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Teenage son with no friends

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Casual scribe

Teenage son with no friends


First of all I hope it's ok that I have joined when I am in the UK? So much advice online seems to be from Australia (I've been reading listening to Maggie dent for one...thanks Australia for her!)

Anyway, I am looking for advice about my almost 15 year old son. Since lockdown he has now got no friends and doesn't socialise at all. He says he enjoyed lockdown and all the online learning. Apart from going to school everyday, all he wants to do is go on his gamers PC. He used to play multi player games on the Xbox (and was at least communicating with peers through a headset) but the type of games he plays now do not involve communication (GTA, Red dead redemption etc).

We have to force him out of the house to do things as a family (dog walks etc). Even now while we are on holiday at a beautiful resort, we are having to negotiate with him to join in activities ie coming on slides at the water park. Once we get him to join in he is visibly having fun (who wouldn't have fun on a water slide?!) but then slinks back into old behaviours and wants to be on his phone (a substitute for his PC while we're away...again gaming.).

We have sought advice from school who are Pershing an Autism assessment (that won't come through until he's left anyway the way things are at the moment) and the GP. The GP has suggest we take his PC off him and go cold turkey as it is clearly this that is contributing to his social isolation/anxiety.

We have sought support from services that could offer counselling/social groups etc but our son is refusing to engage. His perspective is a very immature one. He says I lied to the GP in how many hours I said he was spending on screens (I said he spends the whole day on his PC) but this is just a technicality, yes we have screen limits but if we didn't it is all he would do. She said that regardless of a diagnosis of ASD, we are still faced with the same child and she basically told him off and said he needs to be more respectful of me (he argued the screen thing in front of her) and agree to do at least one non screen related activity a day and plan one social event a week.

My biggest barrier is HOW to get him to do this. I'm at the end of my tether with him refusing help.

Thanks for any advice you can offer
Prolific scribe

Re: Teenage son with no friends

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Hi @FlorenceSamuels , and welcome to the online community! Our Parents Forum is a space that is open to international users, so you're more than welcome to post from the UK.

I'm sorry to hear about what you've been going through with your son, it sounds incredibly difficult to see him disengaged from his peers and the family. You mentioned that his trouble with friends and isolation started in lockdown - did he have any trouble making friends prior to this?

From what you've said, it sounds as though your son does enjoy some of the time he spends with his family, but that his PC and phone might be acting as a bit of a security blanket since COVID. Unfortunately, this seems to be very common - some young people (and adults too) have been struggling to adjust to life after lockdown and are finding it a bit difficult to get back into the habit of spending time with friends and socialising in a way that doesn't involve technology. If you think it might be useful, Headspace has a self-assessment quiz on returning to a pre-COVID lifestyle. The quiz is designed to help young people to identify what they are finding hard about adjusting to life after lockdown and provides some ideas and coping strategies based on what your teen selects. You can find it here

It seems like you've been really proactive in seeking out support for your son. What do you think about the advice that his GP gave you to take his PC away from him? There's no right or wrong answer here, it's all about what you think will work best for your teen, but if you're leaning towards a more gradual approach, it might be useful to set up some 'screen-free family time' for a few hours each night or on weekends. If you set up a time at home where everyone is expected to stop using their screens, hopefully this might help ease him back into socialising and engaging with the family. And, if there's an expectation that everyone stops using their screens, this might help him to see that he's not being 'punished' or singled out. Do you think this could work for you and your family?

Casual scribe

Re: Teenage son with no friends

Thanks so much for your reply. I didn't think I'd had a response so came back on to search my question found it! (I'm not sure how this forum works yet)
Anyway, yes he had friends before lockdown but not a big group. He usually spoke to people online and had one close friend who he has since fallen out with. He also had acquaintances at Scouts but that has now ended as he is now too old for the group unfortunately. This breaks my heart as the scout leader was brilliant but sadly they don't have Explorers (the next one up from Scouts) at their club and my son would not go to another area as this would be completely out of his comfort zone.
I will try the headspace quiz. I have looked at various places for advice and we are lucky where we live to have some great services. There is one called 42nd street which runs clubs/has counsellors who were brilliant in offering support but my son refused to engage. He said it was cringey!
Yes we definitely lean towards a gradual approach with screens and have screen free times as part of our routine. My son responds quite well to routine. This is what he loved about lockdown. We did the same thing day in day out. He knew the expectations about screen free time/exercise/meals and absolutely loved it. Now things are back to 'normal' and we have people around to the house again he hates it. If we arrange to meet up with or go away with family for the weekend he doesn't want to come. When he is forced to come he barely speaks to anyone. Cousins who he used to be close to try to engage with him but his responses are monosyllabic and eventually they give up. Adults who should be more supportive say he is rude and his grandma said deserves a slap (which has caused a big family fall out as you can imagine).
I'm trying to separate what is just his personality (whether or not he has Autism) what is normal teenage behaviour and what is a result of lockdown and I'm driving myself mad with it. Maybe I need to forget about the root causes and just focus on the child I have in front of me and work from there?
Thank you once again for your advice and I'm so grateful for any further support /advise you or the community can offer me.

Re: Teenage son with no friends

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Hi @FlorenceSamuels , it’s nice to hear from you again. We really appreciate you taking the time to reach out and share what’s been going on for you. It has shown a lot of courage Smiley Happy 

I am sorry to hear that your son had a falling out with his friend, that can be really tough for a young person to go through. It’s such a bummer that the club in your area doesn’t offer the Explorers group, I wonder if there are any other clubs or activities in your area that interest your son? 

You mentioned that you found a run club/counsellor service in your area, and that your son isn’t too keen on engaging with them at this point. I found this article on things to try when supporting your teen getting help here, I wonder if any of these tips might help with this? 

It’s really positive to hear that you have been able to establish a routine around screen time, it sounds like routines work really well with your son Smiley Happy

You mentioned that some adults haven’t been speaking in a very supportive way about your son, and I’m really sorry that you had to experience that. It sounds like the comments made were really hurtful, especially coming from family.  

With everything that is going on, I am wondering if you have any support for yourself? Supporting someone through a tough time can be tough on you too, and it’s important to take care of yourself just as much as it is to take care of your son. Is there anyone you trust to talk about this with? Such as a friend/family member or a counsellor? 

I want to remind you that you’re not alone in this, we are here to support you.