and are not excited to do a lot more because we do not have a lot in common with the other private school parents, and make mostly small talk.  Or afterschool classes?  Or should I sign him up for one of those social playgroups in SF that "teaches you how to platy"


    I’m sorry but you absolutely have to host more play dates, stop judging the other parents, get to know them in depth, quit making small talk, and MODEL building friendships with a diverse group of people. This is the only way, and you need to work at it for the next 12 years. Sending him to an after school program or camp will not work and will certainly not work with the peer group he’s spending time with for the next few years, his classmates. Volunteer to help with school related projects - get involved and get to genuinely know people. He is modeling your own anxious, low self esteem, judgy behavior right now, and it will hurt him all his life. Invite the nicest family to dinner and make it a special evening. Then do it for the second nicest, and so on. Give your son (and yourself) the gift of being truly friends with a broad spectrum of folks - what an amazing gift for all of you.

    Playdates are really the best.  At this age, you can do drop-off playdates so you don't have to deal with the parents.  I have a first grader and usually drop off at someone's house or have a kid dropped off in mine.  Figure out which kids have personality that will match well with your son and arrange playdates for the kids.  I found out that I cannot control who my kids play with in school but can encourage closer friendships with the kids I like by doing frequent playdates with them.  I found that if I invite a kid for drop off playdate and offer to host the answer is almost always yes since the other parents are getting kid-free time or one less kid to worry about the an afternoon, etc and my son loves to have playmates his own age (he has younger siblings but loves playing with kids his age or older).   I usually monitor the playdate but don't get involved to see which boys are good influence on my boy and they are a good fit and invite those over more often.  After school activities rarely help unless they are large groups or you do activities afterwards in smaller groups since the focus is on the class activities and the groups at this age are large enough that no friendships are formed during the class. 

    You might consider reaching out to his teacher and ask their help to make a good friend match. Also, try new activities and he might meet like minded friends there. Good luck!

    While playdates seem ideal, they may not be with this cohort of kids.  If you have nothing in common with the parents, why would your son feel comfortable with their kids? You could try extracurricular interests...sports, arts, etc. and see if your son finds his way through a common interest. 

    Good Luck!

    I have a first grade boy. I have observed that girls make friends by having good social skills while boys make friends by sharing common interests. This is of course a generalization but it might help your boy find some friends. See what he is interested in that other second grade boys are also interested in. Cultivate those interests. For example I gave my first grader a pack of Pokémon cards and next thing you know he is running with a pack of other Pokémon card collectors that he never played with before. If your son likes sports enroll him in team sports (individual sports like golf are not as useful in this scenario). Good luck! 

    I have a more reserved son as well. I find it fascinating that our culture says being shy at age 7 is now an "issue" and poor well meaning parents (guilty myself at times) are made to believe we need to fix the problem. Honestly IMHO, I find that the vast majority of kids are just basically not very nice, because they are not taught to be so -this culture sees kindness as a weakness. I have always encouraged my kids to play with the kids they see by themselves/alone, to include them. Increasingly, excluding is what moves you up the social ladder. I would encourage your son to take up a game or activity at recess that is important and fun to him, and if others would like to join, great, and if not that's ok too.  Maybe you could talk to him about talking to his current group about it not being kind to exclude? We should train our children to be leaders, not followers. If you'd like him to have more positive contact then maybe scouting or sports or an outside activity where he can connect with kids who share his interest will help. It's not critical that he's best friends with his classmates, when he's in college he's not going to remember who he played with in 2nd grade but I'll bet you anything he'll remember the summer days you spent doing something amazing with him or the fun vacation your family had - He's only in 2nd grade, as long as he knows his family loves him he will be fine and as he grows more into himself he will become more comfortable - you are doing great!!

    Keep hosting playdates with kids your son likes. At this age you can tell other parents they can drop off and pick up their kids. I think social development is crucial and kids need unstructured time to relate to their peers so I made it a priority to host even if it was not reciprocated or I didn't love the other parents. My daughter is a teen and she has a great friend since kindergarten and it is 80-20 we host the girls. She had another friend all through elementary school and we didn't really mesh with the parents but the kids friendship was important to them so we found ways to get along. It may not be a very efficient way to socialize your child but it's worth doing. As a teacher, I've met students who don't have playdates or get unstructured social time and they strike me as lonely. I wonder how they will relate to people when they are adults? Anyway provide those opportunities without pressuring yourself to do perfectly. 

