9th grader not interested in joining anything


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. 

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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.