Concerns about 12 yo son’s social skills

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. :)

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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.