Socially Isolated Teens & Pre-Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • I don't have a specific question, just looking for some support and/or a "been there before" story.  We have identical twin boys who are now freshman in HS.  They have always struggled with maintaining friendships, and that has only amplified in HS.  They are each other's best friend, but this limits their social interactions. They spend most weekends at home on their screens or with our family - we are constantly still trying to entertain them, mostly to get them off their screens.  They have very little outside interests.  They say they are bored but they tend to not reply when a kid from school asks them to do something.  Nothing seems to excite them or bring them joy.  They have seen a therapist in the past but he was unable to reach them and they have no interest in meeting with another one.   A therapist I speak to thinks they are neurodivergent, but says testing them at this point won't really change anything; only how we parent them - lots of patience, lots of direction.  They are very emotionally and socially immature - more like 6th graders than 9th graders.  It is all very exhausting, and so sad to see them so lonely.  

    There is so much to unpack here. I do not have twins but have a teen boy also into gaming, as most are, and no one else has taken a stab at it so here goes. You say they are each other's best friend, but you also hate to see them lonely. Are they lonely or do you just feel that not having friends makes them feel lonely? How are they doing academically? It's not a red flag to see freshmen boys who have trouble making friends (especially at a big school), or who don't connect with a therapist, or who seem to have a flat affect, but it feels like a red flag to have all 3 at the same time.

    So, if it were me, here is what I would do. If their academics were not on par with their peers, I would absolutely have them tested. (I would have them tested no matter what based on what you were told but that's just curious me). Neurodivergence is a big banner, I'd be curious to know what in particular the difference is, and how that might affect their social skills, executive functioning, etc. How can you know how to better parent them if you don't know what the issues are in the first place?

    Next, I would require that both of them get involved in an extra-curricular activity - NOT the same one - like scouting, sports, volunteering, etc. Will this be more work for you? Absolutely. Will it benefit your kids? Absolutely. They will complain, they will make excuses and they will hate it at first, but eventually they will start to socialize with people besides each other and maybe, hopefully, they will learn that they like that, and that there is more to life than gaming with their brother.

    Have you considered a social skills class (separately! not both of them at the same time)?

    I understand that it is tiring, and maybe it's something they will grow out of as they mature, but I think you can absolutely help that along by trying some of the above. And hopefully there are some twin moms out there that will add more insight for you in another response.

    My son, who is 16, was a lot like that as a freshman. It broke my heart when he told me he was eating alone. But my spouse, who is a therapist, was not worried. He pointed out that high school can be chaotic and maybe he needs a break from it all to regroup. I think I was putting my own high school anxieties on his shoulders. When I asked him if he was lonely, he said no. He also had no interest in sports but likes gaming. One thing that I did was require that he join a club. He now is in 3 and that’s really where  he started interacting with more people. I also found a program for him (at the Oakland zoo) that is a full day every other week (no screens). He still doesn’t have friends over on weekends but he has this whole slew of friends/acquaintances that he does this activities with on weekends. I also had a friend tell me about live action role playing and my kid tried it out and fell in love. It’s mainly adults but there are some teens and even a kid at his high school who does it.  I suggesting these things but once he started, he really fell in love. and I love that he’s going out in the world and interacting with all sorts of people. 

    fyi, he has adhd and has always been socially behind his peers and then covid wiped out half of middle school. Middle school may suck for a lot of kids, but it’s when you learn a lot about how to be social! This year (his junior year), I feel like he has finally hit his stride.

    not sure what you can take from our journey, but have hope! 


    I am a twin and can try to lend you my perspective.  When I was in high school, I tried to seek friends outside of my twin sister, but it was not really a huge priority.  I always felt that I could fall back on my twin if the other friendships did not work out.  I also feel that as a twin, we inherently have a bond with each other that really satiates our need for another best friend.  Freshman year was a huge transition from a new school and often times many friendships have been established since elementary and middle school.  I always felt that my peers felt a little intimidated to join in our twin friendship.  I know that peers often viewed us as a complete unit and never really tried to get to know myself or my twin individually.  You mentioned that your twins are emotionally and socially immature.  Are they having fun with each other? You mentioned that your twin have little outside interests. May I suggest exposing them on a weekly basis with new hobbies, areas to explore outside the house, travel, etc? I think that your twins are going through an important adolescent transition and you still have time to help them explore and grow.  Hope this helps!

    I was interested to read your post because I would describe my twins similarly. Mine are sophomores now and they have branched out a little but remain each other’s primary BFFs and focus. The thing with us is that I think I am more worried about their insularity than they are. They seem content for the most part. I have been urging them to try school clubs but they are somewhat resistant. I don’t know if this is because they are content with each other or nervous to branch out together. They once told me that people think twins have it great because they aren’t alone but that sometimes they feel “alone together.” 

    I don’t know if this will help you, but even though my teen was not interested in signing up for extracurriculars, I required them to do at least one.   It is not only good for interacting with others, it is also important for college applications to show at least some level of community engagement.   Although it probably hasn’t resulted in long term friendships in my kid’s case, the group he joined is friendly, accepting and engaging and interesting.  And time spent on group activities is a nice counterpoint to solo gaming.  There are lots of clubs and teams in high school, so teens have many opportunities try out different interests to find the right fit for themselves.

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  • How to help teen make friends

    (3 replies)

    My lovely, smart, funny 16 year old daughter has a hard time making connections with other kids. I believe she suffers from social anxiety & spends a lot of time trying to fade into the background, while simultaneously wondering what people think of her. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess- I was pretty similar in HS, and to this day have painful memories of feeling out of place & wishing I could just find my tribe. I carried a lot of shame around for feeling inadequate- missing major milestones like first date, etc, but also developed this into a bit of scorn against the other kids as well (thinking they were trivial or superficial). I often wish I could time travel back in time for a redo- and seeing my daughter suffer the same fate I went through has been tough. In some respects, she has been willing to put herself out there more than I did- had joined sports team, school clubs- but she just can’t seem to break into pre-established cliques.

    What can I do to help? I have gently suggested therapy for social anxiety, but I don’t want to push things because I worry that I am only feeding into her insecurities. I was thinking a back packing trip or camp might help with her confidence, but get a lot of resistance for anything with people that she doesn’t know. She has developed a complex that she doesn’t know how to make friends, and I think there may be some truth to this. I’ve heard about these social skills classes, but I’m 100% sure she will resist & be hurt at the suggestion.

    She has a couple of good friends and does well in school- for the most part she doesn’t seem depressed or have serious struggles- am I overthinking this?

    Yes, you are over thinking this and you have already done too much. She has good grades and good friends. That is great!!

    You should be complementing her, not criticizing her. 

    I think the majority of adolescents suffer from some degree of social anxiety at some point, whether they have dozens of friends or none. Having been through this with our own daughter (who, at 33, has dozens of friends and work allies), I don't blame you for worrying; I do question why you think pre-established cliques are the answer for her. (And would they, in fact, have been an answer for you?) Maybe your girl is a late bloomer, socially speaking--so what? She has a few close friends, earns good grades, and joins teams and clubs, all which sounds pretty healthy to me. Social connection is a skill she'll learn in her own time and way.

    I do think you are overthinking it. It's pretty normal for moms to overlay their own histories on their girls and it sounds kind of like what you are doing. It's always been tough out there to be a high school girl if you are not one of the 'popular' ones.

    My daughter was the same, but super involved in things. She found her core group of friends, they are kind of the 'nerdy' kids (2 going to UCLA this fall!) as far as how they were perceived, but you know what? -  they are amazing kids and I adore them all! Compared to the fake and drama filled 'popular' circle at her HS these kind and smart ones were the kids I would have chosen for her anyway!

    She also says she has 'social anxiety' I swear they get this from social media, all the pathologizing of their traumas! It drives me nuts! Mine is headed off to college and I know she will continue to be involved and make amazing friends and her 'social anxiety' will dissolve as her studies give her less time for wondering what is 'wrong' with her after viewing so much social media and she matures to understand she is just like everyone else. I trust your daughter will to! (p.s. I'm all for a couple of good friends - that's all it takes - the women I know with 'tons' of great friends are all pretty plastic imho)

  • Teen social anxiety therapist or group?

    (2 replies)


    I’m looking for resources – CBT therapists or teen groups – to help my 14 year old with social anxiety. If you’ve had a good recent experience, I would be grateful for a recommendation, ideally for a therapist/group in the East Bay. Thanks!

    We have experience with Ilyana Romanovsky She is a highly skilled CBT therapist that does exposure therapy to desensitize and help work through various forms of anxiety, OCD, etc. She is very expensive, but it is generally meant to be a short-term, targeted therapy. It is intense. Heidi Ronfeldt is another CBT therapist that works with kids, teens, and adults and has been highly recommended to us. I think both are doing virtual sessions these days. 

    Good luck!

    My daughter started going to Kate Eckman's teen anxiety group and it has been wonderful! 

  • Hi

    our 9th grader is at a large public high school and has made a few friends (many of middle school friends moved on to private high schools) but won’t join anything. No sports. No clubs - nothing to help find people to connect with. The friends currently are not really interested in much and I worry a bit that our child will not be active. Our older child at the school is a real active person, involved in a lot, does very well academically and has a sport that takes up a lot of time and likely will be something that continues in college. We have encouraged the 9th grader to seek out opportunities but it ends in arguments. I’m feeling exasperated. On one hand I know our child needs to figure out on own but left to own devices nothing will happen. My spouse and I argue about it a lot because we come at it differently and I’m getting more frustrated and angrier. 

    That’s SO HARD! You & your partner need to get on the same page & compromise. Does your child have a phone you pay for? If so, you’ve got consequences for his behavior. Personally, I think it’s fine to require a 14/15/16 yr old do something. Almost anything. It doesn’t have to a sport or musical but if he can’t choose- tell him you can find something meaningful- animal shelter, food insecurity, etc for him to volunteer with. 

    Hi Mom,

    It looks like your younger kid is more introverted than the older one. I would suggest that you let the kid figure out their interests. Most Highschools force you to take electives every year. So there will be many ways to figure out likes and dislikes.
    Not every kid wants to play a sport or get into college with a sports scholarship. 
    I know of many kids who went to Community college in the Bay Area, transferred to a UC college. These kids are successfully working in Tech companies. Some have gone on to do Medicine. 
    In short, you never know where a kid will end up in 10 years. But, our job as parents is to not erode their confidence in themselves. And comparing siblings with each other will hurt their long term relationship.

    Hi, I feel for you because I would also be upset if this were my child and/but I don't think there is anything you can or should do.  We bribed our son to join crew his first year at BHS by offering him a laptop.  He really wanted the laptop and finally gave in to do crew which kept him busy that first year.   But different kids have different personalities and it sounds as though your two have very different temperaments with regard to being social.  I would be like you, pushing #2 to join something, but I think that will make #2 resist more.   Maybe think about talking with a therapist who works with teens so that you can be reassured that your child will be OK.   Hang in there but I'd encourage you to back off.  Not easy!!!

    You are not alone, I can totally relate and am feeling the same way about my kid.  Not all kids are in a stuck, withdrawn place like this, I know some of my friends' kids seem to be getting out there "post"-pandemic, but my 9th grader also is lingering in a withdrawn, pretty isolate state like they were in during the pandemic.  I can just say I too feel slow to re-emerge after the withdrawal and isolation of the pandemic, so hoping this is a transitional phase for all of us.  Sounds like in your case you have a built-in alternative view point with your spouse seeing it differently; my suggestion would be for you and your spouse to really open up to what each other has to say, you're probably each holding an important part of what's true - maybe that partly what your kid is going through is okay, and will pass, and partly that it's distressing and hard to know what's the right thing to do.

    Hey that sounds a lot like my 2 boys. My sophomore is quite shy, doesnt tend to like big groups ,  likes gaming a lot, doesn't join much either, has a couple really good friends , does fairly well in school. Our senior is very active in sports and clubs but doesn't do well in school. Two very different boys. (Same as my sister and i growing up, but I was active in a lot and OK  grades and my sister didn't like school and only wanted to ride horses, which she did)  Both my boys do independent study. They both have done martial arts for 9 years so my sophomore does that for PE credits twice a week, and feels comfortable there. he wanted to drop music this year but we said since we don't require anything else (extracurricular) he needs to keep doing band- also for social aspect. Since he is good about school(not straight A's but decent enough) and does his chores too, we let him be the rest of the time. So one thing I am trying to say is yes, you have 2 totally different kids and they each need to find their own path, but maybe your 9th grader needs a little nudge-- Is there ONE thing you could tell your child to pick that is social or exercise or craft that is basically required- Youth and Gov't at  YMCA, or martial arts, or bike rides with mom or dad, or a Repair class or a little job on the weekends, or walk dogs at the animal shelter.....get on the same page with your spouse so you can both encourage /work on this with your child. It might feel like a compromise but you also want them to enjoy highschool. Good luck!  

    I also have a non-joiner 9th grader, and honestly, in the best of times, you can offer, suggest, & recommend, but at the end of the day, it's the child who needs to decide what they want to do & in their own time. Jumping to the worry that your child will not be active isn't very helpful to them or to you. It just creates stress for everyone. It's important for adults to remember that we are all still dealing with the pandemic. Time is slower for children & teens and the year & a half out of daily are behind on figuring out who they are now and how to navigate social spaces that they've not been in a very long time. And transitioning to high school is difficult even with close friends.