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • How should we navigate this friendship kindly, but not be suffocated?

    (5 replies)

    I am wondering whether I am worried about nothing. I have a 7yo son, "Adam" that became very good friends with another boy named "Leo" in kindergarten. Towards the end of the year, I became uncomfortable with their friendship they became too co-dependent--instead of playing with a group of boys as he previously did, my son now only played exclusively with Leo, just the 2 of them. We used to carpool with Leo, and when we couldn't, Leo had stomach aches and cried. When their playdates ended, the boys cried, even though they see each other at school every day.

    I stopped the carpools and requested that the boys be separated in 1st grade. My son now has made new friends and is able to play with different groups of boys at recess. Leo is in the other class, and now plays exclusively with another boy, "Eddie", just the 2 of them, even though my son routinely invites them to play with the group.  They now cry when their playdates end. When Eddie is sick and not at school, my son pulls away from his other friends to play with Leo "because he doesn't have anyone else."  When Eddie does join in play with the other boys, Leo would ask him throughout recess, "Are you still my friend?"

    Of course, Eddie's parents have requested that their son separated from Leo in 2nd grade. The teachers will put Adam and Leo will be back in the same class again next year because Leo needs more emotional support. How do I teach my son kindness, to play with and include everyone, but also not be sucked into such an intense friendship with Leo and be isolated from the rest of the class again? I had sleepless nights last year when we cut off carpools/playdates with Leo's family, because I worried that I would hurt Leo. But I also do not want my son to be the social emotional solution for Leo for the next 8 years. Please help me do the right thing for both kids. 

    I hope that Leo will grow out of this, but it might not be soon.  He is the one that cries when it is too loud at lunch, when the boys are too boisterous in PE.  When I comment to his parents that the boys need to branch out more, they even more playdates with Adam, because "they do not want to break up the friendship".

    I'm likely not a nice person, but I would request that my son not be in the same class as Leo.  A second grader is not mature enough to handle the pressure of another kid who is constantly depended on him for entertainment and uses emotional manipulation (which I view to include asking if he is still his friend the moment he plays with other boys, even if unintentional).  If Leo needs more emotion support than the teachers can provide it or the kids can play together in recess, but it should not be the job of a second grader to serve that role.  If your son does end up in the same class as Leo, I would make sure that you son is not isolated from other friends either by asking for teacher's help in that (your son gets at least 1-2 recess a week where he plays with other friends) or at least by scheduling regular playdates with other kids in his class.  Leo needs support and is beyond nice of you to allow your son to serve in that role, but as a second grader he is still a kid and in my view it is your job as a mother to make sure that serving in that role does not come at a cost of his own emotional well being and friendships with other kids.  

    P.S. I likely feel stronger about this than most since I was in a similar position to Adam and Eddie in elementary with a friend who attached herself to me (like Leo in your question), and I'm beyond grateful to my parents for extracting me from that situation (they moved me to another class/recess period mid-year) and allowing me the freedom to play with many other kids and not have another child following me around and crying every time I wanted to play with someone else or do something else and making me feel guilty and like a "bad-friend" for even expressing an interest to play with other kids.  At the time I thought it was fine and that she just really liked playing with me but looking back as an adult I see that relationship was not healthy and my emotional and social well being in school improved drastically after I was separated from that friend. 

    I feel for you and for all of the kids involved. As a child, I often asked my best friend in elementary school if we were still best friends at random times, usually when I was feeling particularly insecure. I was a worrier and my insecurities got the best of me at times. I agree it wasn't my best friend's responsibility to provide me with emotional support and stability, and she often told me that she wouldn't be my best friend if I kept asking. That was usually enough to keep me at bay for a while. Eventually, I did grow out of this and she and I were very good friends until she was held back and we were no longer in the same grade. I say all of this, not to suggest that you just wait it out, but to share that I can relate somewhat. Has your son ever let "Leo" know that he doesn't want to play with him when he acts certain ways? That seemed to work in my case though the message needed to be delivered more than once. Perhaps there are things going on at home for "Leo" that are influencing his singular attachments? Lot's of possibilities, but at the end of the day, I totally agree that your son deserves an environment that is freeing and joyful. Hopefully the summer break will help. Lots can change in a few months. 

