13yo son is having social issues

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Casual scribe

13yo son is having social issues

Hello everyone,

My son who is an 8th grade has been struggling in school the last few years. He's currently on a 504 plan due to his medical history (transplant patient, cardiology issues, pulmonary issues..etc.) Besides his growth stunt (he's as tall as a 5th-6th grader) he's a very bright kid. He's been tested for learning disabilities but scored superior than most kids. This makes me wonder if it's his social life which is effecting his school performance. We've thought of homeschooling him but he wasn't too excited about it at the time, so we kept him in a regular school setting. Now he's requesting to be homeschooled. I began questioning him about his social life at school and he's slowly opening up to me and he mentioned that he sits alone during lunch. He calls himself an introvert and claims he's "socially awkward" he loves to play Video games and be alone for the most part. He claims the kids are nice but he feels more comfortable being alone. This breaks my heart sooo much. I cried because it hurts me knowing that. He hides himself under his hoodie. He doesn't go to school without it. I feel like that's his comfort away from home. We just got back from back to school night and I notice he walks with his head down. He doesn't seem like he has much confidence in himself. I wish i could just remove him from school and homeschool him but i don't know of that's the best thing to do. I've scheduled him for counseling this Thurs. Itll be our first appt. I'm hoping this will help him open up and maybe they can teach me a few things along the way (it'll be family counseling too) I know all kids don't learn the same way or at the same pace but i feel like if i were to do that it'll just isolate him even more. My heart is broken!
Community Manager

Re: 13yo son is having social issues

Hi @KattMomma 

 

Welcome to ReachOut and thank you for sharing what is going on for you and your son. I can sense the concern and sadness in your post. You sound like a warm and caring mother - that is the most important thing any child or teenager could have. In saying that I can only imagine how difficult it is to watch your boy struggle at school. It's great to hear that you have arranged a counsellor for your family - you are taking all the right steps! 

 

If you're interested we have lots of articles for parents with help on a range of topics. Including School, education and teenagers - if you want to have a read click here. We also have heaps of wonderful parents on this forum who I'm sure will empathise with what you are going through Heart 

 

@PapaBill @Dad4good @JohnT @JAKGR8 @Maruko  

Parent Community Champion

Re: 13yo son is having social issues

Hi @KattMomma 

 

it is definitely hard when we see our children struggling.  

School is definitely more than just academic classes, there is the whole social side which is part of the learning.  Like your son, both my children we not social in the school setting.

Repeatedly I had my friends raise their concerns about the lack of interaction my children had with others at school.  

 

It sounds like your son is able to get along at school both academically and socially and is NOT suffering bullying or harassment which is good news?  

 

Not all kids are social in schools and IMHO it is OK for a child to be an "introvert ", though it can be hard if you as a parent are more "extroverted".   I often struggled with this with my kids during their early teens. 

Now they are at University my son is very socially active and my daughter has remained her own best friend.  Both are happy with who they are though even now I desperately try to get my daughter "out" with others as much as I can.

 

Today being "in" (your home) is not as isolating as it was when we were younger.  

Social media, on line games etc all have interactions that were not available when we were younger.

IMHO it is no substitute for face to face time with friend but then I am told that is an old mans view by some young ones!

 

If you did not worry for your children it would mean you were not a good parent.  

Is there anything you can interest your son in outside of school to help him develop friends.

Sports ? Games?  Clubs?  

 

I believe alternatives to traditional schooling in the right situation it is a god send.  In the wrong situation I believe home schooling can make things worse.  My step daughter does distance learning from home as part of a plan developed by her physiologist and psychiatrist and that is right for her.

 

My son and daughter both did traditional schooling despite being "introvert" as I mentioned above and that was right for them as it helped them improve their social skills which are part of what they needed to learn to become independent adults.

 

I can't say what you should do, I am not in a position to do so.  What I can say is it sounds like you love and care very much for your son and it is always hard to watch them struggle.

 

 

 

 

 

Active scribe

Re: 13yo son is having social issues

KattMomma,

 

I am sorry you are having a hard time watching your son struggle.  I am writing you from the US, so, it is possible we have differences in our school program.  But, we have 504's here in the US...so, sounds like we are similar.

 

I have 2 kids (13 yr old daughter in the 8th grade and 16 year old son in the 10th grade).  Both are on 504's for different reasons.  We have considered alternatives to traditional school at times for both, however, I am a fan of public schools for some of the reasons noted in the other posts - it develops our kids interpersonal and life skills.  It sounds like your son is on par and even advanced academically, which is assuring he is coping well in his environment.  Also, the fact that he says "the kids are nice" is also a good thing that he is not being bully'ed, but, has yet to develop a close group of friends.

