My son is in 5th grade, he's smart, hyper active, and very insecure. Since he started 5th grade, he hasn't been able to make friends. He plays soccer in recess but doesn't have a set of friends. How do I help him make friends?
From: Liz, Fresno, CA
1. Ask yourself this: Is he unhappy, or are you projecting that he's unhappy, based (perhaps?) on your own childhood or on your expectation of what childhood should be? All any kid really needs is one friend.
2. Make an appointment to talk to the teacher. I always recommend face-to-face, not email, and ask her how he's doing socially: What is his/her perception of where and how he fits into the social fabric of the class? You want to find out from her what the dynamics are in the classroom. Sometimes, there's a rough-and-tumble group of boys who dominate. Your son may not be one of them, but that doesn't mean there isn't someone he hangs out with or gravitates toward who's a candidate for being a friend but who is equally unable to make an overture. Ask the teacher to place your son on a continuum of not social to very social: where does he fit in, and how? Teachers generally have opinions about these things but they are careful not to share them unless asked. By opening up the subject, you may not only gain some concrete info but also a partner in helping your son.
3. Are there activities outside of school that might appeal to him -- karate, art, film-making, skiing, scouting -- where he could meet a new potential friendship group? Is there some event you know he would like? Can you suggest inviting someone along?
4. Read this book: "Best friends, worst enemies, Understanding the Social Lives of Children," by Michael Thompson.
Keep in mind that once kids move into middle school, there are more activities and more peers to choose from.