13yo boy struggling at school socially

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Casual scribe

13yo boy struggling at school socially

My son had to relocate schools due to a marriage breakdown around 4 years ago. He has always struggled with "fitting in" before we relocated, as he struggles from anxiety.  Academically, he holds his own. Is attentive in class and the teachers always speak of him glowingly. Socially, in four years he has only made one friend who is a girl, but is unable to hang with her, because it's not kool to hang with him (as a boy without being the boyfriend). He has fallen in and out with acquaintances, but hasn't held any friend relationships for more than a few months. 

 

I continually encourage him to be "strong" and "be himself".. and now bow to peer pressure, but I think it's backfired. He says that his "reputation is ruined" and there is no coming back from that. He says ALL the kids think he is weird, gay or both. He can't really articulate why. He is weak at sports, but tries. He is strong academically, so is picked on because he is good at most things (not genious level, but he can hold his own with maths, science, language). 

 

When we first moved, I invited boys over for "plays" and sleepovers, which is what we did where we used to be, but most of the time I have always been knocked back by the parent, saying they are busy, etc.

 

He's a really sweet friendly kid. He moved back to the city where we were from to live with his dad for a while. The school was twice as large as his old/current school, and he adapted really well, and made a couple of friends whom he is still friends with and plays xbox online. Things outside of school didn't go well for him so he returned, and wanted to go back to his old school, even though things weren't ideal "socially"..  I think it was comfortable (and still is). He wins awards all the time. Teachers don't understand his issues because in the classroom he is the perfect student.

 

I know he hangs by himself often, most of the time he says he's ok with it, but I really do worry. He used to go to the library most lunch times, but even that is difficult as the library isn't always available.

 

I have reached out to his language teacher (whom is new, but he seems to have a high respect for the teacher), and he is going to try and help, including an older child to mentor him and help him see the larger picture/ long term goal..

 

He is also started martial arts with this language teacher, so I'm hoping he may allow this teacher to help. The teacher is certainly willing. Recently there was an incident before training with one of the other kids where my son was "shown aggression" by one of his trusted peers, this has magnified all the other issues, because martial arts was his "safe place" to be. The teacher is dealing with this also.

 

Most boys his age have been through puberty already. I believe he has recently entered it. Things are starting to change more, and he is becoming more self conscious.  He has been through various periods of school refusal, sickness, psychological counselling, being bullied.. you name it, we have faced it. When I asked if he wanted to see the new school counsellor, he said I don't want to, because they can't help. He's had lots of psychologists over the years due the anxiety caused by the marriage breakdown and school refusals. We thought he was on the other side of this, but he appears to be heading back down the same road and seems depressed.

 

His father doesn't believe there is an issue, so he will not agree to the child trying medication. The child doesn't eat many foods, he has been diagnosed with Avoidant Food Refusal Disorder, which is also impacting on his growth and ability to cope. We have him on a really good multivitamin as well as magnesium twice a day. I know he is on the spectrum, but because he is so high functioning, he gets past any cries for help by saying what he needs to say to make the attention (ie psychologist etc) go away.  

 

Any thoughts? It triggers my anxiety feeling like there is nothing I can do to help him.

Mod

Re: 13yo boy struggling at school socially

Hi @Andreae66, that sounds like a really tough situation. Thanks for sharing your experience and hopefully some other parents reply with some insight soon.

 

It sounds like your son is bright academically, has had some tough times and as well as having a difficult time relating with his peers. I am also hearing that you and he with the support of the language teacher are exploring opportunities for him to be more included, which is great and hopefully is fulfilling for him.

 

In terms of adolescence and puberty, it is a difficult and confusing time for most, and some or all of his current depressed presentation may be because of this. Puberty is also a time where we can learn emotional regulation and coping so some discomfort is normal. That said, it sounds like you are attentive to these changes and are monitoring this. I would encourage you to seek professional help with your son if needed. There is also Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) if he would to speak with someone.

 

Medication can be a difficult topic, getting some information and advice from your GP might be helpful in general and to assist discussing this with his Father.

 

It sounds like you are doing a lot to support him, including reaching out for support and advice. In order to support him, it's important to support yourself too. Could it be helpful to seek out a counsellor/psychologist for yourself? It could be great for encouraging him to see a professional again as well as helpful for you to manage.

 

The encouragement and support you're providing to your 13yo young man is great, and this is a time when his strengths and personality are emerging is a big way. He may become more social or he may discover that he is naturally more of an introvert.

Prolific scribe

Re: 13yo boy struggling at school socially

Hey there @Andreae66,

 

It sounds like you have put a lot of steps in place to help your son, and that is amazing. How has he been going with school? 

 

@TOM-RO has given some fantastic advice, I was also wondering, do you have anyone you can talk to when you're feeling anxious? It's absolutely okay to feel anxious about your son, but having someone to talk to about those feelings can be really helpful in coping with them, what do you think? 

 

I hope things are going well Smiley Happy

Casual scribe

Re: 13yo boy struggling at school socially

Thank you. It's tricky. His teacher has reached out and he is feeling somewhat supported, so we shall see how it goes. He had a melt down on Friday morning because he was in fear of hurting himself at a "trade" subject where they need to use hammers and large equipment. At a total loss, I eventually bribed him by saying he could have $20 towards the Japanese trip savings he has two years to save $5000. He pushed through. The class didn't happen because of another item on at school instead, so we will see next week if he continues to push through. Suggesting Kids Helpline is useful. I will make sure he knows how to call them in case he feels it may help
Prolific scribe

Re: 13yo boy struggling at school socially

Hey there @Andreae66,

 

It's great to hear that he's feeling more supported! Smiley Happy It can be scary to work with potentially dangerous tools like large equipment, how is he going with the classes? 

 

Suggesting KidsHelpLine as a place he can go for support sounds like a fantastic idea, how did it go? 

 

I hope things are going well for you, we're here to listen Smiley Happy

Parent Community Champion

Re: 13yo boy struggling at school socially

This is so hard and heartbreaking. Seeing a lovely child struggle with anything is difficult. I don't have much to offer but will think about this.
We found that our language and vocab made a big difference. Instead of nervous we would say anticipation, hard to challenging, annoying to frustrating, anxious to inundated. We try to use words that sound like they can be overcome. Also we try to identify everything that is going right more than what is going wrong. Sometimes this is very hard.
Also, it is ok for your boy to be alone - not lonely- but solo. Our's didn't prioritize friendships until senior years and still doesn't have a strong group of friends but we encourage him to be strong and happy to spend time with himself. At times, it worried him but he can still fit in when needed and loves lime to be alone as well. Remember, even loners can change the world.
JA