 

You mentioned video games, which caught my attention.  In my opinion, the video game culture and access kids have today can be super fun and a release, but, dangerous at the same time.  My 16 year old son was obsessed with video games during elementary school years up through the ~7th grade timeframe.  Had we not given him structure, he would have spent his entire day and free time in his video games.  Early on, we let him self manage his time.  But, in the 4th grade timeframe, we realized it was almost a "drug" causing him to check out from life and human interaction.  So, we limited his time to 1 hour during the week and 2 hours on the weekend.  We had to regularly explain it was not a punishment, but, for his own good - "immersing yourself in anything with isolation is not good for the heart, mind and soul".  While he did not like it, he accepted our reasoning.  At times, we would use the "computer time" allowed as a punishment if he acted up (normal kid stuff) and we would take away all of us computer time.  I only share this note because when we took away his computer time, he was a totally different kid - in an awesome way.  We'd always point this out to him and oddly enough, he agreed he was different when he was not on his computer time.  During the 7th grade timeframe, he changed into a different person completely - got a new group of friends and rarely games at all now.  My wife and I talk all the time now how glad we were that we put some boundaries on the computer time.  My son has a buddy that lives in different part of the country that he used to "game" with all the time in elementary school.  Their entire relationship was a gaming relationship.  His buddy had no boundaries on his computer time playing as much as 8 hours a day when school was out.  That boy is now 15 and still games all the time with continued isolation.  IMHO, we are doing our kids a favor when we put boundaries on anything that is to much and taking away from other aspects of growing up.

 

I also wanted to comment - Introverts Rock! :-)  I'm saying this as a hard core introvert.  I learned early in my professional career the actual psychological meaning on these terms introvert/extrovert, which interesting enough has little to do with our ability to be "social", but, more specifically to "where we draw our energy from".  Introverts recharge the batteries and draw energy from themselves and within needing down time, alone time, or time with a small group.  Where extroverts draw their energy from  others in social settings.  As adults, introverts have abilities extroverts don't and vice versa.  I enjoy being an introvert and personally believe it has shaped my life in a positive way where my life has largely been shaped by my internal strength, values, and close family and friends. In my professional life, you would never know I am an introvert because we develop people skills just life extroverts.  My wife is a hard core extrovert, which works well for us.  My only advice on the fact your son calls himself an introvert is he not look at that as a bad thing - it is how God made him and will be a strength for him as he grows up.

 

On the home school / public school topic, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer - both can be good depending on your sons needs.  But, based on the little I know from your post, I think public school could be the best thing for him.  If he is progressing academically, he is "safe", and moving through life - I am not sure home school will fix anything.  In contrast, removing him from an environment where he is around peers could further isolate him and void him of life experience that will shape him.  Middle school years suck.  They are so hard for early teens - flood of hormones, they lose and gain a new identity, their body completely changes, and they are trying to figure out who they are.  That is the hard truth about transitioning from youth to adult, which our kids need love, support, encouragement, and acceptance.  They need our wisdom to teach them and empower them in their strengths and  lead them away from self-deprecating "labels".

 

The last comment I will provide for consideration is if your son is struggling (sadness, depression), counseling may be helpful for him.  We supported my son in the 2nd grade, 4th grade, and 6th grade in counseling.  He didn't want to do it, but, it showed him we were there for him and gave him a place where he could process what was going on in his head.  He had a "team" in the home and outside the home that was For Him, and educated my wife and I how to support him.  Additionally, outside the 504 Meetings with the School - we regularly meet with our kids teachers so they know what we see at home and we get the benefit of what they see at school.  I am so grateful to the teachers and the care they have for our kids.  And, they appreciate the open discussion and teaming with us.  Being proactive on depression is important for the age of your son - If you think that is what he needs.  We have had a tough experience with our daughter who is battling depression, but, I am glad we have invested in counseling for both our kids.

 

KattMomma, I can tell your heart is hurting for your son and I am so sorry for that.  I can tell you are very invested in your son and supporting him in any way possible. Take care and sending you good vibes and prayers for the US.

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Casual scribe

Re: 13yo son is having social issues

Thank you everyone for all your great feedback! When speaking to his teachers it seems like he doesn't have much motivation or puts in much effort during classtime. I can't get him to work independently. He has to be pushed into getting anything done. When this happens i remove all electronics but it seems to bring him into deeper isolation. Depression could definitely be a factor and low self-esteem. The articles provided to us here are awesome, and I'm working on enhancing my parenting skills too.

