At 18, there's not much mom can do to facilitate friendships

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  January 18, 2012 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

My son, now 18, has always had trouble fitting in with his peers. He does not like sports or playing board games or even video games. He's very verbal and loves to debate. He's a bit on the feminine side in his mannerisms but don't think he's gay. He does very well in school, although he's better in English than in math. I think his problem is that he has not found a way to "play" that he enjoys. He loves to be with his peers, but is usually left out. As a result, he's had trouble with minor depression and anxiety, which he takes some mild medication for and gets counseling for.

I'm looking for advice on how he can further develop his social skills so he can form deeper lasting friendships.

From: Sally, Austin, TX

Hi Sally,

I'm glad your son is in counseling. At 18, he needs to figure these things out for himself. My best suggestion is for you to be supportive of his efforts, whatever they might be, and, perhaps, to seek some professional counseling yourself (not the same person as your son.) I'm wondering if you're carrying around some guilt (that you didn't get him help soon enough? That you are somehow responsible?). Obviously, I'm fishing around here and I'm trying to be gentle, but I can see only benefits for both of you getting professional help.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

14 comments so far...
  1. Sally, you need to let your son continue counseling and get out of the way. If your son is moving on to college soon, his world should expand exponentionally and he will very likely be able to find people with similar interests and problems. If you do anything for him, assist his efforts at finding a school that is accepting and diverse, and where he can transition his counseling smoothly. Also, since you had to mention that you don't "think" he's gay, perhaps you have to examine how YOU might feel about that.

    Posted by Mark January 18, 12 07:32 AM
  1. I would also have him speak with his counselor about the possibility of group therapy. This might be a way for him to "practice" his social skills.

    Posted by br88 January 18, 12 08:40 AM
  1. Does he enjoy any activities? Music, art, woodworking, cooking, individual sports like running or martial arts? Sometimes getting out and pursuing an activity can be a backdoor into socializing for people who have difficulty making friends.

    Posted by Diana January 18, 12 01:03 PM
  1. College transitions are hard so do your best right now to be supportive and really look into a great school that suits him. Keep a pulse on the depression thing, but don't be overwhelming!

    Posted by Lw January 19, 12 09:52 AM
  1. He's probably gay. Talk to him about it. Be supportive.

    Posted by Jeff January 19, 12 10:58 AM
  1. If he likes English, would he be interested in theater? This was a great outlet for some in high school, even to just be a part of the stage crew or production and not an actor on stage.

    Posted by teacherinmass January 19, 12 11:05 PM
  1. Confused.

    There's so many friends that can be made online via shared interests, especially for someone who likes writing.

    Does he have no 'local' friends? Or no friends?

    Posted by Michael January 20, 12 12:23 PM
  1. It's never too late for:

    a Scrabble club

    a choir

    a debating club

    community theatre

    foreign language classes

    a job at the Boston Globe

    This son has been unlucky that teachers have not directed him into these or simiilar activities at school. Or maybe he needs to attend a school with high English scores. I think that refusing to hang out with "jocks" shows maturity and intelligence. Put this "ugly duckling" in with his own kind and he will have buckets of good friends.

    Posted by Irene January 20, 12 04:06 PM
  1. Are there any clubs at school that interest him? Maybe a debate team? Joining a structured activity that interests him is a great way to meet others who share his interests and expand his social circle.

    Posted by dmpbride January 20, 12 10:45 PM
  1. I wish you and your son the best. My son was similar. We were fortunate to have a school nearby that allows children to educate themselves as they see fit. It means lots of kids debating and arguing for much of the day. My son is now 23 and he articulated recently that he has always had to make compromises to have friends, but that it's been worth it. He played Dungeons and Dragons every weekend with a great group of kids even though he didn't particularly like the game. Perhaps your son would consider playing video games sometimes just for the company. Inviting a large group of boys to his own house would take some pressure off. Your main duty would be providing tons of great food! Another easy way to get teens together is to host a movie marathon.. My son hosted a "Back To The Future" (3 movies) marathon, for example. I wish you luck. I know how hard it is to watch your child suffer socially. He's got lots of company, even if he thinks otherwise. Hope college is in his future. It's a whole new ballgame and it's likely he will find more people who like to sit around debating anything and everything all day long.

    Posted by Linda O'Leary January 21, 12 09:28 PM
  1. Generally, I've found that these types of boys do great in extracurricular activities like drama; debate club; mock trial, etc. Even if he didn't want to act there are loads of non-acting jobs in any production. These groups tend to become huge cliques of their own, with everyone finding a place. It's too late for this now though. With college will come brand new opportunities to make friends, although it would be helpful if he could figure out why it is that he is being "left out" when he is with his peers.

    Posted by MomOfJunior January 22, 12 09:00 AM
  1. Why have the age peers been leaving him out? Chances are that his vocabulary was many grades ahead of them at some point, and that's when they started avoiding him.

    Didn't the school system address his high verbal skills in terms of more challenging coursework YEARS ago? Why not? And if they didn't, then they contributed to this alienation by forcing him to spend years of his life stuck with people that would never feel good being with him.

    One side of the gifted-child situation is that the gifted child really needs to be with functional peers as much as with age peers. Have you been living in a place without public libraries or other resources?

    This is stuff that GOOD therapy should have uncovered. Feeding him antidepressants instead of directing him to his natural peer group is not going to work. College will use his intelligence better, and he will find a good group to feel at home with.

    Posted by Irene January 25, 12 10:05 AM
  1. I have three different friends whose sons are gay but their moms don't / didn't think so. Two of them suffered for years before finally coming out in/after college. One still has not come out to his parents.

    I think you need to open yourself up to the possibility/probability that he is gay, or bi, or confused. Get yourself into acceptance and support mode and then bring it up gently. Check out Pflag and other organizations for info about how to have this conversation.