    Your post resonated with me. I can empathize as you try to deal with this difficult situation in a compassionate way. Parenting is hard. 

    My kid (call them G) had (has?) a friend relationship like that. They met in middle school, so they were a bit older than the "Leo/Adam" dyad, but the dynamics were very similar. G's friend (call them H) just had a lot of emotional immaturity. H wanted to hang out with G all the time, and got jealous when G spent time with anyone else. It was hard for G to learn how to navigate boundaries with H, and we had a lot of talks about G's responsibility to their on personal space, as well as being kind to H. At the time, G was seeing a counselor (for other issues) who helped G sort through their feelings. After they entered high school, H felt abandoned by G as they developed new relationships, and there were hard feelings. Right now they seem to have worked it out, although they have mostly drifted apart. 

    I think it's common for kids to attach themselves to people who will enable them. In my kid's case, this has come up a few times but not so extreme as it was in middle school. My kid ended up playing the role of "counselor/therapist" for their friends and it compounded the problem. It was very helpful for my kid to have someone else to talk to about what was going on, and to recognize patterns in their own behavior so they can make good decisions about their relationships.  Group therapy, or social skills classes, would benefit your kid as well "Leo," for different reasons. These are great lessons to learn about co-dependency, interdependency, setting boundaries, and compassion and kindness. Since the kids in your case are young, obviously these terms are a little out of their developmental understanding, but they can certainly start to work on the same concepts. If you have a trusted and knowledgeable teacher or administrator you can ask for advice, please do so. I'm sure they've seen this sort of stuff a lot. Best of luck!

    I agree with the other reply. I absolutely would ensure that my kid wouldn’t be in the same class as the emotional vampire child. Sorry but your kids needs come 1st.

    - Jamie 

    I would discuss this with my pediatrician or family therapist and ask for a written letter with their recommendation for your son's class placement.  This is too much pressure for a young child to deal with these intense needs.  Your son can be a supportive friend to Leo on the playground, but having to be in the same class given the past dynamic with him sounds inappropriate and unfair.  A letter from a professional will be considered seriously.  If you are unsatisfied with the placement decision, you might ask for a Student Study Team meeting (in writing) to discuss your concerns.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Boy with overprotective mom

    (1 reply)

    My son has a boy in his class with a very protective mom.  Basically every time the boy has a conflict with another kid or gets hurt (even if just accidentally during playtime) she insists that her boy is a victim and the other kid is hurting her kid (the word bullying is thrown around a lot too!!!) and that the other kid needs to be separated from her son and not play with him.  The teachers are going along with it.  My son told me this week that this boy has nobody to play with during recess -- at this point the list of kids who are not allowed to play with him is over half of the class and includes most of the boys (I believe all except for 4 boys).  My son was added to the list a few months ago because the other boy fell and skinned his knee during a game of chase and tag at recess when my son was chasing him. I remember the teacher telling me about it and said my kid is not punished but he cannot play with the other boy because of his mom's wishes. I really feel bad for that boy.  My son is saying that he is not allowed to play with any of his prior friends and is constantly told to go play with the girls or some of the boys not on the list but he likes active play and the kids not on his no-play list usually don't engage in it.  I know this is not my problem and my son has plenty of friends to play with, but is there something I can do except just making sure the teacher is aware of it -- though I cannot see how she can not see this is going on.  I told my son that I know he feels bad for the boy and I do too but I don't want him to get in trouble and so until the teacher says otherwise he is not allowed to play with this kid since I don't want him to get punished if the boy gets hurt accidentally during play with him or if the teacher sees and decided to say something.  Any advice?  This situation is beyond ridiculous and I cannot believe the school let it get this bad.   

