my son feels he has no close friends - FamilyEducation
my son feels he has no close friends
01/08/2009 at 16:21 PM

it has been 1 1/2 year since we moved into a new town.  i don't know if it is me or what but it seems people on my block is distant, and not very friendly.  am i supposed to knock on their doors to introduce myself?  well, till this day, i still have no idea who my neighbors are...i hardly see them, and when i do, they are sort of far away that you will have to make an effort to walk over to start a conversation.  i feel kind of weird about it but it isn't as heart breaking for me as my concern for my son, 9.

he is an outgoing, friendly boy and will always take the initiative to start up a conversation with other kids.  he is generally upbeat, confident, and happy.  however, he still feels kind of upset that he still has not made any close friends to hang out with.  yesterday he told me that he still misses his old friends from before and that he wishes we had never moved.  that really breaks my heart.  to be honest, i never thought being a parent means that i can feel so helpless and miserable when it comes to issues with our children's social life.  given his outgoing personality, i really cannot understand why he hasn't made any close friends.   from what i heard from him, boys at school can be mean and hurtful for no particular reason.  worse, it seems that you have to act that way to keep up with others.  when he strikes a conversation with others, he often feels that other kids would ignore him a lot.  are we all just being too sensitive when it comes to me versus the others?  i told him that not all the kids are as outgoing as you are and that they may just be shy and don't know what to say instead of ignoring you.  sometimes i tried to remember how it was when i was his age and it is such a blur that i don't think i have any close friends until i was in 11.  but to him, he feels left out and i wonder if i have anything to do with it.  i am not a PTA member and do not have the opportunity to get to know other parents.  last year my son went to a playdate in a classmate's house.  my husband picked him up and chatted with the other kid's mother for a little while.  though, when my husband ran into her again couple months later in a sport practice, she acted like she does not know him at all.  to me, it is just not normal social behavior.  i am beginning to feel if i am not part of the parents social circle, my kids get left out too.  am i being paranoid to think that way?  my philosophy in friendship has always been that friendship develops naturally and that it is a 2 way street -- one should not have to make an effort to achieve.  perhaps i was wrong??? 

I am guilty of not allowing my children to go to someone's house where we didn't know the parents.

Around my area, it's just good common sense, not unusual, so I hope you will try not to take it personally and feel rejected, doraemon88. Evidently, you came from a very different kind of community? I think mine might be like your current one.

You mentioned your son is involved in sports. That is where I got to know a lot of other parents. Sitting, watching their practices or games together, it is the perfect setting to get to know the other parents.

Also, at my children's school, I was involved in the PTA and that was a great way to meet other parents, too. (Good way to get to know the teachers, too! ;o))

Which leades me to this---you might mention this to your son's teacher. Teachers are often a big help. They can tell you
if they think they know of any good matches in class for your son.

Regarding that PTA mother who acted like she didn't know your husband after meeting him once. It's possible she's just plain rude, but then again, could it have been she's just bad at names/faces, and truly didn't recall meeting your dh? If it was a large party with lots of new faces, it is possible. I might give her the benefit of the doubt, unless you know for sure she was purposely being rude.

For me, I think it did take effort on my part as a parent when it came to my children's friends. I got friendly by conversing frequently with their parents, and did things like offer to pick up their child for the activities the kids were involved in together, do the snacks for their sport events, etc.

For my peace of mind, it was worth it to me.