    I'm sure they are very aware they are being compared to their older "model" sibling. Perhaps they are rebelling against that because they don't feel they can measure up in that comparison. I suggest approaching your child with empathy and curiosity to find out why they might not feel comfortable joining a sport or a club. If your child feels you are there to listen & support without judgment they may share their concerns and/or worries with you. Swim upstream with them, rather than demand. The more anger, frustration, and exasperation that builds up around this, the less your child will want to engage, the less trust there will be, and the more resentment will build up between you. 

    After a few conversations with my non-joiner teen, it came out that they felt exhausted by the school day, and that being around people all the time was draining. It was eye-opening to find out what was happening underneath because it was something I never would have come up with on my own. 

    Just because one child is active and the other is not, is not a bad thing or means that you and your husband are bad parents.  Our daughter also did not want to join any clubs or activities when she entered high school.  Over time she found her way and got involved in theater when she was mid way through her sophomore year, and this led to her career after college.  Give your child space and let her find her way.  You need to let her go to fly on her own.  Your main concerns should be that she is not doing drugs, drinking or hanging with the wrong crowd.  Your daughter does not need to follow the path as her sibling.  I know it's hard, and you want her to succeed, but she also needs to find herself.  Let her know that while you want her to be happy and involved, also give her room to make her own decisions and that you have opened the door for further conversations.  High school years can be tough for some kids, and you want to make sure you have the door open for her to trust you for the years ahead.  It's always hard to let them go, I know this from my own personal experience with mine.  Also take into consideration that high school can cause major anxiety for some kids, be watchful, but just love her.  Good luck to all of you.

  • My son has always struggled socially.  He's talkative and goofy and has kids that he calls friends, but they often aren't nice to him,  and he's on the outside of his peer group being teased or deserted. An after school teacher spotted it years ago and mentioned that he struggles with his emotions and with reading social cues, She suggested a therapist and I didn't listen at the time. Now I wish I had. He just started middle school and already has been targeted by some bullies, and instead of navigating, he seems to be digging a deeper hole. He most prefers to be home alone playing video games. We've tried the kaiser groups, and boy scouts, and karate classes, through the years but he has always lost interest and asked to stop. I'm looking for a therapist that he can meet with and talk to.  It's hard to put my finger on the exact problem. I thought it was ADHD, another therapist said it was anxiety... help.

    We left it until freshman year.  My son's video game playing and staying home had by then gotten worse: anxiety about leaving the house and extreme social anxiety.  If I could do it over again, I would do anything that gets him out of the house and/or off the computer regularly, or else on the computer together.  He must be lonely.  If you can find an activity that is 1:1 with a grownup :  Chess?  Drums?  Therapist was hard to find, but was key to getting better.

    Hello. I relate to many parts of your post. My 8th grader also has real troubles with (but is getting better at) reading facial expressions, body language and social cues. I credit the improvement to weekly group (zoom) sessions w Susan Diamond (sue at diamondlanguage dot com). We had a couple of long and helpful talks/interviews w her before our child started working with her (and 3-4 other same-gendered peers each week) so that she had a sense of their needs. It’s been a long road, and our son doesn’t enjoy the sessions, but our family feels our child has finally (hopefully) turned a corner which is an amazing relief. 
    I suggest reaching out to Susan and, in addition,  perhaps consider getting an (expensive, sorry) assessment. That was how we learned our child has not only social challenges but confirmed, and gave a name to, a math deficiency we had long suspected. It also told us that our child did not have some challenges we had suspected, which was a relief. If interested, we worked with Clearwater Communication in Oakland. 
    Wishing you luck and answers and an easier time for your child w their peers. I know it’s hard. Sending hugs. 

    Hello, It is always difficult to see your child struggle.  

    Have you considered having him assessed by a neuropsychologist to see if he is on the Spectrum?  Many parents that I've met have found relief in finally understanding their child's differences.  I learned so much once I had the Neuropsych Eval report for my son.  It contained many recommendations that I have found useful over the years.  

    Instead of a therapist, I’d suggest a social skills group! That will help him with the skills for making and keeping friends, conversations, dealing with bullies or teasing.

    This is so hard. We have been in the same spot with our younger son-trying to pinpoint why he seems to struggle to make real friends. There are some great recommendations here already. I wanted to also suggest looking into a small school with more social supports. You didn't mention what kind of school he is in but in our search to help our son we found that he was struggling at a large public school with almost no caring adults on the playground to guide better social behaviors. We ended up switching our son to a smaller private school and have had some early success that we hope continues. 

    Since you are having trouble putting your finger on the issue, and not sure where to go next and how to navigate the care landscape, consider talking to Annette Hess. She provides parental guidance to parents and families to determine whether, and what kind, of therapy your child would benefit from, and provide referrals to services and therapists from there. I was in a similar situation with my child and she advised me on assessments (to ascertain what kind of help and support we might need) and gave me recommendations for who to go to next.


    I don't have a solution, but I, too, have a 12 (almost 13 year old) and I have been searching for social skills groups.  I would be happy to connect and collaborate sometime if interested.  Thanks! :)

    Scott Weber LCSW is located in Albany and is a wonderful therapist for both Individuals and families. He has helped us immeasurably. He can be reached at (510) 926-9852 scottaweberlcsw [at]

    This sounds very much like my 13-year-old son. We recently completed a neuropsych evaluation and learned that a lot of these things (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, OCD, autism) can be interrelated. My son struggles with peer relationships and feeling like people don't understand him, which can then lead to isolation, anxiety, and OCD-like behaviors. He also doesn't recognize the signs of anxiety until they are at a 10 so just started working with a therapist to help him identify the signs and practice anxiety-reducing strategies. Where he has the most fun and success is playing online video games with his friends. It's a safer environment where the expectations are clear, no physical contact, and he's admired for his skills. Next, we want to get him into a social skills group with peers. We are at the very beginning stages and recently learned that he's on the spectrum so are fairly new to all of this, but happy to chat if helpful. Please feel free to reach out.

  • My kid was in private school K-6, went to King for 7th. Just as she was getting comfortable and establishing her tribe, the shut down happened. Historically this kid is well -liked has friends from other areas of life-from elementary, swim team, drama,church, Girl Scouts and sailing- and all of it came to a screeching halt. She has made half hearted attempts to connect but not much has transpired. Did a social distancing hike in June, did some Zoom with youth group, but it fizzled out. She did 5 weeks of the only camp we could find. Out of 12 kids she was the only girl. All boys, age 8-11. She hated it but kept going. I tried to connect with parents to get her with other kids she knows and zero response. Radio silence. I found someone her age she could do a project with but by that time she had lost so much confidence, she simply did not follow up. School has been hard. She is way behind in homework and is clearly unhappy. She has been unmedicated for ADHD for over 2 years, and could really use the medication but refuses and say “it will steal my fun”, “Rob me of my creativity” She has started binge eating at night. I have spoken to her about different kinds of hunger-like being bored and lonely is a hunger for connection. Turns out she has grown 2 inches overnight but still is overweight by easily 25 pounds. Now she is convinced that “everybody hates me” and “ I can’t sleep because when I lie down the bad thoughts come”. Fixated on belief everyone hates her because she did not reach out. Part of it is drama to get back her phone that we had to take away. She was immersed in media and getting belligerent and combative and less and less interactive. And not reaching out to friends. We have no idea where to turn. Last year she was constantly late to school so we reached out. Zero help from counselors or vice principal-until we quit excusing tardies and she got a truancy notice. Even then no follow up happened before pandemic. Counselor spent 5 minutes with her in a hallway and declared her fine. This year I have sent emails to teachers about her ADHD and processing issues. I’ve decided to use her low grades to leverage some support from school. Kid wants to drop out completely. We have Kaiser, so no real help there. She hates her psychiatrist and I don’t blame her. Pushed meds that she had had bad reactions to previously and he refused to try other medications with her. Are there pods for 8th graders? She is dying on the vine and we know that one in person activity would make all the difference. Suggestions and recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Several parts of your post resonate with me. Our daughter had a similar trajectory- private schooL through 6th, King, Kaiser, eating issues. We finally got her a private therapist and she’s made major strides. There’s way too much to write here, so please ask the moderator for my email address if you’d like to talk. 

    I would pull her out of school and find her a small private school. Since she's in 8th grade, this might be harder...but look at schools like Maybeck for high school. Also find her a good psychologist, even if you have to pay out of pocket, as this appears to be a very serious situation. We have had a good experience with Reyna Cowen PhD. (510) 601-0232 as a psychologist. If she's full, she can probably recommend someone.  If you find a good psychologist she should be able to help you navigate the school situation. Put the psychiatrist  on hold for now. Good luck to you. 

  • My 17 year old boy has a chronic illness that has flareups.  Do you know of any places or clubs or venues where he can come part of the time but not all of the time?  Or just pleasant places to hang out?  He's in an independent study high school and it's lonely.  Thank you.

    Try Holden High School in Orinda. This alternative school offers part-time “elective class only” options to supplement home school or independent study students who want some group activities with their peers. Our son goes there in their full time program and really enjoys it.  

    Hi ABCmom

    I'm sorry your son has to deal with this. We were and still are in the same boat and I totally get it. Maybe our kids could meet or hang out. Please contact me directly if you'd like.

  • Looking to the BPNverse for thoughts - our DD is a freshman in high school, great grades, extra-curriculars, is really kind to people, loving and caring and creative. She has a group of friends at school, and is constantly making new ones, yet doesn't seem connected to any of them to the point of hanging out outside of school (granted, time is a total premium). She's also dyslexic and I think that the way her brain is wired she just doesn't naturally 'get' the whole girl dynamic, meaning most of the bad stuff (trash talking, manipulating, excluding) and SUPER SUBTLE stuff that girls do as they navigate HS.

    I've never felt like she needed therapy, her social skills are totally acceptable, she's not shy or overbearing, great with adults and kids, and she has plenty of people she talks to, texts with etc. But today was kind of a tough day at school for her, feeling like she's surrounded by people but not really connecting, and I said to her "since you were a baby, you've been so openhearted and just want to connect, and the problem is, that's really rare, and sometimes other kids just suck."

    So will time help? Maybe freshman year is just tough socially, lots of the kids at her school know each other but she came in not knowing anyone. Or maybe she needs a moderated group of girls? I don't think she'd do individual counseling and like I said, I don't think she really needs it. But I do think she needs to connect with people on a deeper level and is not getting that - too much to expect of 15 year olds? Something that comes with age? Any other really open-hearted teens' parents out there? Any and all advice, especially from parents of HS or college aged openhearted kids (or beyond) is greatly appreciated.

    I have a daughter who is now a college student, and I would suggest your daughter find a variety friends outside of school and/or a small group in school, to balance out the main friend group. Maybe a music or theater or recreational sport, something low-pressure that meets maybe weekly. My daughter had the large pool of friends and acquaintances in school, but also did a sport outside of school, and a small club in school. Having this variety was really valuable.

    Dear Parent of a Freshman,

    As I understand it, your daughter doesn't see any friends outside of school?  No overnights at either your house or theirs? 

    This is, actually, a serious problem.  Girls need private time with girls their age.  (Boys, too.)  Our child had *very* few friends in high school, but she always had a couple of very close friends with whom she shared overnights, and that made all the difference in her level of happiness.  She's now a junior in college, still with a small circle of friends, but she is very fulfilled by those she does have.

    You also say that you "don't think she'd do therapy" -- I'm sorry, but a fourteen-year old girl should not have enough power to make such a decision.  She is still a child, with a child's brain, and you are the parent.  (We don't get our true "adult brains" until we're in our early twenties, and those whose brains are wired differently [ADHD, etc.] in our LATE twenties.)

    Perhaps you're right that she doesn't need therapy, but I beg you not to let your daughter be the boss of her own life at this point.  Kids this age believe they know what they want (and they are "SURE" they know what they don't want), but they do not yet have the maturity or life experiences to truly make the best decisions for themselves.   

    I'm sorry your daughter had a tough day and is having a hard time connecting with peers. The high school years are hard! 

    The description of your daughter is similar to how I would describe mine, less the dyslexia. My daughter is quite gifted in certain academic areas and cares deeply about school which adds to her feeling different. My daughter is now a junior in a large public HS, having come from a small, private K-8 as the only one in her class to attend the HS. Freshman year was difficult. In retrospect, I would call the entire year a transition year. She was eventually able to connect with a very small group of 3 other kind-hearted girls. They ended up eating lunch together every day, and did very little (if anything that year) outside of school. That was enough for her. She needed lots of time by herself.

    During the summer, my daughter attended an academic camp where she lived in a dorm for 2 weeks with like-minded people (kind, creative, academically focused). It was the first time she was ever in a group with so many people so much like her. She liked it so much, she returned the following summer. This experience gave her a sense that there is a community of like-minded people out there with whom she can connect, she just has to seek it out. It's focusing her college search while she makes the best of her remaining high school years.