Yesterday, we all took a walk to the park and he had a great time. He made a friend at the park, he was even playing soccer with her. Setting limits on gaming/Tv time is something I need to be stricter on. I immediately seen a difference yesterday with a little more outdoor time. He was in a better mood after our walk, even though he didn't want to join me and his sisters initially.

In regards, to clubs and sports he can't play any contact sports due to his health but he's been interested in archery. I'll be enrolling him up for some classes they offer nearby.

I'm looking forward to counseling to see where this new journey takes us. Thank you all! I appreciate the kind words and positive energy from all you! I'm also an introvert, and I completely understand his emotions. It's just hard to think he has no one to sit with during lunch. I don't want to be that mom that saves him from every situation. I want to raise an independent son who will be able to cope on his own. At the end of the day that's my baby, my firstborn and he's very special from everything he's been through.
Active scribe

Re: 13yo son is having social issues

@KattMomma, trust your parenting skills.  Your comments and worry tell me you have everything it takes - kids need our heart first and foremost.  And, trust your judgement and wisdom.  I love that you see a difference when there are limits on gaming.  It will take time, probably years, but, just keep explaining to him the "boundaries" are gaming are not punishment.  It is what is good for him - these years of 11 through 18, he is building life skills that shape him for adulthood.  In time, he will understand that and when he has experiences like he did at the park and you reflect with him, over time, he will grow.  It sounds like your son has a big heart that is going through difficult change.  That is where his character and strength is established  Stay strong KattMomma! You have what it takes and I suspect your son knows you love him dearly.  Take care.

Parent Community Champion

Re: 13yo son is having social issues

This is so hard and heartbreaking seeing a lovely child struggle is difficult. You have had some great ideas here and obviously have tried some great suggestions so I'm not sure I have much more to offer. 

 

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 time to be alone as well. Remember, even loners can change the world. Is it possible he was the centre of attention/concern while ill and actually likes being unnoticed? Also, we found the 'right' school for him. It doesn't suit everybody but was perfect for him. If options of another school is available it might be worth considering. Or maybe it would help to try part time at school and at home for a while. Just to ease through this difficult time.

 

The teenage years are a stressful time even for physically healthy teens. Health problems and sometimes the treatments that cure them can delay development. Many illnesses can make a teen's development even harder. It can lead to more intense concerns about physical appearance and interfere with gaining independence.

 

Illness and treatment often interfere with time spent with peers or in the school setting so this can lead to self-esteem issues and concerns about acceptance. Children, who are unwell, do tend to spend a lot of time with adults. His illness may have affected his sense of self, who he is. He may not have had as many opportunities to practise different skills and might struggle to learn them, and this can lead to difficulty with more complicated cognitive and social tasks. He may not know how to talk to other people, how to be friendly or how to feel comfortable with others. He may not have the problem-solving skills to work out what other people want from him and how to deal with other people’s behaviour or meet expectations/demands. This is where your decision to see a counsellor will be beneficial.

 

I also assume he has gaps in school attendance. He may not have the stamina, mentally or physically, to cope at the normal rate.  This can take a loooooooooonnnnng time to rebuild. Is he on any medication that could affect his mental and physical resilience and strength?

 

Teens also need to rebel in some form or another.  He may not even be aware that he is doing it.  If other risks are potentially too harmful, academic decline is a safe option. Is this a possibility? Could your son be just trying to have some control over school? Lack of motivation is a form of resistance. The motivation is to do things his way. The motivation is to retain power. When kids feel powerless, they try to feel powerful by withholding. This doesn’t mean your son is ‘naughty’ or disrespectful. He may see it as the only way to have control over what’s going on around him.

 

Even though he has been through a lot already and you obviously care enough to talk with him and try to find the problem, it is important to still be the parent. It sounds like you are doing this already by giving consequences. Boys also respond very well to praise, descriptive praise. They can’t get enough of it. Rewards can work too. Commend his accomplishments and effort—including those times when it fails to bring the desired results. Remember he may like this to be private, on the down low, so he doesn’t get embarrassed. Rather than focus on results you can focus on the desired skills and processes your son demonstrates.  If he doesn’t get an A, did he still; show curiosity, question, research, problem solve, practise? Or other traits of a good learner? This can be applied to all areas of course.

 

Everybody excels at something. Everybody needs to excel at something. So maybe you can find something that gives him joy or a feeling of success. The archery sounds promising. Music? Art? Volunteering? Writing?  Kids want to feel valued not only by their families but by the greater community. This will help him find positive ways of building self-esteem and exploring self-identity.

 

I hope this is just another bump in the road for you. I reckon you have this under control. Sending lots of hugs and hope it just gets better from here. 

JA