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Teenage son with no friends


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
Community Manager

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?

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