    Fast forward to junior year, friendship groups have shifted, 2 of the original 3 remain, while others have been recently added. She has more social opportunities offered than she cares to accept - things like making gingerbread houses while watching "Rudolf"! Gotta love these kind-hearted girls. She's learned to be true to herself and surrounds herself with the small number of people with whom she feels comfortable and safe. She's even attended a couple of the high school dances. She's learned to be quick to distance herself from people who make her feel uncomfortable in a no-drama, respectful way.

    I'd encourage you to follow your gut in supporting her. Let her lead, and let her know you're there to listen and help when she asks. It's really hard, but avoid giving suggestions or advice unless she asks for it (you can say, "may I offer a suggestion? and drop it if she says no.) Let her figure out her friendships on her own terms with confidence that she will find her people (unless you notice something potentially damaging or abusive, then step in). Mostly, let her know it's healthy to feel ups and downs, happiness and sadness, joy and frustration. Celebrate all that is wonderful in her, and if she'll let you, hold her when she needs to cry, and give her space if she needs to explode in frustration.

    Your daughter may be interested in a teen girls group through My daughter has been part of one of the groups for nearly three years and it has been an incredibly meaningful experience for her. Emily Frost and Quetzal Francois lead the groups and are fabulous with teen girls!


    Looking back at my own teenager son ( now 28) he would had totally benefitted from therapy at that age. Maybe therapy is not the right word but counseling, support. We could all use this specific time with a caring but objective person who can give us insight on our live.

    I can recommend Dr Frank Davis in Berkeley, he was great for all our family. You are smart and are seeing a situation that is not a crisis yet, but could turn into one... Just tell your daughter to give it a try for 3 sessions and if she does not like it she does not have to keep going. Probably at that moment she would realized how great it is to have a support at this strange moment in her life.

    I have a daughter who is a junior in high school. From what you describe I don't think that your daughter needs therapy. High school is hard, freshman year is a huge transition. You will be amazed how much your daughter changes in the next few years. She is becoming a young adult and the growing pains can be intense. My daughter has always had lots of friends and is very active and outgoing and she has had LOTS of ups and downs the last few years. But she is getting better at weathering the storms and moving on. Kids don't hang out like they used to. Part of it is geography, kids live all over the place so it makes it more difficult when you can't just walk over to your friend's house. Kids are also so busy with school work and activities. My daughter and I were just talking this morning about how high school isn't that fun anymore because of the stress and competition to get into college is so intense that it trickles down, but that is another topic. It sounds like your daughter is going through normal stuff and the best thing you can do for her is to be there for her and just listen and be encouraging, as you are already doing.

    I have been in your shoes -- our daughter is similar, and did not know a soul in Berkeley High when she started in her freshman year. I understand your anxiety, and the pain you feel for your child. The good news -- she will be fine. Time definitely does help. My daughter drifted in and out of friendships and groups her freshman year, some painful and some just fizzled. She got more confident, understood the dynamics of the school, teachers and students better, and found her way -- slowly but surely. I don't advise trying to interfere with her socially -- but be there for her. Ask about her day, all her classes, teachers, get to know the kids' names. Let her hang out after school with friends, especially on Fridays. Trust her judgement. Let her make mistakes. Be prepared to pick her up from downtown when she hangs with some kids for Boba some afternoons. The school social environment is relaxed and casual. Not all the kids suck. Many, many kids do not -- and would make great friends for her. My kid made a lot of friends on the same bus route. If she can, let her take the bus with her peers. Just be a loving aware parent and she will be fine. My daughter has great friends now, and is a Junior. Good luck. You sound like a caring parent.

    I want to offer another perspective from that of the parent who said "You also say that you "don't think she'd do therapy" -- I'm sorry, but a fourteen-year old girl should not have enough power to make such a decision." Yes, you are the parent, but that doesn't mean much in this context. When our child was in middle school we got them a therapist. They didn't especially want to do therapy (though now, at 22, they see the value of it), and told us "you can make me go, but beyond a certain point I just won't tell the therapist anything private." Even when we explained that discussions with the therapist would not make their way back to us, our kid stood firm. When our child and the therapist reached the boundaries of what our kid felt was too private to share, they stopped sharing. Period. We talked to the therapist, who felt that continuing with our child would not benefit them and would simply be an expense for us, so we stopped asking them to go. With our kids, all we can do is provide opportunity; we can't make them become active participants. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink.

  • My daughter is a sophomore in high school, and very unhappy. She went out of district for middle school, and hasn't yet found a group of friends at high school.  She is quite shy and cautious and reluctant to try new things so refuses to join a club or a sport.  The longer this goes on, the more unhappy she is. Today she stayed in bed and refused to go to school, though eventually got herself up and went late. I'm worried about this getting worse. I'd love recommendations on a therapist for her to talk to.  She won't want to see anyone, I'll have to force it.

    I have the same situation. Would you like to talk. message me.

    Cathy Carr is a warm, amazing therapist who has helped my shy, anxious girl navigate middle and high school. So sorry your daughter is going through this..... it’s so hard! If she is at Berkeley high, do keep encouraging her to try a club..... there are some nice smaller ones that are very welcoming. Another idea is see if she’d like to volunteer at an animal shelter? The City of Berkeley shelter has a wonderful program for teen volunteers and there are lots of nice kids there. The sweet dogs and cats can provide a good social buffer ;)

    Hi, Sorry your teen is struggling! We have worked with both Emily & Quetzal at Love Your Nature in Berkeley. We love them and can't speak highly enough of their presence and skillfulness. Check out their girls groups in Berkeley. They also do a retreat in Spring and Summer, and offer 1:1's. Best of luck.

    My child has had a good experience in therapy with Amy Walthall, Psy.D. You can reach her at

    amywalthall510 [at]

    Sounds a little like my daughter. She is a sophomore at Berkeley High and saw Neil Howell neil [at] He is a really wonderful and kind therapist who uses CBT. He has an office in Berkeley and SF. He got my daughter back on track and feeling much better within about 6 months of going to therapy weekly. She was struggling with depression and anxiety, and also lacked a friend group when she started high school. Now she has a lot of individual friends and she feels much better. Neil helped her enormously. 

  • My son used to be a chatty and active boy, but turned into a very introverted, quiet and inactive youth during his high school years.  His PC is all his world; he doesn't talk to any of us, is alienated and isolated from me and his step-father, sits with his computer and online friends in his room 24/7. Stays awake until early morning, so misses most of his classes next day as he cannot wake up. We try to wake him up almost every day, but often can't. It looks like he will need to repeat his senior year as he missed too many classes. It's been a long time since we've had a normal conversation. I've asked if he is having any issues at this school--he said several times that there is no bullying, or any other bad stuff, just that "he is not motivated". 

    Any advise on parenting such kid? Good that he doesn't do drugs or hang out with wrong people outside of home. He doesn't seem to do much of  video games, just sits at home living inside the internet all the time. I think he is a very lonely, isolated man whose 'friends' are only strangers from different parts of the world. It seems he doesn't want us in his life. When I try to talk to him he responds with very short sentences and very little information.

    I really don't know what to do. I would like to help and am there for him always. I understand he is growing and developing his character, and at this puberty time period mom is not the one he would want to talk to. But I worry how he would deal with the real world; how he would deal with his failure to graduate from his school; how he would learn to socialize and make real friends with real people, etc. etc. His school is not much help. Please share some thoughts and advices on this. Are there any books anyone can recommend? I am just so desperate and cannot understand why and how he got so alienated from me.

    sounds like he needs to get off the pc and out into nature and the world.  Maybe get him to volunteer somewhere.  Does he like art? Maybe a private tutor? Or a therapist to help him communicate. Im sorry for your situation.  Sounds stressful not to have a happy boy in the world.  

    This sounds terribly distressing and destabilizing for your family. Here are some things I think I would try if I were in your shoes.  I would tell him what you told us and that things have to change so that he can grow into a functioning adult.

    1. Remove the computer from his room and put it in a public space in the house. 

    2. Set limits around computer time, bed time, etc.  This may sound infantile for an 18 year old but it doesn't sound like he's struggling to develop the internal regulation to go too bed, wake up, being responsive to expectations, etc. 

    3. Set expectations about school attendance, family chores, conversation.

    4. Get the help of a family therapist/professional not only for support but also to discuss need for assessment for him. Maybe there are other issues involved.

    He will likely be angry. It's possible he will say terrible things. But I'm not sure what else a parent can do but grasp hold of a sinking child and hold on and pull them up at least long enough to give them a chance to start swimming. Having expectations and setting limits with children is a loving act.

    Wishing you strength and courage. 


    Take the computer away and allow him to use it only during designated hours. I assume you are supporting your son financially; if so, you have the right to ask him to alter his behavior and to insist upon changes for your continued support. His behavior will not change otherwise.  Exercise your influence now while he is at home and you have leverage. You are not helpless--room and board is huge and your son needs a jolt to see the connection between his behavior and your support.  If he never has the opportunity to be alone in his own head space, he will not consider his behavior, his feelings, his life.  Do this without showing emotion or guilt because IT IS an act of parental love and support. Currently, there are no consequences for his behavior and that is a fantasy land that doesn't exist outside your household.  Best results to you!  

    Sadly I don’t have any advice, though if it’s any comfort I feel like I could have written your post almost word for word. We don’t know what happened either, we’re trying to be patient and let him have the space he seems to be wanting (by never speaking to us and spending all his home time locked away in his room hunched over his computer). I don’t know if this is depression or “normal” teen boy stuff, but there is *no* talking about it — or anything else. We took him to a therapist for several months a year ago, but he wouldn’t talk to him either! Just mystified, and trying not to take it too personally (which is hard). We’re kinda envious when we see other parents out with their teen sons being affectionate and jovial— or even just speaking to each other! All I can offer is solidarity in this tough time, and buckets of sympathy. 

    Without knowing more specifics, it's hard to speculate on why your son's behavior has changed so drastically. However, it does seem clear that he is using time on the internet as a coping skill for something. My advice would be to work on reconnecting with your son. Once he is talking with you again, then you can work to help him identify any challenges he may be struggling with, which could be anything from depression or anxiety, issues at school, feeling isolated or lonely, or even boredom. When I've wanted to connect with my son I ask him to tell me about what he's interested in. In middle school, when he was spending lots of time on his computer playing games I found the most effective way to get him to open up to me was to ask him to show me how his game worked. I asked lots of questions. Even though I honestly wasn't interested in the game, I was interested in hearing what my son liked and got excited about. I avoided saying anything negative about the game despite that it seemed really violent. I learned a lot about his world and the people he was spending time with online. I asked him what he liked about the game and learned that he liked being part of a team. I thought he had been playing alone when he was actually playing collaboratively with other players. In fact, his dedication to not wanting to let his team down was why he couldn't just stop playing when he was called to dinner. If he logged off, his team would be negatively impacted. (Before I knew that, I assumed he was just being defiant when he refused to log off). I also learned that they have video game events. I offered to take him to one, which not only got him out of his room and off the computer, but gave us time together to connect. A few years later, once he transitioned off the computer and got into rock climbing, I asked if I could go to the climbing gym with him. I couldn't believe it when he said yes! My teen showed me all about climbing and I got to see who he's spending time with at the gym. Afterwards we went out for lunch and he talked and talked with me. The next time your son mentions something about his time online, ask him more about it. Ask him to show you what he does online. When I knew my son was spending a lot of time on Reddit. I started going to Reddit to read topics that interested me. That allowed me to better understand how my son was spending his time online and the culture he was enjoying, and gave us a common topic to talk about. 

    I'm sad to say that since he is 18 he is a legal adult and you cannot compel him to do anything now. I'd say he is addicted to whatever he is doing (and if it is not video games it must be SOMETHING) - if it were me I would get him into an addiction program ASAP (if he is willing to participate, again, he is 18 so you can't make him participate) or else you will need to active some tough love to get him up moving and maybe even out. When his food, home and internet are not paid for by you anymore I'll bet he could get motivated....good luck!!!

    I am so sorry you are going through this difficult and heart-breaking time. You sound like a loving and calm parent.

    My son started alienating from my husband and I much younger, starting around 14. By his 18th birthday, he was a ghost in our home. From what you describe, our issues are more complicated. However, your situation is very serious if your son has stopped attending school to the point he may not graduate and has no hopes and dreams for his future. You might consider connecting him with a therapist well versed in working with struggling young adults. This would be a first step in understanding what may be underlying his behaviors.

    You mention your son's isolation and technology use. Technology addiction is a real issue, and can unhealthy levels of use can begin as a coping strategy for avoiding challenges or stressors in a person's life. If the therapist determines this to be the case, supportive services and programs are available. High quality services and programs will address the addiction, as well as underlying issues. One I recently learned of (yet know nothing about) is: You might peruse the site to see if their descriptions ring true.

    Stay strong and take care of yourself. It's a hard time to be a parent, and a very hard time to be a young adult. You're not alone.

    My 19 year old son is now also mostly playing computer games. I insist he does chores. After I ask three times and nothing happens, I turn off the modem. The modem is in my bedroom and gets turned off at bed time. Too much internet can be  awful for kids and turns kids into addicts. Next, I will take the modem to work with me, and if still no productive change happens, he will be locked out of the house.