I don't think you're wrong at all. It sounds like you moved to a very stuffy town w/ people who are not very welcoming to outsiders. It's just odd that this has been going on for so long. Maybe you shld try to initiate conversation? In our town, which is very small, we have the opposite problem. You tell one person something, and the whole town knows your business. So I make attempts to be friendly, but I don't volunteer too much information. I feel bad for your son. You mentioned sport practice. Is your son involved in any other town activities? What about youth group through your local church or maybe the YMCA? Also, has your son tried inviting kids over to his house? I agree, friendship shld be a two-way street, though. Maybe if he makes the effort to have them over, that might help. This is a really difficult situation, and I can understand your frustration. No one wants to feel left out. My son is only 5, and he has some learning problems. I notice when we're in social settings that the parents don't want their kids playing w/ my son. They won't even invite him to their kids' birthday parties. It's horrible. He's young, and he doesn't understand it now, but someday he will. It's heartbreaking. If I were you, I'd do my best to be friendly and kind, but I wldn't go out of my way to bend over backwards for anyone. You can't force anyone to be friendly back, and who wants friends like that anyway? You shldn't have to miss out on town events if you want to be there. Go as a family, and enjoy yourselves. Plan other activities outside of town if that's doable. Also, does your son still stay in touch w/ his friends from before you moved? If it's not a far distance, maybe he can visit them from time to time. I'm sorry I don't have any real solutions to your problem. Hopefully in time things will get better. Acquaintances come and go, but true friends are w/ you forever. Your son will meet his true friends when the time is right. He sounds like a wonderful young man, and he shldn't change for anyone. Best of luck.

thanks for your feedbacks...last year my son did invite the same kid over for a playdate in our house, though, the kid said his mother said "no" because "my mother don't know your mother" ??? since when the parents have to know each other before the kids can have a playdate??? the kids are already in 3rd grade at the time. you know what is worse, this mother is an active volunteer for the PTA, and somehow she has successfully made me feel rejected! i will continue being pleasant and friendly with others, but i will not go out of my way to yearn for new friendship and i will give the same advice for my son. you know the funny thing is that years from now when we all look back upon our frustration towards our children's social well-being, it will be so insignificant and that we will laugh at ourselves for being ever worried. as you said, friends comes and goes... if we are lucky, we can find that one true friend that last a lifetime.

So, why have you decided to let the other mother keep you out of PTA? I carpool with a woman that I just can't stand, and foster a relationship between our children because it is good for my daughter. I am comfortable letting my children play at the homes of people I don't know well, but I have always been sensitive to the fact that others are not as comfortable with it as I am. It could be that there had been an active pedophile in that town so people are more vigilant. I think your decision to not go out of your way to build a social network for your son is shortsighted. Don't be such a chicken! As for looking back and laughing, not necessarily. Sometimes people internalize the hurt and don't ever get over it. I'm thinking Columbine. When we moved in, we had a potluck party and sent invitations to all the people on our street. Lots of people came and we had a good time. We've been here four years, and we've had four parties, one in the spring, and three in the fall. We have some neighbors across the street who have an annual party (it is this coming Sunday), but we didn't know about that when we had our first party. They go all out on the refreshments, sushi and little meatballs and crudites and home-made everything. Theirs is much nicer than ours, but everybody has fun at all the parties. We also have a potluck almost every month, with a few families who have children the age of our children. The reason I do pot-luck parties is that I like parties, but I am a not great cook. This way, the good cooks get to show off without having to get the house ready, and I get to have a party without trying to be a great cook! It's also less expensive and it is fun for the guests.

Hi there! Could you send maybe out invitations for a playdate for the kids and maybe coffee or tea and a muffin or something for the parents to meet. You could meet at a park or your home, whatever you are comfortable with. Or maybe just go over to a neighbors door with an invitation and say we'd like to get to know you guys... how about a playdate for the kids while we enjoy some coffee and pie or maybe a delicious snack that you can brag up, lol. Good luck to you and your son. Only

doraemon, One thing I disagree w/ that you said is feeling comfortable leaving your child in the care of a person you hardly know. When my kids go on playdates, they're always w/ someone whose parents I know well. I also always visit the home first to get a feel for the safety of it. You can never be too careful. I know my home is child proof, but you can't just assume someone else's home will be. I had an issue w/ a parent once when dropping off my son at her house. She has a pool in the yard, and although the yard is fenced in, I expected her to be outside w/ the kids watching them. She told me that she told the kids to stay away from the pool. She may feel secure enough that her child won't go near the pool, but my son is very different. He's curious, impulsive, and he loves the water. On the other hand, he's not a great swimmer. From this time on, I always made sure that either the parent is someone I can trust 100%, or that I stay at the house w/ my son for the entire time. Maybe the party suggestion is a good idea. Making other parents feel comfortable is important. Hopefully in time they will build more of a trust w/ you and your family, and you will see a change in them for the better. It doesn't hurt to try.

thank you all for the replies, i really appreciate it. from what i have read, it sounds like my speculation is correct in that due to the fact that i am not involved in the parent social circle, therefore, my boy is being left out as well... which leads me to my next dilemma then that i can really use some advice on. i have always been a quiet person who feels uncomfortable doing small talks. i am simply not the talkative type. initiating a conversion with someone i meet for the first time is not so bad... asking questions about each other, learning a little bit about each other. but i often feel after the initial background introduction, i really can't think of anything to carry on the conversation to extend the relationship further. you can pretty much classify me as not a "people" person, though i am truthful and sincere. i don't make remarks that i don't mean. for example, i won't compliment on someone's outfit unless i truly mean it. basically, i mean what i say and i say what i mean. as a result, it is kind of difficult to make small talks. i am a pleasant and good listener. i like to learn about the others, rather than waiting for my turn to talk about myself. i feel quite terrible to confirm that indeed i may have something to do with the fact that my boy doesn't have any close friends. i am willing to work on it to improve the situation for my son's sake. i would imagine and hope that parents will no longer play a role in their children's social circle as they get older, pls tell me that i am right! however, in the meantime, given my quiet nature, it will be quite difficult for me to "act" socialable. any advice?

Working alongside someone is an easier way to get to know them. Afterward, you have shared experiences to talk about. That is why PTA would be great if you could take on the responsibility of being the literacy commissioner or whatever position is standing empty, working on a fundraiser--- whatever. Other community organizations could provide you with similar opportunities.

thanks acitez for your suggestions. though, i am a working mother that it will be challenging for me to take on a position for the PTA. i did volunteered several times as a chaperone and helper for special school occasions and i felt quite left out when other parents formed little groups chit-chatting among themselves. anyway, like i said, i just didn't realize parents can play such a key role in our children's social circle. from my point of view, for kids say 6 and above, they should be able to form friendship with others on their own naturally without parent intervention. parents can then get to know each other because of their kids playing together. instead, in reality, it seems to be working the other way around where the parents have to be acquainted with each other before their kids get to play with one other. as a result, kids' friendships are built sort of "man-made" by parents.

doraemon, Just realized I confused you w/ acitez's comment about feeling comfortable leaving her children w/ parents she doesn't know well. I've done it, and I had a bad experience. That's why I guess I'm so sensitive about that subject. Sorry for the mix-up. In many ways I feel like you. What ever happened to kids forming friendships on their own? Times have changed, and I'm learning that it's up to us parents to initiate friendships for our children's sakes. I guess that's not so bad b/c you can feel the parents out, and get a feel for the kids your children are hanging out w/. It just puts a lot of pressure on us as parents, and it makes us feel responsible if our children don't develop lasting relationships. Hang in there. I'm sure in time things will get better.

I just got back from running a registration form for Cub Scouts to one of my neighbors and I thought of you. How about Scouting? Whether you are able to be involved or not, it is a great place for boys to work side-by-side and make friends. And if you are willing to be on the committee that is a great place for you to make friends, too. Check the phone book, then ask at the school. Find a den.

hi acitez, it is so nice of you to have thought of me. you sounds like quite a people person based on everything you mentioned you did, from the potluck party to cub scouts registration process. perhaps it has a lot to do with your very own personality that you are just the kind that like to be around people. on the other hand, i am quite the opposite of your type. i enjoy time to myself. you got it right on when you mentioned how parents nowadays can feel pressured for their children social well being. that is exactly how i am feeling and for me to try to be someone that i am not is quite difficult. i feel guilty for the thought that i have a lot to do with the fact that my son doesn't have close friends. the other day, i hugged my son and said, " i love you" followed by "i am sorry". my son asked me when i apologized. i just said "because i love you".

You don't have to be on the committee to have your boy in scouts. We have lots of kids who just come to the meeting.