    RE: Boy with overprotective mom ()

    You are very kind for wanting to fix this. I would too. Maybe someone could suggest that the mom observe what's going on at school for a while and see how her son is being impacted? I doubt that talking to her will help much but maybe if she was watching (without her son knowing that she's watching) she'll see that her policies are harming her son. It would also help for her to see how the kids interact with each other on the playground and the lack of overt bullying.

    What a sad story. Maybe she reads this newsletter and will recognize the problems that she's causing for her son. Kids get hurt all the time. It's really not a big deal.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • 8 yr old boy sad about not having friends

    (18 replies)

    My son is an only child and is sensitive.  He is very caring and funny but he has trouble making friends.  And since he is sensitive, kids tend to tease him and his feelings get hurt pretty easily which probably makes the situation worse.  He did have a best friend but they are growing apart.  His friend is noticing girls and my son is still just interested in playing.....this is also causing him heartache as he feels his friend doesn't like him anymore.

    He has told me that he feels useless and that no one likes him and that his life is hard and he doesn't want to be alive.  I do not know what to tell him or how to help him.  

    What have others done to help their kids?

    Advice is greatly appreciated---it just break my heart that he doesn't have a good friend and is so sad about this.

    Maybe try some activities outside of school, such as dance, ice skating, soccer, baseball, swimming, to try to make different groups of friends. Also, perhaps he could accept that friends have other friends, too? Like tree branches or something, just because he is exclusively friends with someone doesn't mean they are exclusive with him, however are still friends.

    My son just turn to toddler.. but I am sad about what you mention and is sound like how I grow up (feel like everyone don’t like me, not the popular girl type)…
    Try to bring him to church! This helps a lot…
    even my son is just 20 months, I can tell he is different than kids don’t go to church, not shy, care on small thing (when he see trash on the floor he will pick him up and throw away), and he is willing to play with other kids too, laugh a lot for many small thing

    My oldest is 13 and has always had social problems. There are social skills classes and camps (probably lots of recommendations here on this board) which can help him with his confidence. But basically you have to find him groups outside of school. Sports, theatre, art, doesn't matter what it is but anything to get him around kids his own age. 

    Would you consider having him join the Boy Scouts? I know the national organization's politics are illiberal, but East Bay scout packs and troops have always welcomed all boys, no matter who they are or what their families look like. Scouting is a wonderful way for boys to meet their peers, be part of a group, learn skills, and have fun. My son is a scout in a Berkeley troop, it's a really great experience. Your son would start in the Cub Scouts - he might love it! You're welcome to contact me if you want more info.  

    I'm so sad to hear about your son. I know it's tough. My son is 7.5 and we experienced the same thing when we moved here from southern California. We are a military family and had to adjust to the "real" world. My son was spoiled with a small family of friends who were our neighbors. To help him meet friends, I signed him up for soccer. I would "put myself out there" so I could mode friend making. It was hard because I'm shy and really had to push myself. Anytime we went to the park, we would bring lots of toys that would involve more than one player. Soon other kids would join in the fun and want to play. I would play until they were engaged. Hope that helps. We could have a playdate if you're interested.

    Hi there! 

    I totally feel for you! I have a 7 year old son who is an only child as well, and has some of the same traits, i.e. being sensitive, feelings hurt easily, etc. He also does not have a ton of really good friends and can have a bit of a temper.  One thing that I started doing over the summer was organizing more one on one playdates for him, as I feel like he was not getting enough peer to peer time. Trust me, it is a lot of work, and sometimes awkward, but I think it is helping. I find out boys who he would like to play with or get to know better and then arrange for playdates either after school or on the weekends. Usually a few hours at a time is plenty to start off with.  Also, I try to volunteer at the school so I can get see how he is interacting with other kids and also find out what other boys he seems to like or he might get along with. I work so I can't do this often, but it is enlightening when I can get there. Also, last year I approached his teacher and told her my concerns and she actually suggested setting up playdates with a few boys in the class that she felt were nice and that he would have fun with. Have you spoken to his teacher?  I agree it's also good to get him involved in activities outside of school.  In general, I think it's harder for only kids to make friends initially when they are younger, just based on the other only kids I see around the neighborhood/school.  However, all of my friends who were onlies seem very happy and have tons of friends! I think it just takes time.  