    I would just try to re-establish a relationship with your son, and leave the step-father out of the picture for now.  I would not try to change him at this time, but offer positive interactions like bring him a hot tea (and don't criticize him when you do it), or ask him to go to breakfast just you and him (and don't nag him, just chat about other things) or see if he might want to go to a movie or play a card game.  A boy needs his mom.  I had to set aside all the worries I had about his future and efforts to improve my son's life, and just spend time with him (and not focus on "family time" with other family members).  It is really hard to be a parent.  I wish you the best.

    Sounds like there are two issues here:

    1.  Getting him off the computer and doing something--either a job or graduating.

    2.  Rebuilding your relationship

    You definitely need to do #1..  Talk to him about it first.  If he's reasonable, he'll acknowledge that he's an adult now, that he's got a problem, and that you both know he needs to get a job or a degree, and that he's got to have limits which you're happy to help impose but which he seems to have difficulty imposing on himself.  You may need to cancel your internet.    You may need to insist on a job, but don't let the status quo continue.  

    As for #2, it's slow going, but stay the course.   Until he tells you otherwise, assume that he would like to have you back in his life, but he's not ready to have full-on 2 hour conversations right now.  It could take a year or two or three, but if you're patient and open and supportive, hopefully you'll find that he interacts with you as a housemate (cause he's now 18, that's really what he is) and can be social enough for that to be a comfortable relationship.

    If he's 18, b

  • We have a 15 year old daughter who does not have friends outside of school (and not very many in school).  She doesn't have good social skills.  She can be lively and charming, but can also be loud, bossy and cranky.  She is not very empathetic and so has a hard being a friend.  As background - she moved in with us through the foster care system at 9; we adopted her at 10.  She has ADHD, anxiety, and is about to be diagnosed with a mood disorder.  On top of that she has a venous malformation on her face that has impacted her experiences with others throughout her life.  (She has been treated at UCSF with no success so far.)    She has a therapist and a psychiatrist.  She's taking medication.  At present she seems to be doing well in that she's fairly cheerful, has much more self-control than in the past and is doing slightly better at school.  But, she would benefit from more social interaction and activities.  And, my husband and I are feeling isolated.   This is compounded by life in the bay area.  We had a group of friends/young families who had known our daughter from her first days with us, but almost all of those families have moved or - in one or two cases - can't quite deal with our daughter. 

    She's in an after school program at her school but that will end with her freshman year.  Her main activities and interests are pop music, teen vampire shows, celebrity gossip and fan fiction, both writing and reading. She does not have a phone.  I'm not sure she wants one. She broke her old phone on purpose and won't do the tasks we asked her to do to get a new one.   She has an old IPOD touch but doesn't participate in social media much.  She will NOT take any classes/activities (sports, art, music, outdoorsy things) outside of school.  Please don't tell me to make her - I cannot.  And please don't tell me to talk to her - I have. Believe me, she is a tough cookie.  I might be able get her to go if paid her but I haven't thought that was a good idea. 

    Being a teenager, she also won't do as much with us as she would when she was younger.  (No more bike rides, walks, museums, etc.)    She'll go out with us to some movies and to dinner (or if we're taking her shopping or buying her ice cream).    We will leave her at home alone for short periods - sometimes as long as a movie - but don't feel comfortable leaving her home alone for a long periods. Lately when we've had our adult friends over she's complained loudly and in front of the guests that we're not paying enough attention to her.  We do our best to ignore this, but it's uncomfortable for our guests, particularly those that don't have much experience with big kids.   We have one friend who can sometimes have our her over for an evening, so that we can go out, but in general my husband and I take turns doing things. 

    As I write this I'm realizing how much control she's exerting over out lives.  Suggestions?  Organized family activities for parents with teenagers that might be a fit?  Anyone in similar circumstances who would like to try to create a get together?  

    Thanks so much for wading through this long post!  You responses will be much appreciated.

    Hi.  I have a great deal of compassion for the ongoing strain inherent in parenting developmentally challenged children, which is often the case with adopted kids.  I've raised two adopted kids myself, and found it invaluable to get as much help and support for myself as I could during those years.  While I don't have suggestions for social supports, if possible, I'd recommend psychotherapy with someone well-versed in these areas.  Micky Duxbury, MFT  (Oakland practice) is someone I've heard consistently good things about.  Dr. Diane Ehrensaft (Oakland) is a seasoned clinician who works a lot of teens.  Hang in, there is hope.

    Hi, I am the mom of a teenager but am responding more as the wife and daughter of adoptees, both with mood disorders.  If you could find a support group for your daughter where she can meet other teens who are adopted it could be life changing for her.  She might also find teens there who struggle with similar emotional/mental health issues, which are quite prevalent with adoptees. You might also find other parents there to relate to without feeling the judgement of having a "difficult" child.    Best wishes to your family.  

    Your situation sounds challenging and I commend you for your kindness to this child. But letting her rule the roost and make the rules is seriously hurting her for life. All the "cannots" and "will nots" I read are nuts. Teens do not get that much choice! I believe you need FAMILY therapy with a solid parenting coach. I believe that rather than classes, for now, you need to INSIST that she do things with you and your husband that absolutely include serious physical exercise. These things are not optional - she is now part of a family, and families do activities together. She will never have friends or an adult relationship if she doesn't learn compromise and at least some empathy. Giving in to her is not helping. I suspect that a simple reward system might help - make it clear to her that many things she likes are privileges, and to have them she will need to, for example, not be rude in front of guests. 1) Explain to your guests what she may do, before they come over. 2) Reward her for showing self control and polite behavior. 3) Enlist a FAMILY counselor. 4) Send her to some kind of evening program weekly and invite friends over that night, or have a date. Explain to her that she will be invited when she consistently behaves politely. These are basic life skills that kids can learn - and must learn! She's not going to be protected by you forever. Parenting is super hard. You really do have to show "tough love" at times.

    As soon as I read your opening sentences: "We have a 15 year old daughter who does not have friends outside of school (and not very many in school).  She doesn't have good social skills.  She can be lively and charming, but can also be loud, bossy and cranky."  I immediately thought: that child has ADHD!  And so she does.

    Like you, we adopted a girl (I'll call her Martha) with ADHD as a preadolescent, and the problem you and I both have is that we didn't get the chance to "train" these children from their infancy.  ADHD is the cradle of all those behaviors you described, and when you add a difficult childhood with another family, it makes the task of rearing an ADHD teenager that much harder.

    Martha is nearly 20 now, and a sophomore in college, living in a dorm.  From my perspective, I can only offer you four pieces of advice:

    (1) An ADHD kid doesn't need A GROUP of friends.  One, really close, friend will suffice. Martha had a series of close friends from 7th grade through 10th, and her 10th grade friend remains her best friend.  (They now attend the same college.)  Martha *loves* spending this time with this friend and doesn't long for a social group. 

    (2) Admittedly, your daughter still needs to meet more people in order to make that one friend.  She's almost getting past the age where you can "set her up" with friends, but you need to do it NOW.  Somewhere out there is another girl who also loves "pop music, teen vampire shows, celebrity gossip and fan fiction" (Martha loves all those things too, minus the celebrity gossip.)  Try talking to the counselor at her school to find out if there is another girl, perhaps a year younger -- ADHD kids are immature, and will remain so until they're about 28 -- who shares her passions.  Get permission to contact her parents, and invite them to a movie and dinner afterwards.

    (3) She's only 15, and you shouldn't be letting her run your lives.  You need to figure out how to exercise your parental authority.

    (4) Along those lines, please watch the videos of Dr. Barkley, the leading expert (in the U.S., and so probably worldwide) on ADHD.  It's a much more serious condition than most people realize.  Genetically it stems from the same gene that also can express itself as autism.  So while ADHD kids are not autistic, they often share some characteristics in common with those on "the spectrum," notably a lack of social skills. (Two of Martha's friends in middle school were on the autism spectrum.)


    I wish you the very best!

    Your daughter’s behavior, and social skills, may improve if her medication is adjusted to address the mood disorder. I was a very cranky teen who grew into an irritable adult until I got on antidepressants! Makes a huge difference.

    Beyond this, it sounds like u r doing a great job with a tough situation. One thing I’m realizing w my young teen.. i can’t MAKE him do much and my influence as a parent is waning. This is both frustrating and freeing. I still offer advice and guidance but realize he’s gonna figure stuff out for himself. His mom telling him to exercise doesn’t seem to do anything.. but maybe when he’s interested in someone romantically who wants to go hiking, for example, things will change!! Best of luck to u! It’s a wild ride, this parenting thing.. 

    You might find it helpful to join a fost-adopt support group for ideas. Also check out the resources in Help One Child. They may have some ideas, or be able to put together some events that can cope with your child's particular preferences. And she may find some people whose life experiences are more similar to hers, there, which may help her.

    I highly recommend DBT therapy. It works on distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships. 

    I'm so sorry to hear about your family's situation--and quite familiar to me.  It is good you recognize how her behavior is limiting your family--understandable, but not a long term solution.

    While you ask for social activities, it sounds to me like family therapy might be useful in addition to her benefiting from individual therapy?  Just expanding her social activities or even a social skills group may not be as productive, in my experience... 

    This situation sounds so tough! I don't have many ideas, but here are a couple. You could look for a volunteer activity you can do together. Perhaps she would agree or you can bribe her? I agree with you that paying her to do a class is a bad idea but perhaps some kind of reward for volunteering is less objectionable? lets you search for family/teen activities. And also, if your finances permit, you and your husband should hire a sitter!!! She might object to this too so you could phrase it as a tutor or "coach" or tell her you are helping out someone who needs a job by paying them. And if you have an extra bedroom, you might see if there is a college student who you could offer a room to in exchange for work which would be serving as a "buddy" for your daughter (but I think your daughter needs to know the person is being paid, and also see lots of advice about the whole room in exchange for work situation on this site -- it's complicated).

    Remember this child came from the foster system and must have been through A LOT.  A regular teen is hard to raise, but this child has been through a lot of trauma, I am sure. Clear boundaries and lots of love......

  • Concerns about 12 yo son’s social skills

    (4 replies)

    My son is 12 (will be 13 in January) He is on most counts doing extremely well. He gets mostly As, and his teachers through out the years have been very positive about him. He’s athletic and has competed and won medals and his team has won a championship. He helps around the house and can be extremely sweet and kind. What wakes me up at night is that he has no friends that he texts with or hangs out with. At first I thought this was just my own anxiety from when I was his age and was bullied pretty intensely.  But last night at the dinner table he said that kids tell him, who are on his team, that he “sucks” and is a “freak” who has no friends. WIth a pit in my stomach I asked him how that felt. He said it hurt a little bit but he just told those kids that at least he’s a starter on the team (they’re not). He just said they’re jerks but that apparently a lot of kids tell him this. He said that he even asked one of his friends if he’s his friend and the kid shrugged and said “I guess”. He told me that kids think he’s “Crazy” but he likes it. It doesn’t bother him.

    I’ve thought before that maybe this is ok in a way. That it could be worse, he could hang out with bad kids. And that the time he would of spent with friends he instead focuses on his passions of sports and reading. But now that I’ve heard this I wonder if he is ok. He’s been bullied in the past and has hidden it although then he was very angry. He’s not as angry any longer (sometimes he has outbursts). He’s always been “spirited” I.e. intensely smart but also inflexible and extremely active. When I see him with kids he’s kind of a “spazz” in their face, very physical and intense. I can see how he turns kids off. Do I talk to him? Should I check with his coach or teachers (which I’ve done before but they never saw a problem?) do I just stand back and observe and not intervene? Maybe this isn’this Issue but my childhood scars?

    Any words of wisdom from other parents who’ve been through this appreciated. It’d be nice to get some sleep. :)

    Might he have ADHD? Being physically "extremely active," inadvertently getting in kids' faces, and rigidly focusing on his passionate interests are all signs of it. Perhaps you could go on line and take an ADHD quiz on his behalf. That's what I did with my kid, and to my shock, I checked 90% of the boxes -- yep, he does that. Yep. That too. Uh-huh.

    The next stop was a doctor. If you strongly suspect ADHD he can be immensely helped (holistic parents, don't flame me -- we can agree to disagree!) by medication. If money is an issue you can skip the $2,000.00 evaluation and have your GP prescribe him one Ritalin tablet. If he speeds up, he doesn't have ADHD. If he calms down, he does. It's brain chemistry, not behavioral.

    My kid actually thanked me. He said, "I can hear the teacher better," and his impulse control got better by a good 60%, which kept him out of other kids' faces an finally won him some friends. He is now 21 and hasn't been on any medication since he was 19 -- as their brains mature, many ADHD kids can wean themselves off meds for good.

    If he doesn't have ADHD, he absolutely needs a social skills therapist or class. And if possible, a new school. A fresh start, combined with therapy and/or meds. We moved a lot, and I was popular in some schools, a nerd in others, so hopefully he won't be doomed to go all through high school with kids whose opinions of him are "set."

    I feel for you!!

    You describe your son's current situation, but what about the past? Did he play well with other kids at preschool? In grade school, did he have playdates? Did he go over to other kid's houses and you hosted them at your house in turn? Sleepovers? Was he invited to birthday parties and did kids come to his? I think the history is important. Is this isolation something new that is happening in middle school? Regardless, I think your son has an issue -- definitely in the present, and maybe has had one long term. Having a couple friends is fine, you don't need a big circle. But mental health requires that each of us have peer friends. If you feel confident that you can coach social skills, fine, but you may need to get a professional who can give him the right kind of help.

    Hi, my understanding is that Ritalin helps almost everyone, so having it help doesn't mean he has adhd. Like caffeine hits most people. Check out "this disease called childhood" which might have suggestions!

    Yes, absolutely talk to his coach about how his fellow players are bullying him by telling him he sucks and he's a freak. That sounds terrible, and I would be extremely upset about it and look to the coach to provide discipline/guidance around that issue since it's happening in the team context.

    The other general issue of poor social skills, I'd look into a class or group on that. There's some recs in the archives. Looking for one for my own child so can't recommend any myself yet.

  • Got a great quirky kid who needs friends?

    (4 replies)

    I have a super friendly, sweet, funny son (13 years) who has made few friends at school. He is young for his years, and small for his age, not athletic (he is not very strong having dealt with a major illness) and sometimes misses some social cues. But he is warm, polite, flexible, and tolerant. For years I have been looking for ways to connect him with other quirky, "different," special kids who would be thrilled to have him as a friend.

    I've been thinking, there must be other parents out there like me who want to help their quirky kids find friends. What if there was a website or a Facebook page, or some such where East Bay parents could reach out to each other as match-makers for their quirky kids? Parents could set up meet and greets for their kids in bowling alleys, or at a pizza parlor, or in each other's homes, whatever, wherever. I am just thinking of an informal online place to talk about our fabulous, quirky kids and see if someone else out there could be a friend. 

    Is this intriguing for you? Do you think it is a good idea? Know anything about starting list-serves or Facebook pages? Want to help me start Kwirky Kids? Is the idea great, but the name horrible? Want to tell me you hate that name but still think it is a good idea? Have a better idea? Email me! 

    I don't necessarily have a super shy kid, but my son who is 13,5 met a lot of interesting and quirky kids playing "Magic the Gathering" card game.. We usually go to D20 in Alameda, it's a great place, the owner is warm and inviting, will teach you, if you don't know. He has his own very different 3kids.. But if Alameda is too far- I think there is 1or 2places like that in Berkeley/ Oakland area..

    Hi - I think this is a wonderful idea!  I have a daughter turning 13 in December.  She has a few friends that I went to great lengths to maintain over the years so she sees them as her friends- I'm not so sure they consider her as good friends the way she does.  Due to health issues we are currently home schooling so the relationships have limited ops to maintain :-(  I also believe they are growing apart and out of each other but she doesn't really see this.

    Anyway- I wish I could help steer head but I've been dealing with chronic fatigue and Lyme disease so my participation wouldn't be what I would like - but I am blessed with good days too!  Also usually in the summer I have more energy.

    I would love to be kept in the loop and help as able with your plan!  


    My son is 8, but otherwise same, quirky as can be relative to peers. I think chess (chess clubs at school, Berkeley Chess Circle) is a path for the quirky non-sporty child? (perhaps also Boy Scouts, unless it's too late?) Oakland Hackerspace has regular classes in quirky topics for kids/teens. There's also careful selection of camps to "matchmake". My quirky child gets annoyed with me when I overtly try to connect him with kids I think he'd like - part of that social skills gap, probably. I guess there's also an issue of how many friends does a kid really "need". Mine has one or two at school (who are not in his classroom, unfortunately) and one outside of school. That's about it. But he doesn't seem to mind - I think he should have more, more than he thinks he should have more! Good luck. They are fabulous, aren't they!

    Love this idea (though don't love the name). I have a similar son who is 12.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Encouraging social interaction for tween

Dec 2012

Like many kids, my 12 yr old son is glued to an online game after school. Though he has a small group of friends at school he prefers to interact with others through this game after school and on weekends rather than meeting with other kids face to face. Have other parent experienced this and what have you done to discuss or foster more face to face interactions? we do schedule outings with other families but can't seem to find activities my son finds engaging and would like to have him meet new kids as well. Tween mom

Our son is naturally a very shy introvert who has a group of good friends -- ALL of whom love a particular very popular online game. [involving building worlds, right?]

Regarding the screen time, we let him have a certain amount per day after he finishes his responsibilities. But we also tend to give him a little more leeway time-wise when he has friends over who want to play. It's a good way to get him interested in having friends over, and we see a fair amount of social interaction when they play near each other. We also expect that they'll do something else together while here, so the overall goal of actual 'face-time' does end up happening.

It's also had the added benefit of giving him a way into a friendship, when he's never been good at beginning one. This way, when he likes a new kid, and finds out they have this game in common, he has an easier time asking him over. --jmf

My 16 year old niece has problems forming friendships

Nov 2012

My niece, who I am now guardian of, spends most of her free time sitting in her room, writing stories or 'tumbling' on her iPod. Her only other interest is listening to music, watching the Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars or Super Natural. She is independent, funny, super sweet and drop dead gorgeous but she refuses to socialize or engage in activities with others outside of school. She has always been well liked by classmates and teachers every since she was a young girl but she can only get so close to anyone, including me and her mother. (Dad is not in the picture but she has a good relationship with her Mom. She moved here to attend high school so that she can get into the college of her choice). Also, she is an A student but if you ask her what she likes about school she will quickly tell you 'nothing' and she would prefer to spend her time sleeping. She is an only child who has problems making close relationships. She won't even eat lunch with other kids at her school. She comes off like she doesn't need people but when I press her she says she has trust issues and finds it difficult to engage with people beyond a surface level. When I ask her why she doesn't want to hang out with other teenagers (prefers going out with me) she said....''I don't want to end up in jail''. This brings me to the other issue. She has a list of phobias that she proudly keeps track of including fear of flying, heights, and throwing up (her favorite). She actually has a contingency plan for any possible accident that can happen. Sometimes she jokingly refers to this as her Cancer (zodiac sign) tendencies but I don't see this as a joking matter. I am worried that my beautiful niece will grow into adulthood thinking change is not necessary and never learning to TRY and get over her fears. She doesn't have anxiety by the way and if she is depressed its not obvious. Lecturing or heart felt talks doesn't seem to be helping. I'm thinking about trying to get her to see a therapist. Is anyone else experiencing this with their teenager? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

Although I can understand your concern, I think that it is important to keep things in perspective. Your niece is 16 and still trying to figure out who she is and probably has confidence problems like all other 16 year olds. She probably is trying on a persona that she thinks is cool, based on the types of books, music, movies that she's into. Maybe she's also feeling very shy and out of place in a new environment. As a teenager, I was painfully shy and the things that she has told you about how she feels really ring a bell with me. Perhaps she is trying to cover up her insecurities and uncertainties with a nonchalant attitude. I would avoid focusing on this issue and just help her (in a very casual way) find ways to socialize in low risk situations. Lots of people might disagree with me, but I feel that therapy can aggrandize normal slight neuroses in children who are still trying to figure out who they are and how they feel about things. It sounds like she's a perfectly normal teenager with trust issues. I can relate to that - most other teens (especially girls) aren't especially trustworthy. My advice is to let her be who she is, but focus on encouraging her and helping her feel good about herself. She may not be a very social person anyway, and I don't think that this is dangerous or sad. People change a lot between 16 and 25 and if she is going to college, that might be the perfect way for her to meet a wider range of people and become more social. You might even try to talk to her about her trust issues and support her feelings about it, while trying to guide her towards a more healthy attitude. Just don't make her feel like you think she's crazy. She's not, in fact I would suspect that she's much more mature than her peers. She probably just realizes that being a teenager sucks. Don't worry. Love, support, and openness are the best things that you can give her. Anon

I would look for a good therapist (I hope you have money for this, I know it's expensive). I can't recommend anyone because I've moved outside the immediate Bay Area, but my foster son has some similar issues and difficulty with making friends, and among other things, his therapist works on these issues. I like that his therapist works on both the root issues (trust issues after neglect and abuse) and practical (role-playing, discussing how his behavior is perceived by others, etc.). A good therapist can hopefully help your niece sort out what is going on. I took my foster son to visit potential therapists until we found one we clicked with, which was crucial.

And I have to disagree that your niece doesn't have anxiety. If she's got contingency plans for dealing with her numerous phobias, that sounds like anxiety to me.

I wish I had more concrete advice for you, but I think you need someone more qualified than me. And don't hesitate to change therapists if you don't get a good one the first time. We did, and it was like night and day. good therapy is amazing

Hi. Teens often go through a period of isolation/introspection, but this sounds a little different. Starting a new school can be difficult for teenagers who are very social, and can be quite scary for teens who aren't, so holing up in her room may be the way your niece is trying to cope. Since she's had trouble making friends or forming deep relationships, and she's pretty smart, I'm wondering if she may have a hard time reading social cues (facial expressions/body language). I've met a lot of kids who are more intellectually- than emotionally-oriented, and social situations (e.g., lunch at school) can create a lot of anxiety, even though you wouldn't necessarily see this at home. I'm wondering if her fears are new or have become more pronounced since the move. Having a list of fears can provide an unconscious way to manage fears of other things that may seem too overwhelming emotionally to even look at.

Thanks for posting to the Berkeley Parents list. I think it's a wonderful place to get advice & I bet you'll get much more useful stuff than what I'm about to say! But I couldn't help writing.

I am now 45 and have two kids of my own, and I probably seem quite normal now. But I am also an only child whose parents divorced when I was pretty young. Looking back, I think something must have snapped in me then where I decided that if only I could be less childlike, I could have kept my family together. Little kid logic! Not all only children end up this way, of course, but my parents definitely didn't like childish behavior and I absorbed that lesson much too well.

I detested elementary school because I couldn't understand why the other kids acted like kids all the time (!), and middle school was the same. In high school I finally found a couple people who were similarly shy and made a small bond, but even then I was pretty uncomfortable in general and preferred reading books to interacting socially.

The whole time my parents kept saying it was fine, that things would get better in college, and they were right. I also noticed that I had a big advantage over other young people in college interviews, scholarship interviews, and job interviews because of my comfort with older people. Your niece will likely get that too.

I don't remember any phobias from that time, but the idea that she doesn't want to get involved with kids who may be on drugs sounds familiar--again the attempt to demonstrate that one is really not a teenager at all!

The only thing I'd recommend is to keep her with you when she wants to be and make sure she gets plenty of healthy adult attention. When life got busy for my single mom, I ended up falling for the advances of an assistant teacher in my high school. Unfortunately it totally fit with my notion that I was superior to all other kids my age. As long as you can keep her from that, I promise she'll turn out just fine. (And I turned out fine even with that ).

Hope this helps. Only Child Turned Out OK

Clearwater Clinic (in Oakland) has a great DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) program that might be good for your niece. They have a DBT group for teens and their grown-ups which focuses on mindfulness, interpersonal skills, emotional regulation and distress tolerance. They also have individual therapy. Good luck! Anon

Dear Auntie, I'm so glad you posted about your niece. It sounds like she is having a really hard time connecting with her peers and developing closeness in her social sphere. It also sounds like you have a great bond with her and she trusts you, which is important. My first suggestion would be for you to get curious about the things she does like (TV, programs, Music, Tumblr etc...) and maybe even offer to engage in her interests with her. While the goal is obviously to get her into doing stuff with other kids her age it's more importnat that she not get into the habit of isolating from others. It sounds like she's already heading down that road which is a definite '' red flag'' for teen depression.

I work with a lot of teens and their parents and caregivers and the thing I always hear from kids is how lonely and difficult it can be to be a teenager, and how much they feel that the adults in their life don't understand this.

When your niece mentions that she '' doesn't want to end up in jail'' she's telling you that her peers are into some dangerous stuff and she's trying to avoid getting drawn into it. She may be avoiding her peers in an effort to keep herself safe. You also mentioned that '' she doesn't have anxiety'' but based on what you said it sure sounds like anxiety and depression to me. Phobia's ARE anxiety, a manifestation of fear that overwhelms our ability to cope with a certain stressor and triggers our physiological fear response. If she's really Phobic ( and not just saying this ) it's something to be taken seriously.

More often than not teens are starved for adult guidance in their life. I would encourage you to listen, ask questions and stay curious about her experience without giving too much advice. She's lucky to have an aunt who cares about her so much.

Your 16 y.o. sounds like a very together, interesting person. She has seen what her potential peers are intersted in and instead she has chosen very normal-her-age activities to participate in while holding down an impressive GPA. Someone will come along with similar interests and a friendship will spark naturally. Supporting & celebrating her life choices will be less stressful for her then lectures implying she's made a mistake, is missing out or isn't doing what is comparable to your own high school experience. Your 16 y.o. is a young woman now, and no longer a little child. You are a caring, thoughtful adult in her life and you both are very lucky! Has a 16 y.o. Girl, too.

Middle School Son a Loner

Jan 2012

My middle school son is a well-adjusted kid, independent, bright, funny. But he is a loner, he doesn't hang with kids at school, or after school, or on weekends, doesn't play with other kids, and even when he's with a group of kids, like when we're on a trip with friends, he's off by himself. I've talked to him about having friends, making friends, joining in, making an effort, he says he likes to be by himself, he doesn't want to make friends, he wants to be left alone, he's happy by himself. He's an only child, very comfortable around grown-ups, and loves little kids and babysits them.

Should I be concerned? I so much wanted to be liked and have friends when I was young, so I don't really understand someone not needing that. Also, I think we learn a lot about ourselves by having relationships with others. Is this going to be a problem as he gets older? My husband says it's not a problem, there's nothing we can do, our son will change if he needs to or wants to. This may be true, but I'd like to hear from others what they think. Thank you BPN'ers!

I have 2 perspectives on this. I was raised as an only child and was very much a loner. I liked having friends and longed for people to like me, to be accepted, etc., but I also really relished my alone time. Even when I had friends come over to my house to play, I was soon ready for them to leave so I could have my space. At 43, I'm much the same. I'm a true introvert, though I've learned extroverted behaviors and get along well with others, I still find it difficult to really connect with other people beyond a fairly superficial level and I find it difficult to get up the energy or motivation to really try.

Now I have an 11 year old in his first year of middle school who is also a loner. Like your son, he really doesn't spend any real time with other kids. He's in an after school activity, but for all intensive purposes, he's in it alone. I'm not sure that my son has the same comfort in all of this alone time that I did. I realize now that I was incredibly shy as a child and lacked self confidence. I often waited for others to befriend me. My son and I seem to have that in common. What is different about me today, is having learned those extroverted behaviours, I'm quite comfortable approaching new people and striking up conversations. I've held positions that require a good deal of contact with the public and strong communication skills which I developed beginning in middle school. What helped me was a middle school English teacher who forced me into debating and public speaking. She helped me get comfortable with my own voice, trusting myself, and removing some of my feelings of inferiority. In high school, there were a few more teachers that helped me develop more self confidence. I'm hoping for the same for my son and yours. Not sure this is any help to you; at least, now you know that you and your son are not alone. Loner Mom

Hello in response to the mom with a middle school loner: Recently we went to speak to a councilor at Kaiser, that being part of the reason. We have an 8th grader who doesn't spend much time with groups of kids. My son does have 1 good friend and my husband was very concerned because he was always busy with friends at that age. Question the councilor asked us: Is he unhappy with his situation? If he is not, that would be his choice and not a problem. It would be a concern if he was longing for a connection but unable to achieve one. He may have a friend at school who he hangs with that you don't know about.

Boys are very different from girls. My daughter is the complete opposite and travels in many different close knit groups and my son doesn't seem envious of her. He has been happier since my husband has stopped focusing on his lack of friends. We still remind him that he can invite some one to the house but we don't try to make him feel like he's not normal for his choices. I also remind him that if he feels uncomfortable with being talking to other kids he doesn't know that the only way to get better at that is to practice.

Hope that helps

I think the social bit is over rated. What's important is family, respect, the ability to get along with others, and being comfortable with who you are. . Is your son happy with who he is?

How can we help our teen son find ways to socialize

Nov 2011

Our high school sophomore son feels socially isolated from his peers. He has friends to hang out with at lunch at school, but rarely can get them to come over or invite him to do things on evenings or weekends. He's very smart, has a great sense of humor, loves videogames and computer games, and we have a great house for entertaining. Seems like most of his socializing outside of school these days is over the Internet (videogames and computer games) -- often with some of the same friends from school who don't want to come over. Sadly, he's reluctant to get involved with school clubs or volunteering because he assumes he'll be bored and that no one will like him. Can anyone suggest a young male mentor/coach (not therapist) in the Berkeley/Albany area for a White middle-teen, and/or any community programs or weekend classes that might be enticing? We feel like we're butting our heads against a brick wall in our attempts to encourage him to join activities through which he might meet new friendly people. Thanks. Worried Mom and Dad

This is in response to both posters who wanted to get their teen boys to socialize. I would suggest the Boy Scouts. All three of my sons have been through their program and it has been wonderful. First, the scouts provide some really great male role models. I would look for a troop that has a leader you feel comfortable with, who exudes qualities you would like your son to demonstrate. Secondly, they focus on getting kids outdoors and helping others. Finally, if your son has advanced skills in one area (i.e. the computer) there is the real possibility that he could share these skills with the troop and be acknowledged for his abilities. Scout leaders would love to have older boys in the program because this is typically when lots of scouts drop the program (girls and grades become a distraction). I like troop 100, 127, and 104 in the El Cerrito area but call your local council and they can give you suggestions for a few troops to drop in on and meet the kids. Every troop I know of in this area is welcoming of all faiths (or none) and kids and families who are gay or straight. Scout mama

18-year-old, not socially adept, talks to himself

March 2011

My only child son, now 18 and a senior in HS, talks to himself, out loud, consistantly, mostly when he's alone in his room. When he was little it seemed OK, kind of cute, and I thought that he'd grow out of it. But now that he's a young man, I'm thinking that the behavior is odd and may be a social liability.

He's on the shy side, not socially adept, and moved to a ''top'' private school HS where the social currency seems to be bullying, nasty remarks, snubbing, extreme cliches, and looking down upon kids that are perceived as lower in rank or social class. He hasn't made any friends at school, old friends have drifted away, and so doesn't really talk much to other kids his age.

He is quite talkative in class, during discussions, his teachers like him, though sometimes his voice is too loud, and he doesn't realize it.

I think there have been times when talking to himself has occurred at school, and I think kids make/have made fun of him.

Should I be worried about this behavior? Is this compensation for lack of siblings and/or friends? Is it a sign of something more serious? When he goes to college and lives in a dorm and has more people to talk to, will this behavior subside, or will he be deemed the weird kid that talks to himself? mom

I don't mean to be frightening, but is there any family history of schizophrenia? Also, I don't mean to be presumptive but is he taking any drugs? Either one of these things should be ruled out for his sake and safety. My son did the same thing at 19 and I immediately had him tested. Unfortunately, he had taken some tainted meth (at college) and it messed with his brain function for some time. One of the symptoms was him talking to himself. It eventually went away and he is doing very well now, but I highly recommend you have him neurologically tested. anon

I'm not sure if others already responded to this, but your son sounds like my son, who is 19 years old, and has Asperger's Syndrome. Not being socially adept; having difficulty with peers (but not teachers); not having friends; inability to recognize when he's being too loud; talking to himself -- all of these things are very typical of Asperger's Syndrome (aka 'high functioning autism). Since it is a spectrum disorder, it may be that your son is more 'mildly' affected, and perhaps that's why no formal diagnosis has ever been made. My son has always talked to himself quite a bit, and is oblivious to the fact that others can hear him, even if he tries to hide it. I don't believe that this behavior will go away by itself, as it is probably rooted in a larger disorder. I accomodated my son's 'odd' behavior for a long time when he was younger, and then when he was 7 the school district specifically mentioned Asperger's Syndrome. I had never heard of it, but when I read about it on the internet, I knew he fit every criteria for it. Please investigate this -- there is a lot that can be done for individuals with this social disability. As well, I'd be happy to talk more about it. L.

15-year-old is struggling to make friends

Feb 2011

Hello- My son is struggling with making friends. He likes to build & play video games. He loves Science and is looking at various Science clubs to join @ school. Do you have any good ideas how to get him involved in video game creation or Science clubs outside of school? Thanks!

Hi, I have a 14 year old that sounds very, very much like yours! He creates games and animation in Blender, love to play them and loves science. I signed him up for Quantum Camps ( He's taking the physics course that started it all titled Quantum Camp. It's after school on Wednesdays for three hours. There are about 8 boys in the class with two ''trainers'' who are PhDs in physics. We'll certainly sign him up for another one.

I've been looking into these:

Game programming camps/classes:

Maker Faire and all of the offshoots of that, like this, or this, The TechShop

If you'd like to email privately to see if we couldn't interest our boys in something to try together, please get in touch. b.

Hello, My son is a (just turned) 16yr old who is doing Independent Study and has had a hard time finding friends with similar interests. He is very skilled in building video games and seems to be his passion. He seems to have alot of internet ''friends'' that turn out to not be so friendly when it comes down to it and I would love for him to find some friends where he can interact face to face. Maybe they can connect. D.

My teens are pretty much friendless

Feb 2011

To begin with, a disclaimer: My kids are great, solid, honest, caring kids. Doing well in school. Good citizens. No big disasters or problems to speak of, thank god. Here is the current issue: the kids are pretty much friendless (at least after school hours). I don't know what it is, perhaps the fact that they moved away during elementary school and had to leave their close circle of friends, then returned to the East Bay as middle schoolers, and had to begin new schools and navigate old/new friendships with kids that had moved on. Now the friendship thing just doesn't seem to be happening for either one. When out of school, they are both at home, almost always.

One kid is a high school junior, one a freshman. Both go to school far from home. Neither one drives yet. I am available to drive all the time and happy to do. So the two questions: A) What do I do to support their social lives (when in truth, they just want me to leave them be)? Next question: B) what to do with my own time? Remain available or go off and leave them to their own devices? I am always wanting to go out, go to a movie, a school event...and they are not interested. So I am either home, stuck with them, or dragging them out to something that they may or may not like. Should I just go alone with a friend? Is it ok to leave them home alone, all the time? How do we work this all out? I hate to see them so alone, and what appears to me to so solitary. This is driving me nuts. I remember high school being a laboratory for relationships, friendships, exploration. I seem them engaged in this (outside of class at least)only a little bit. They report that they are tuckered out after a long day at school with a lot of interaction compounded by a long commute. Plus, because they are teens, they are way more grumpy than ever, and that is just a total drag, and I'm not used to it and don't know how to continually respond from a loving place to all the negativity they bring home with them. Contrary to how this might sound, I do give them a lot of space. Way more than other moms I know. I love them utterly and this is not such a big deal, but I could use some feedback on how to navigate this whole chapter. Way more social than my two kids

Hmm, Are they spending time online while they are home? Facebook? XBox with interactive capabilities? They may just be doing some of their socialization in other ways, especially if their school is some distance away. Both of my kids have had very strong online relationships with friends, some of whom actually became real, live physical friends as well as virtual. The online bit doesn't seem to have been detrimental to the physical aspect of friendship, they now hang out with real people more than virtual people. It was just a stage they went through. Liz

This is a difficult situation for your children because they are obviously tired and stressed from the long daily commute. No wonder they don't want to participate in after school activities! So choices need to be made. Do they like the school and want to stay there, or would a school closer to home be a better option?

Your kids may also not be as social as you are, and given that the daily grind is wearing them down, they choose to be asocial. Are they less social overall? However, extracurricular activities will not only help them make friends but may be important for college admissions. So you could tell them they have to do something. What about asking each child to choose one activity at school--perhaps that meets just one day per week--and/or one activity in your hometown that they must participate in. Try to pick an activity that involves other children. There are volunteer activities also that the child can do on the weekend.

You can search around for activities in your hometown and the kids can find the activities at school. If their outside activities take only one day a week (or two), they may be able to do it. There are other activities that don't involve others--such as music lessons. This is an excellent time to explore what outside interests they have, or might want to have, and find out how to do it. But if they're overly stressed and too exhausted to do anything including having friends, what is that telling you?

Also, start planning now for the summer. Look for local camps that are easy to get to and fun and would be a great place to meet others.

The other idea is to try to find other kids in the neighborhood. Talk with their parents, and see if there is compatibility. See what activities those children participate in. Carpooling is always a great way to build friendships. Anonymous

My heart goes out to you; parenting teens is so hard. It sounds that you may be doing this alone as well--making it even harder. I don't have magic answers for you, but do have some discerning questions:

You don't say whether you kids are girls or boys, whether they hang out together as friends, whether they seem at all depressed, what they do when they're home (homework? videogames? music? sleep? do they go outside? do they like sports at all? hobbies?) Do they come to the dinner table and chat? Is there a second parent in the house? If not, where is their second parent? Do they stay behind closed doors? Is there a computer in their room? Are there afterschool events or clubs they are not joining? Is the school a place where all kids are commuting from distances or are your kids unique in this? All these issues are important in helping discern whether they are lonely, at risk,or just very self-contained kids, or just simply hate the idea of depending on Mom to take them places...

The fact that they are doing well in school seems a good sign. Have you asked their teachers about their in-class behavior? Everything else you describe (grumpy, don't want to hang with mom, etc.) of course is normal teen behavior. What I would urge is to look for signs of depression (which unfortunately, are the signs of most teens). It may be as ''simple'' as the fact that your kids live far from school and do not yet drive. If other kids are walking to school, hanging out at nearby homes after school, it can be tough for the commuting teen.

Do you kids have a non-parent adult to talk with? It might help just to offer them a friend of yours or some other trusted adult whom they like and who agrees to the arrangement to talk with in case they need to talk. Offer the counsel and promise privacy in the arrangement.

I would definitely urge you to go out! You need to have a life in order to be happy and healthy for you and for your kids. You deserve and need your own village. Also, it's important modeling. Is it possible to have people over whom the kids like as well? Old family friends with whom you could have a once-a-month Sunday meal? Creating ''social'' in the home may not feel cool to your kids, but it could help create a home atmosphere that involves others a bit.

If you want someone (whose sophmore daughter hangs at home this year) to talk with, feel free to call: 510 531-7342. Empathetic Mom

Hello - You need to get your teens involved in extra-curricular activities. This is where they will socialize with other kids. I recommend that you tell them they must enroll in some kind of class or sports team (or 2) and that you will get them the necessary equipment,clothing, supplies, etc. Your job will be to get them there and back, join a carpool to help with this, and attend their sports events, receitals, art shows, etc. They might be resistent, if so, this needs to be a mandate. You can ask them to try something for six months and if they don't like it, they can try something else. Are there people they like at school? What classes/teams do they do? I did this with my kids when they were younger, around age 7, and it worked well. mom

I could have written your post-I also have 2 kids in high school-they are great kids, and are busy during the week-but on the weekends, they want to be home, or with me. On a Saturday night they ask ''what are we doing tonight?'' I feel guilty when I go out without them, but also know my husband and I need to for our mental health. I feel like we are their main source of connection, and that just doesn't seem right. I know neither of them are comfortable with groups of teens, but I really really would like to spend a little more time with their peers. So, I don't really have good advice, just empathy! I think it's a balance, and you need to go out sometimes, just not too much. Once or twice a week at night seems fine. I have not been an overprotective parent at all, and really like to have time and space without them-but somehow they remain very attached. anon

Socially Uncomfortable 12-year-old Son

Jan 2011

I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for a 12 year old boy (7th grader) that has never quite fit in with the group. He has a fraternal twin brother that he is close with, and has always had 1 or 2 close friends. His challenge seems to be that his personality doesn't match with most kids and so he finds himself on the outside more often than not. He has some annoying habits (e.g. repeating something/jokes he finds funny way too many times, making goofy noises), and his friends tend to be social oddballs as well (written with love). I've tried explaining to him when I find his behavior to be of the pesty sort but he doesn't seem able to internalize my suggestions or make any changes. We just met with a teacher of his (about unrelated issues of missing work), and she mentioned that she's had to move 3 different kids from my son's table (since September) because he can't get along with them. He reports that no one ever wants to listen to him and they always tell him to shut up. His theory of why he doesn't get along with the other kids is because we are new to CA (we moved here 2 1/2 years ago), and so he doesn't have the same history with them that they have with each other. It's a good theory (and I must say that I'm glad his ego is so strong that it prevents him from blaming himself), but unfortunately he had the same issues before we moved and he had known those kids since preschool.

Anyway, I wondering if anyone could suggest a paid professional that could help him to be more aware of social cues and perhaps get along better with others. Or a group therapy that's been helpful. Or a good book for us to read that's full of suggestions. Or anything else that might help. Anything. --mom that's hurting for her kid

I have a son a bit like yours and have found a book that is very helpful - The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends. The book has various chapters on types of kids. Yours sounds like, ''different drummer.'' Each chapter summarizes the behaviors and consequences (these will resonate with you) , then names the annoying behaviors clearly. The chapter then identifies unwritten rules that this type of kid is not getting (for ex, ''If no one is looking at you or asking questions while you are talking, no one is listening) and gives concrete strategies for improving. The book is well-written and practical. You can read it with him or yourself and work with him. The book is also suited for a range of personality types. My other child is a ''little adult.'' Authors are Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore. I looked at local bookstores and couldn't find it so ordered it on Amazon mom

I've heard that a good place to get help with social discomfort is Communication Works in Oakland. Their website is Jennifer

Dear mom of Socially Uncomfortable Son, I know a great person in Oakland for your son. Shelly Hansen is wonderful with kids of all ages, and adults. She runs the ''think social East Bay'' program on Grand Ave in Oakland. You can get all the info you need at her web site,

I also want to suggest a wonderful movie that will be shown this Friday (Feb 4) from 7-9 at the Mormon Temple in Oakland, called Original Minds. Your son might also like to go, even though the focus is on learning differences, it shows youth who struggle to ''fit in'' and find their way in school. Their strengths are highlighted.To see a trailer go to and to find out about the event to

Good luck! And don't forget about all of the successful adults in Silicon Valley who hare socially uncomfortable. Rona Renner

I recommend Shelley Hanson at Our son worked with her on social communication in one of her groups. She involves parents weekly so we can help our kids generalize what they learn in the group. You might also read about Asperger's Syndrome; your son's repetitive behaviors and not ''matching'' others in terms of personality and humor are characteristics.

Since his behavior is affecting his ability to learn cooperatively in school, you could ask your district for a student study team meeting (SST) to brainstorm and develop interventions to help him. Once these have been implemented, if there are still significant difficulties, you can request an assessment for a 504 or special education eligibility. If he qualifies, he can get social skills and pragmatics help at school. The district may not be willing to perform an assessment because of their ignorance about social-communication deficits, or because your son gets adequate grades, so it's good to get educated so you can advocate for him.

Middle school is the toughest social place, but kids with social-communication deficits also can have difficulties with abstract learning so it's important to figure out what's going on as soon as possible.

Michelle Garcia Winner is another local expert with info. online:

Good luck! a mom and professional in the field

15-year-old's lack of a social life

Oct 2010

My son is approaching his 15th birthday and has just begun ninth grade at a local private school. I am writing to express my concern about his lack of a social life, and to ask for advice as to whether there is any role I can play to support him in this area. He had a few good friends in middle school but did not hang with them often after school hours or on the weekend; now they are all in different schools and my son has just entered his new school not knowing a soul. The phone never rings, he is only very rarely invited to other kid's homes, he has no posse to hang out with. He is a bright articulate intellectual kid - loves politics, music, soccer - pretty normal stuff as far as I can tell. He's a straight A student but not a brainiac. Hates parties and big crowds. Likes to spend time alone but I can tell he's lonely. He's on a new sports team at school but who knows if that will translate into new friendships. We live on one side of the tunnel and school is on the other, so classmates are widely dispersed. He was on a local club soccer team last year and got along well with all of his teammates, but it never translated into friendships or activities off the soccer field. And now he doesn't really have the energy or time to do a big after-school program, so he says. So here are the questions: how do teen boys connect? Where do they hang out and what are they up to? Is it appropriate for me to play a role in helping him connect with other kids, like I did when he was little? If so, what would that role be? Should I just let him sort this out for himself? I can tell he's outgrowing wanting to be with me, his mom, but I just hate to have him be alone from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. And he's such a nice guy, I think he'd be a good friend to have. Thanks for any suggestions. What to do?

Your son sounds like a wonderful kid. I have two teen boys, and a lot of friends with teen boys. My friends and I have often talked about how our sons don't have much ability to create a social life for themselves. I don't have any answers here, but I look forward to reading others' replies, and wanted to let you know that your son is not alone.

It has helped sometimes to provide light support to the socializing -- making suggestions about calling so-and-so to get together, didn't you want to see Scott Pilgrim? Who of your friends also wants to see it? I can drive you... Of course, this can totally backfire if they think you are being too pushy.

Does your son express the desire to be more social? My kids don't, which makes me realize that I may be projecting my own stuff onto them. I'm a social person, and maybe I expect them to be too much like me. Anon

My son sounds exactly like yours and I used to worry about his social life. He is now a sophomore at a private high school. He has never had a friend over or been to anyone else's house in years. It seems to be his choice. He did get invited to the movies recently but turned it down. One of the reasons is because he knows these kids, although nice people, smoke pot and drink. There are a lot of kids at his school who indulge and he is an athlete and just doesn't want to be around it. He does go to get togethers with his sports team though which is a mixed boy-girl team and that is enough. Maybe your son feels the same way. He very well may have a posse he hangs out at school with, as does mine. I wouldn't worry about it as long as he is happy. We all want our kids to be popular and have fun with other kids but not all are cut out for that. His older sisters say to leave him be-in college that will change. mom of un-social son

12-year-old not really making any friends

Oct 2009

My son is 12 and has just gone into middle school . He had only 1 friends at his old school, but went for the whole 4 year without really making any friends . Now he's gone into middle school and it doesn't look like it's going to be any different this year! He usually eats lunch on his own (after being told to go away by most of his classmates!) and then he plays on his own too. Sometimes I think it's his choice as he doesn't enjoy what any of his classmates play, but he's such a sociable child out of school that I can't think he enjoys it! He has ADHD and act younger for his age . not having any friend wasn't big issue before but now he feel it more and more . we live in walnut creek area and we are looking for friend for him . Any idea ??? Thanks Ben

I think activities would be good for your son, including school electives that encourage interaction between the kids. So, I would look at art, drama, music, chorus, scouts, sports, etc. Anything that touches on his real interests will hook him up with similar kids. My son was always shy, but through drama and music, he has made a lot of friends, some of whom don't go to his school, but he still stays in touch with them via facebook, etc. Making these friends has in turn made him more outgoing, leading to even more friends. My shy geeky boy now has a pretty great social life and some wonderful friends at age 14.

My son was very similar to yours at that age. We found that our son's problem was understanding social cues and acting appropriately. We found a ''social skills'' group for him and he did a couple of sessions. (He liked the first session so much, he wanted to do another.) They did a lot of school-yard role-playing and puppetry. I think it helped him immensely. That was many years ago, but I've seen posts here in Parents Network for other social skills groups. Great Son's Mom

You might get some good ideas by attending the CHADD Parent Support Group (and might find some playdates there too!). The meetings are a mix of speaker presentations and sharing. It's a very welcoming and lively crowd. Check the schedule at There is a meeting in Berkeley, and a new one is supposed to be starting in Lafayette, soon. linda

16 yr old son does not socialize out of school

July 2009

My 16 yr old son has a similar issue to the previous post about the 13 yr old who only wants to use computer, ipod. My son seems slightly obsessive when it comes to his online computer (dungeons and dragon type) games.

Playing the games is fine of course in moderation, but he never calls or contacts any other kids. Not even the ones that he socializes with at school. He gets very excited when his sister or cousin come over with their friends and talks with them. So it is clear to me that he wants social outlets.

I don't know if he doesn't realize his own need to socialize, and that's why he doesn't call anyone, or he has some sort of fear of doing so. I am hoping it is a phase that will pass, but I am trying to help him socialize more because I think it will make him more happy. Has anyone had any luck helping their child socialize with other kids outside of school? Matthew

Well if it's any comfort Matthew, you are not alone. My 16 year old son is hanging onto old grade school aquitences that play his on-line computer games, but have no interest in doing anything out in the real world. He is funny, smart, cute and socially adept, so I am puzzled about his reluctance to ditch them for more socially engaging friendships. He doesn't do sports, so that is another arena he is missing out in in lieu of his virtual world. His games are compelling and he does interact with many kids [some he hasn't even met] by talking thru a headset from his command center, but I agree, it's not healthy in the big picture.

I have arranged for him to apprentice at a friend's coffee shop a few days a week this summer. He will collect tips, but not a salary since she is desperately trying to survive this recession and he has no job experience. I would encourage you to perhaps dig into your community for something similar. If nothing else he would be gaining some real world job experience and have less time available with his gaming.

I hope this helps. It would also be interesting to start a social group for these boys... perhaps their interest in gaming would be the commonality that would allow them to venture into the world of other activities... even eating a pizza out together once a week would be fine. I guess we can be thankful it's not a substance abuse thing, but it is an addiction... so something needs to change.

I look forward to hearing about other parents struggling with this situation too.

I thought you might want to host an international exchange student in your home. You describe that your son does socialize when his cousins show up, so having a host brother in the house would not be a bad idea. Good luck to you and your son.

I, too, have a grandson that doesn't socialize in school. Although his ADD/Asperger's Syndrome disability does take this into matter, WHAT REALLY CHANGED HIM was enrolling him into the Sea Scouts program. He's on a 10-day cruise right now up through the Delta with other boys on the Scouts 102ft boat. What a difference this group has made in my grandson. I try to do anything I can to help this group because they have made such a difference in my grandson. Their website is He's learning to be part of a ''team'' which is one of the hurdles he's experiencing as well as learning valuable nautical and life skills including: rowing, sailing, navigation, small boat handling and ship operation, knot tying and rescue techniques, engine mechanics and repair, carpentry, painting, fishing , waterskiing and watersports. Where else could you find a wonderful outlet for these boys! Their website is If you need more info, just give me a buzz. macy

How to re-start freshman daughter's social life?

July 2008

My daughter had a pretty rough end to her freshman year in high school and is feeling pretty disconnected socially. She's having a good summer with time to regroup, but she's feeling anxious about going back to school. Her school is pretty small so the social group isn't huge, but I think things can be better. We've talked about how she'll have different people in her classes, can join new clubs and can restart her social life. She's still skeptical. I know if she goes in expecting the worst, that's exactly what she'll get. Any thoughts on how I can ''hypnotize'' her to be open to having a better year socially, and being more active in making things better for herself? (Academically she's fine.) I hoping she'll be able to avoid falling into an old pattern and not having the fun she could have. Any ideas how I can help her? Thanks! Need a Do Over

Ideas:Can you invite a kid or so over during the summer? How about carpooling in the fall? That can create relationships.
Question:Do you know for sure she wants a bigger social circle? ( MY son didn't and it was my stuff not his.) jenny

14-y-o has no social life, mostly TV & video games

April 2007

My 14 year old son is driving me and everyone else in our household crazy. He has always struggled in school and as he has gotten older has less and less of a social life (like, none). He has friends at school but will not make the effort to get any of their phone numbers or seek them out on the weekends. He is mostly interested in TV and video games and not at all interested in anything physical.

We have tried several therapists, anti- depressants (Prozac), changing schools, etc, all to no avail. We have also tried a wide variety of sports and other activities but he either refuses or loses interest. Getting rid of electronics hasn't been an option because we have other kids for whom this is not a problem. He has no behavioral problems, loves animals and can be quite profound. He can also be incredibly immature and selfish. Last night ended up with yelling and hurt feelings because he did not want to watch a movie with the rest of the family but insisted on coming in several times to ask what was going on and to make comments. He also had a coughing fit (getting over a cold) and threw up on the floor and then flipped out when told to clean it up (''I don't know how!'').

These are examples of ongoing problems. He has lots of eating issues (won't try anything new, won't eat family staples like spaghetti, beans, mac n' cheese - I mean really benign stuff) so mealtime is often very unpleasant. I am worried about his future. He is entering high school next year and I am dreading it. He is getting fat from diet and lack of physical activity. Lack of a social life is not a good thing. Really, really what this kid needs is to be in an environment with NO electronic stimulation and LOTS of outdoor stimulation. He needs to develop independence and self confidence. I've searched the internet for teen wilderness challenges and some look promising (and hella expensive!). One of his therapists strongly reccommended NOLS but the kid refuses to go. And this is one stubborn kid.

Sorry to go on and on. Any advice on how to motivate this kid who just doesn't want to grow the heck up? sad and frustrated

One thing crossed my mind was maybe going on an extended family camping trip this summer somewhere remote. Or maybe just him and one parent so he would really have to pull his weight. Or would he be interested in working at a stable or a farm with animals? Just brainstorming here, I can't think of a place, but it sounds like it might be a good thing for him. If he can get involved with something that interests him, like animals, maybe it would open his mind to other things a little. He could also volunteer this summer at the animal shelters or rescue places around the bay area. They like people to walk the dogs or pet the cats. My daughter went to the Milo Foundation when it was Solano, they moved, don't know where. Really, good luck. anon

Sorry you are having to deal with this. Sounds a bit like my son - sometimes just plain lazy, though I love him to death. This is non-PC, BUT since initiative/motivation is the thing he won't do, pull rank and make it not a choice. Or a choice between Wilderness Experience A and B. Explain why briefly then let him be mad at you. I only say this because after that type of experience, the more relaxed, upbeat personality comes through and who cares that you made him do it.

I have another friend who says to her son, ''You're doing this, this, and this over the summer because it's not healthy for you to be hanging around the house non- stop.'' ''This'' and ''this'' might be stuff he already had planned, and the mandated things might be some choices, like spending a week at grandparents, choosing between camp A and B, maybe some small paying job - varying stuff over the summer so there's no more than 7-10 days of sitting around at one stretch. During the school year, they have mandated some sport or non-competitive physical class - he likes that anyway, but they'd probably do it regardless, citing the same reasons.

Could you come up with a time limit on electronics that would accommodate your other kids' needs? Hard to enforce, but I don't think there's anything wrong with him at least knowing where you stand on that issue. Good luck! Anon

Your son may be on the autistic spectrum, with what the pro's might call co-morbid depression.

I suggest you explore the possibility that he has Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism, and, if not yet done, get an assessment (for IEP) through your school. You might take a look at Orion Academy in Moraga (a Non-Public School, WASC-accredited) as a possible HS for him, since their mission is pro-social education and college prep for students with high functioning autism and related conditions.

Our son went there for 2 years and benefited greatly. For the first time since grade 1 he made friends, had a peer group, and got happy and successful enough to enter UCSC. parent of a son with similar behavior at 14

Hi, I am not a psychologist but your son sounds a lot like my kid and he's been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. I think it is really important that you take your son to be evaluated for Asperger's Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Then you will learn more about why he thinks and acts the way he does. You can get some information online from sites like or, and see if the descriptions fit your son. For example, my son has difficulty watching movies because the sound bothers him, but he is still interested in what the story is, so I spend a lot of time pausing the movie and explaining what's going on. Of course, that would be much more difficult in a family with several kids. Even if your son doesn't have a diagnosis, I would strongly urge you to accept your kid as he is and not try to force him into activities in order to ''cure'' him. I have learned to respect my son's differences and have worked hard to get him the support he needs for the things he's weak in. Your son may be more receptive to help if you are willing to negotitate with him instead of demanding compliance. This means honestly trying to accept his viewpoint, even if that is really difficult. My son has driven me crazy over the years too, but he knows that I respect him and in turn he's been much more respectful of what I've asked of him. Fighting with him doesn't work because he is extremely stubborn, although that stubbornness has led to a fierce sense of independence, which he will need in the future. I wish you well and hope you find the support you need for yourself and your kid. Nancy

I really feel for you and your son, and I know there are not any easy solutions. However, I just wanted to comment on one thing you mentioned in your posting: ''One of his therapists strongly recommended NOLS but the kid refuses to go.'' I am a graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School ). NOLS is specifically *not* a place for a troubled teen. Instead, it is a place for (in their words) ''highly motivated students''. It is an outdoor wilderness skills and leadership development program. Teens can attend, but it is very important that they want to be there and participate willingly, or they could jeopardize the safety of the rest of the group. NOLS is intended for the type of person who reads their catalog and *begs* their parents to send them to NOLS! - NOLS Wind River Wilderness graduate

Before considering any teen wilderness program read ''Help At Any Cost'' by Maia Szalavitz. Not that they are all bad, but some of them are deadly. lizo

Eight years ago we were in about the same situation as you with our son who was just passing 8th grade (with D's) and was about to merge with his bed and his screen activities. Us parents were going mad/crazy. Our other children were getting inadequate attention and parenting. If it persisted, our family would completely fall apart; we would likely end up divorced.

We told him he needed to go to summer school. We ended up sending him to the Hyde School Summer challenge program, in Bath Maine, which was not really a ''summer school.'' It was helpful. The Summer Challenge program, 5 weeks long, is a way for all parties to get to know the Hyde School and each other. In the middle of the Summer Challenge program, my son said he thought that maybe he should go to high school there.

He did end up going to high school there. In fact, he went for all 4 years. It really worked for him and for us. I can't say it works for everyone. It's not perfect. It's alot of money. But it helped all of us - enormously. All kids have to do sports, all year. This was huge and fabulous. We got him out of an environment we could not control. We made it through, one year at a time. Eight years later, this June, he's graduating from a UC.

You should check out the Parenting Teens Workshop the Hyde School is having on May 6 (which someone just posted) or any other events that they are likely to have around that time/weekend.

It may not be right for you or your family but it's certainly worth investigating. karosel

Sounds like a typical asperger teen. A great resource to start is the OASIS website (on-line asperger syndrome information and support). They have a ''Raising Teens and Young Adults With AS Support Forum'' as well as general information you will need to get familiar with. brad

Somewhat isolated 16 year old

May 2006

Can anyone suggest a social skills group for teenaged boys? My 16 year old has had good friends most of his childhood, but is going through a rather lonely phase now, partly because he is somewhat immature socially (although bright, intense, talented) anon

Your son may be suffering from a lack of stimulation. See if you can determine an endeavor that interests him (science, gardening, sports, artistic pursuits) and then try to get him involved in a group (or summer camp, etc.) which specializes in those areas in which he is interested. ''Lonely phases'' are often associated with boredom. Robert

Hi-- Your son sounds like the kind of person who will suffer in high school and blossom in college where his intensity and intelligence will be an asset. People with high IQs often have a harder time with social skills.

I can't answer your question directly. In our house, we try to encourage consideration and empathy (''Try asking people about themselves-- think of how you would feel in their shoes-- how do you think that makes them feel?'') and basic body language (like smiles & frequent eye contact) and frankly it doesn't seem to change some of the self- defeating behavior. Encourage him to pursue his own interests and also to pursue new things (music?). School clubs and physical activities are often a good thing. Non- school stuff may be better. good luck

Sophomore daughter doesn't have a social life

September 2003

My daughter is a sophmore in high school and is very shy. She doesn't seem to have any social life at school or at home. It is hard to carry on a single conversation with her. You just get one syllable replies. She spends most of the time reading books or watching tv. It would be ok if I thought she was happy being the way she is, but I suspect she has a hard time making friends and is very miserable. I tried to get her to go out more, take classes and join clubs, but she doesn't want to. And, it's not that she is overweight or unattractive. I don't know how to help her. Can anyone please give me some advice?

Very Worried Parent

You can really help your daughter by setting an example and showing her how to reach out to people by reaching out yourself. Reach out to parents of her classmates (if you aren't already doing so) and try to establish some connection that may help your daughter to make relationship connections. Invite a family with a child in her class over for dinner, or invite their child to come along on an outting with your family, and get acquainted. Our generation has gotten away from entertaining in the home, and it shows in our children. I have some very strong ties still to people who I grew up with because my parents entertained more in the home. It teaches our children so much about engaging with other people on a social level. Good luck!


My daughter is in the 5th grade and is having an extremely difficult time socializing with others in her school. Like your daughter she likes to read and be by herself a lot. She rarely speak in school nor does she plays with her children during recess. When we are out in public, she would whisper instead of talking in normal voice. She covers her face with her hair. I brought her for counseling but it did not seem help at all. I read up a lot on ''shyness'' and discovered something call selective mutism. When a person is extremely shy, they may develop social anxiety which can cripple his/her ability to socialize with others. There is a lot on the Internet about selective mutism (something a lot of people labled as shyness)and how to help your child deals with it. I feel for you and as a mother understand what you are going through. I hope that you can find help for her and good luck to you and your daugther!


[editor note] there are past discussions about selective mutism here:

I completely understand your feelings of worry. I have a 10th grade boy who also has difficulty socializing and has very little social life outside of school. He has never had a close friend. My husband and I have been pushing him to get involved with clubs and plays etc and always meet with resistance. I have been worried about his lack of social skills for a long time and this past year finally took action. I read up on non verbal learning disorders and aspergers syndrome which are possibilites for you to look into. I've ruled them out but was glad to understand them. I found a therapist in Berkeley named Katherine McCarthy 649-3399 who runs social skills groups for adolecents. He is on a list for a group. He has begun therapy with a wonderful therapist named Lenny Levitz in Berkeley.

Since we have really taken it seriously and have acted on helping him he has been admitting his struggles and seems to be moving in a more positive direction. He just got into the school play and has been making some social plans. So I really beleive getting help for you daughter is something to consider seriously. It is difficult for them to meet this challenge alone, and difficult to watch them isolate themselves more and more. All the best A sympathetic mom

To parents of non-social teenagers--please be careful that your well-meaning efforts to make your child happier don't end up making the situation worse and undermining their self-esteem further. As a former non-social teen myself, I've been there. A teen's own peer group already sends a clear message that popularity is important, they don't need more pressure from their parents. My parents urged me to continue in band, join clubs, etc., etc. The message I internalized was that I was disappointing them, that I was a failure and that I was destined for an unhappy life.

High school is a tough scene that some of us aren't prepared at that age to deal with. But fortunately, there is life after high school. Lots of us who don't fit in then go on to have happy lives and good relationships. Spending a lot of time reading is not a bad thing! I did end high school very depressed (which went unrecognized by my family) and I do think therapy would have been a good thing for me. But the goal should be making sure the child feels good about themself, not that they become more social. Feeling that their parents love and accept them as they are is essential to a child's sense of self-esteem. Making a child believe that they have to fit in, or that their worth is measured by the number of friends they have, does exactly the opposite. If they can end adolescence feeling good about themselves and loved by their family, they will be alright.

Shy Teen Grown Up

Freshman son having a hard time fitting in

October 2000

My son is having a hard time adjusting to high school. He's a freshman and can't find a social group to fit in with. Does anyone know of a downhill biking group or rock climbing group for teens? We know about summer camps. We're looking for a group that meets on weekends that would give him social opportunities outside of high school.

To the parent looking for social activities for a freshman son ... you didn't say where he goes to school ... I am only familiar with Berkeley High, but if that's where he is, there should be at least one student-sponsored club that appeals to him. The variety is unbelievable. Has he checked into that? Another really good way to get hooked into a peer group is to sign up for an athletic team. Again, I don't know if he's at BHS, but he might like to try one of the teams - this has been very rewarding for a kid of mine. Check out some of the more offbeat sports like golf, crew, lacrosse, water polo -- often they don't have try-outs or they will take anyone who's interested. Less traditional sports seem to attract many kids who have not played the sport before, or any other sport, and are just coming to the game as freshmen, so now's a good time for him to try something new because he will be in the company of learners. In terms of afterschool groups, if he takes a weekend or evening class he will meet other kids who like the things he does. Rock climbing classes can be found at Cal Adventures and Berkeley Iron Works. Most bike stores should be able to point him to weekend riding groups. Lastly, I think you should also consider the possibility that he prefers his own company, and enjoys solitary activities more than being in a group. One of my kids is like this, as am I. Nothing wrong with that and it might be counterproductive to push him into a social activity that he doesn't want or enjoy.