8 yr old boy sad about not having friends

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

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

What have others done to help their kids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi there! 

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

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

Good luck! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book: "Raise Your Child's Social IQ"https://www.amazon.com/Raise-Your-Childs-Social-IQ/dp/0966036689/

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

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

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

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


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