    Please try not to be sad and realize there are things you can do - take action and it will make you feel better. When I talked to my son's teacher last year I was in the same place as you and actually broke down in tears with her. She was so sweet and encouraging.  I was losing sleep worried about him and felt better once I started making a plan.  I hope you can get some support and hopefully others share what has worked for them or provide helpful suggestions.

    Good luck! 

    It is difficult to watch our kids suffer socially, but learning to choose friends is a part of growing up.  Sure you can set up social situations for him, you can get him into a social skills group, but it's ultimately going to be up to him.  Some kids are just slow to mature, others are destined to spend more time alone.  I have an only child and have gone through the process (my kid is now almost 17) as well.  My kid decided by 5th grade that many of the kids in school weren't worth the effort.  Now, my kid has friends who are usually more mature than other classmates.  Some kids prefer their own company (especially only children) or the company of other only children.  Sensitive kids have their reasons for reacting the way they do.  My kid has a learning difference and a strong sense of social justice.  I'm finally at the place where I can see college in the near future and I can understand more clearly the young adult my kid is becoming.  Be kind, supportive, and loving -- the rest will work itself out.

    You may have already tried this, but if not, I think it's worth talking to his teachers about his feelings and experiences. They may be able to help, but they may also give you some insight into how he is during the day at school. We had similar experiences with my kid - it's very difficult to watch as a parent. One thing I learned was that all I heard from my child was the negative stuff, but the reality was that during the day, he was actually quite happy and social most of the time. Granted he had no "best friend", but his day wasn't nearly as terrible as I had imagined based on his reports. Another thing we learned over time is that different schools have very different social environments, and kids' perspectives of their peers can get locked in at a very early age. When we finally changed to a new school (for middle school), my kid's social experience has been radically different (and much better). Not every place is right for every kid. See how it goes, and perhaps your son's situation will improve. If not, perhaps you might consider a different school more suited to your child, or at least one where he can start fresh and reinvent himself amongst children who don't have preconceived ideas about who he is. 

    If your son said he doesn't want to be alive, that calls for attention.  You should seek a good therapist.  Schools have therapists too.  Getting your child involved in group sports like soccer, baseball, swimming, etc., provides a group activity which will make him feel included.  Doesn't have to make friends with everyone, but it will teach him social skills.  Start him now, don't wait until he is 13.  Good luck and always listen to your gut.

    Hello, I definitely empathize with what you are going though.  Just a few weeks ago, I posted a similar note about my 9 year old son, who is also very sad about not having any friends.  It, too, breaks my heart.  I have two kids; the oldest, 12, has a group of friends he is close with and they are very social in and outside of school.  My youngest has never had those kind of friendships and he is lonely.  He is a fun kid who, too, is sensitive.  He loves video games and animals and likes riding on his scooter.  He is a social kid and I dont understand why friendships are not forged.  When I wrote my post, I was looking for playgroups but it doesn't seem like there are any for their age group (that aren't sports, for example).  I was also looking for parents that might have kids his age to try to connect with.  Although I didn't get any replies, I did find your ad.  Might you and your son be interested in connecting some time with my son and I (and my girlfriend) in the Bay Area, maybe at a park some weekend?  Perhaps they would enjoy one another's company.  If interested, please send me a note.  And, if not, I wish you luck and hope we can continue a dialogue to share resources/ideas.  I just want my son to be happy and enjoy life with some quality friends.  

    I am really sad to hear about your sad son. Elain Aron writes about the Highly Sensitive Child and has books for adults too.  And she has a great website that might shed light and provide additonal resources for you.  Definitely helped me understand the matter better, esp for little boys and myself.  Tedd Zeff also writes a bit about the Highly sensitive boy. My son is 7 yrs old and sounds similar, though not sad.  The Meher School in Lafayette is amazing in being a nurturing environment for sensitive personality types.  I could see your son "fitting" in and thriving there, if it is an option for you. It is an affordable private school filled with many sensitive boys and girls.   Please let him know he is not alone and it's just a matter of time before he finds the "right" crowd that can appreciate who he is (this is where you can elaborate on his wonderful traits of empathy and caring for others, his kindness, etc. things that are so unique and precious, just have to figure the puzzle to making it work for us).  Good luck, and all the best!

    I suspect you will get a lot of suggestions of finding friends in other arenas. Kids need to find “their people” folks who share the same interests. I would really search for groups he might like more - after school chess club, a chorus. lego club, martial arts classes, along with all the other types of traditional sports. Look for a community that he can feel a part of. You could also invite kids from his class to do really fun things - Berkeley Adventure Playground, Iceskating, the Exploratorium. Things that would smooth over difficult starts and make being around your child super fun. I would urge you to become friendly with other parents too, kids his age don’t arrange playdates, their parents do. At the same time I would ask your son’s teacher how he is doing at school socially. The teacher might give you some insight into how your son presents himself at school and might have some suggestions for how to expand his social circle. Volunteer at school or to go on field trips so you can see for yourself how he is at school. I am very concerned with how depressed your son is. I think he would benefit from working with a child therapist. A social skills group might help. I think your son is very clearly letting you know he needs help and I would not ignore it. He is still young enough that an intervention now could be very effective and easier than you’d expect. Search BPN network for therapist recommendations. Best wishes to you and your family.

    I had a similar situation. So heartbreaking to see your child struggle. I am alarmed at what he has told you. I know it is expensive but urge you to get him evaluated with an experienced child psychologist (only choose one who is referred to you -this list is a great way to get referrals) Once my child was properly diagnosed I was able to begin learning how to help her -it is a long expensive road -(I will be digging out financially for a while )  but things can get better. They definitely did for us though it took much education and work. Best of luck 

    We went through exactly what you are describing with my son, who is now 10.  We tried many things that didn't really work.  We changed schools.  We finally found a great fit for him in the DaVinci School for gifted children.  All the kids who are there are like him too, and it's a beautiful and supportive place.  Plus the academics are fabulous.  I don't know if that fits your son, but if it does then this school is a great place to be.   Wishing you the best.

    Your post breaks my heart. I really feel for your son--and you! As an adult who is prone to depression, and the mom of an awesome but extremely sensitive (in both the best and worst ways) 6 year old, I can completely relate and will be reading with interest the responses you get. Unfortunately I have more questions and concerns than answers at this point since I haven't gotten very far in the journey with my daughter yet, but one book that has been on my reading list for a long time, which you might also want to consider, is The Optimistic Child by Seligman. Hopefully you can find some good strategies in there for helping your son build resilience. Another idea is to just make sure your son has ample opportunities to pursue his natural interests. My parents always picked my extracurriculars (swim team) and they weren't usually aligned with my interests (art), so I struggled to meet other kids that I clicked with. You are probably already doing that, but just in case! Best of luck to you.

    There is a wonderful little book (below) - which is very much oriented towards problem solving, where you and your son can work together on helping him acquire social skills he needs. I used this with my son, and in the span of a few weeks, it gave him confidence to understand the problem (why he gets teased) and deal with it himself. It will require a little bit of engagement on your part, but I liked precisely that. 

    Book: "Raise Your Child's Social IQ"

    A second the recommendation of a school change. Once social patterns are "set" they can be very hard to break.

    Our eccentric but very bright son did much better socially in a school for quirky, gifted kids. Nobody was "normal," so cliques didn't really form, and his brains and creativity were much better appreciated by his peers. (This school was, unfortunately for you, in Southern California, but there are similar establishments in the Bay Area.)

    I am not of the school that kids should learn to lump it with the school hand they're dealt. Any more than adults should learn to lump it with a job that's a bad fit! As a kid who's Dad's employment generated many moves and new schools, I found that I was popular in some schools, marginal in others. No one fits in everywhere.

    If it is a financial possibility for you, I hope you check out some other schools for him. When you see the right one, you'll get a warm glow in your stomach -- you'll just know.


    Your description of your son sounds like what mine was going through last winter/spring in 2nd grade.  He's very sensitive and his "best friend" would manipulate him and his feelings because it made him feel powerful.  When my son would react by either crying or getting angry (usually both), he would push other friends away.  He became very gloomy, concerning us, his teachers, the principal, and his pediatrician. We found a psychologist for him, told him he was going to a "feelings doctor", and explained that this was a person who was working for him--not his parents, teachers, friends, etc.--but him.  And we told him he could talk about whatever he wanted to discuss or even nothing at all.  I don't know whether it was the therapist or something else, but he immediately began to get better.  He's still sensitive, and his family history makes it more likely that he'll have a mood disorder, so he continues to see her on a weekly basis.  Things aren't perfect, but I'm no longer terrified that my son is clinically depressed.  If you'd like to talk to me about any of this, please ask the moderator for my contact info.  Good luck! It's so hard to see your son suffer.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • First grade son having trouble at recess

    (8 replies)

    My first grade son has been having challlenges at recess.  He says all his friends just want to play ball sports (four square, wall ball and the like) and they are telling him he's not very good. And he is somewhat uncoordinated for this age. We are trying to help him develop some new strategies (find a new friend who wants to play the games you are interested in, etc) but he's resistant, and sad. Ideas?

    Does your school have Playworks coaches? Playworks is a nonprofit in Oakland that provides playground coaches to teach the kids good social skills along with a wide variety of games for every level. In my opinion, it is a better anti-bullying program than any of the dedicated anti-bullying programs I have seen. I recommend them highly - they can help your kid get better at stuff and encourage other kids to be kinder. It's hard to direct this stuff from home. 

    Go after school or over the weekend and practice the games with your son so he can develop skills needed to enjoy recess with the friends he is spending the most time with. Bring a few friends (his/yours) to help you with practice to provide a neutral balance so it'll be more fun (not just a parent thing, but a group experience, I think will boost his confidence overall).

    Could you get onto the school grounds on the weekends and practice those games with him?  It might be less stressful to learn how to do the games in a parent-led setting, than to try to find kids to make friends with who don't play the games.  Playground games are relatively easy to master IF the child can play them frequently.  Also, in a 1st - 3rd grade recess, you could suggest that the yard duty teacher make one court a 1st & 2nd grade court and another court the 3rd grade court.  

    My daughter was like this for a while- we actually ended up going to an Occupational Therapist initially for ADHD but as an amazing side effect, all her coordination and active/sports based skills improved tremendously.  She was the girl that in 1st grade feigned a hurt leg just so she wouldn't have to be seen stumbling in Soccer Shots- and now she actively seeks out sports she is interested in and has her confidence back!  She was tested initially and was found positive for vertigo, which is a vestibular funtion issue- its actually really common to have this issue and it affects body awareness.

    See if the teacher can set him up with a friend from class. The teacher may have a sense of what connection will "click."

    School can be tough. Having even one friend who "gets you" makes a huge difference.

    Another option to consider is getting him into an activity outside of school based on his interests. Then he will build a foundation of friendship and gain some confidence, too.

    You've gotten some great suggestions, but I would also suggest that you meet with the teacher, principal, yard duties, whoever, and get that nastiness shut down. It is NOT healthy (or normal, imho, based on 16 years teaching 2nd and 3rd grades) for first graders to be that competitive and mean. I know that if I heard that kind of talk on my watch, I would immediately get some 4th or 5th graders to play those kids so they can see what it feels like to be "not good." And then, of course, we would have a healthy conversation. No matter how much you practice games with your son, there will always be somebody better and those mean kids will still be mean-if not to him than to somebody else. I do hope he gets tired of it too, and finds some like-minded, nicer kids.

    How uncoordinated is your child?  Although I had friends as a child, I suffered at school recesses because do to my motor difficulties, I was unable to take part in many of the activities and definitely impacted my self-esteem.  You might want to ask your pediatrician if your son's gross and fine motor skill development is age appropriate and whether you should request a Student Study Team meeting at his school to discuss ways of helping your son's motor development and his social integration at school.

    My son is/was similar - interested in the playground games but not much ability compared to peers. Obviously the peers notice, and to me it is overreacting to call it bullying when peers comments on differences in ability. We did buy some playground balls and practice the games with him on the weekend, so I'd second that recommendation. What helped the most honestly was moving up a grade and sharing the playground with younger kids who were more at his ability level. And BTW we are a Playworks school too, but there's only one coach spread out at recess, s/he is not going to have time to help one little kid every day with 4-square!

    New replies are no longer being accepted.