    Best wishes

    Posted by just cause January 25, 12 11:54 AM
  1. I also recommend suggesting theater, including community theater or regional teen programs outside of school. Theater kids tend to be more accepting and open minded and if he doesn't want to be on stage there are plenty of behind the scenes jobs to do. It's not too late, as some people have said. There could be time to find a spring production or something during the summer. I made a lot of new friends in the school musical second half of senior year.

    Posted by Cordelia January 25, 12 06:26 PM
 
14 comments so far...
  1. Sally, you need to let your son continue counseling and get out of the way. If your son is moving on to college soon, his world should expand exponentionally and he will very likely be able to find people with similar interests and problems. If you do anything for him, assist his efforts at finding a school that is accepting and diverse, and where he can transition his counseling smoothly. Also, since you had to mention that you don't "think" he's gay, perhaps you have to examine how YOU might feel about that.

    Posted by Mark January 18, 12 07:32 AM
  1. I would also have him speak with his counselor about the possibility of group therapy. This might be a way for him to "practice" his social skills.

    Posted by br88 January 18, 12 08:40 AM
  1. Does he enjoy any activities? Music, art, woodworking, cooking, individual sports like running or martial arts? Sometimes getting out and pursuing an activity can be a backdoor into socializing for people who have difficulty making friends.

    Posted by Diana January 18, 12 01:03 PM
  1. College transitions are hard so do your best right now to be supportive and really look into a great school that suits him. Keep a pulse on the depression thing, but don't be overwhelming!

    Posted by Lw January 19, 12 09:52 AM
  1. He's probably gay. Talk to him about it. Be supportive.

    Posted by Jeff January 19, 12 10:58 AM
  1. If he likes English, would he be interested in theater? This was a great outlet for some in high school, even to just be a part of the stage crew or production and not an actor on stage.

    Posted by teacherinmass January 19, 12 11:05 PM
  1. Confused.

    There's so many friends that can be made online via shared interests, especially for someone who likes writing.

    Does he have no 'local' friends? Or no friends?

    Posted by Michael January 20, 12 12:23 PM
  1. It's never too late for:

    a Scrabble club

    a choir

    a debating club

    community theatre

    foreign language classes

    a job at the Boston Globe

    This son has been unlucky that teachers have not directed him into these or simiilar activities at school. Or maybe he needs to attend a school with high English scores. I think that refusing to hang out with "jocks" shows maturity and intelligence. Put this "ugly duckling" in with his own kind and he will have buckets of good friends.

    Posted by Irene January 20, 12 04:06 PM
  1. Are there any clubs at school that interest him? Maybe a debate team? Joining a structured activity that interests him is a great way to meet others who share his interests and expand his social circle.

    Posted by dmpbride January 20, 12 10:45 PM
  1. I wish you and your son the best. My son was similar. We were fortunate to have a school nearby that allows children to educate themselves as they see fit. It means lots of kids debating and arguing for much of the day. My son is now 23 and he articulated recently that he has always had to make compromises to have friends, but that it's been worth it. He played Dungeons and Dragons every weekend with a great group of kids even though he didn't particularly like the game. Perhaps your son would consider playing video games sometimes just for the company. Inviting a large group of boys to his own house would take some pressure off. Your main duty would be providing tons of great food! Another easy way to get teens together is to host a movie marathon.. My son hosted a "Back To The Future" (3 movies) marathon, for example. I wish you luck. I know how hard it is to watch your child suffer socially. He's got lots of company, even if he thinks otherwise. Hope college is in his future. It's a whole new ballgame and it's likely he will find more people who like to sit around debating anything and everything all day long.

    Posted by Linda O'Leary January 21, 12 09:28 PM
  1. Generally, I've found that these types of boys do great in extracurricular activities like drama; debate club; mock trial, etc. Even if he didn't want to act there are loads of non-acting jobs in any production. These groups tend to become huge cliques of their own, with everyone finding a place. It's too late for this now though. With college will come brand new opportunities to make friends, although it would be helpful if he could figure out why it is that he is being "left out" when he is with his peers.

    Posted by MomOfJunior January 22, 12 09:00 AM
  1. Why have the age peers been leaving him out? Chances are that his vocabulary was many grades ahead of them at some point, and that's when they started avoiding him.

    Didn't the school system address his high verbal skills in terms of more challenging coursework YEARS ago? Why not? And if they didn't, then they contributed to this alienation by forcing him to spend years of his life stuck with people that would never feel good being with him.

    One side of the gifted-child situation is that the gifted child really needs to be with functional peers as much as with age peers. Have you been living in a place without public libraries or other resources?

    This is stuff that GOOD therapy should have uncovered. Feeding him antidepressants instead of directing him to his natural peer group is not going to work. College will use his intelligence better, and he will find a good group to feel at home with.

    Posted by Irene January 25, 12 10:05 AM
  1. I have three different friends whose sons are gay but their moms don't / didn't think so. Two of them suffered for years before finally coming out in/after college. One still has not come out to his parents.

    I think you need to open yourself up to the possibility/probability that he is gay, or bi, or confused. Get yourself into acceptance and support mode and then bring it up gently. Check out Pflag and other organizations for info about how to have this conversation.

    Best wishes

    Posted by just cause January 25, 12 11:54 AM
  1. I also recommend suggesting theater, including community theater or regional teen programs outside of school. Theater kids tend to be more accepting and open minded and if he doesn't want to be on stage there are plenty of behind the scenes jobs to do. It's not too late, as some people have said. There could be time to find a spring production or something during the summer. I made a lot of new friends in the school musical second half of senior year.

    Posted by Cordelia January 25, 12 06:26 PM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives