10 Year Old Son Social Issues

Updated on April 11, 2011
S.T. asks from McKinney, TX
13 answers

My son is not having a very good year socially and can't wait for summer to begin. Would appreciate any insight from other moms who have been through this or have any thoughts on this. I would love to take it all away as his mom but realistically just want to help him deal with this as best as he can.

My son is non athletic (when the other boys have been participating in sports for years and have been on teams together), loves video games, is in the gifted program, and is on the quiet side (he is not shy but feels that he does not have much in common with the other boys). My best assessment is that he is not really noticed by the other boys and feels like he is on the outside looking in.

He has never been the most social child but the past few years he was happy with school and felt much better about fitting in. I think he has noticed that this year best friends are emerging with the other boys, and he does not have a best friend. He says to me, they are nice but they prefer others over me. Most of the time he holds it in but from time to time will tell me about his feelings. He has told me that when they partner up in class he is always the odd man out and ends up having to be paired up with a girl. The kids pay attention to him when they want answers but other than that not so much. He does have a few friends. Another thing that really negatively impacted this year was the fact that he was verbally bullied at the beginning of the year for a couple months by a popular boy in class. He did not say anything for a long time and then broke down one night. He neve spoke up for himself at first and didn't say a word. The other boys noticed this and never stood up for him either. That set the tone for the rest of the year.

If he is not very strong socially, how do I improve this? I have tried to get him into sports when he was younger but he was not interested and now the other boys are too far ahead in team sports. My plan is to get him into karate or tennis this summer. He has been signed up for a science summer camp. Now, how do I help him get out of his shell and speak up and help him get noticed more by the other kids.

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answers from Dallas on

2 words. Martial Arts. I took my child to USA Martial Arts. It has helped with his confidence. He never was the athletic type either. With martial arts, it was a physical activity that was about himself as an individual. They just started a bully program where they teach the students how to deal with bullies both verbally and physically.

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answers from Glens Falls on

I'm conflicted on this one. I was an introspective child, had some friends, wasn't extremely social and have remained that way all my life. I do sometimes envy people, like my husband, who makes enduring friendships easily and is so socially comfortable. So I wonder if I could have been influenced more as a child. But on the other hand, being around people too much can actually create anxiety for me, so maybe I'm just by nature this way and is there really anything wrong with that? I know I was labelled "shy" all my life and I certainly believed it was a negative personality trait until a therapist I met in my 30's taught me otherwise. I am glad you did not use that label but maybe what you need to think about with your son is not how social he is, but how is his self esteem? You said he was bullied so maybe his self esteem has been damaged by that episode. Or maybe you think he has a very healthy self image. In either case, I would suggest that rather than trying to pick activities to get him out of his shell and noticed by other kids, that you and your son together pick activities that he has an interest in which will build his self esteem. And if that is something athletic, that's fine but if he's more interested in volunteering at a pet shelter, that's fine, too. Either way, he gains social interaction and an enhanced self image. I think that's what really matters .

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Oh, I feel so bad when I hear these things. My 5 year-old son is also quiet, shy, very bright and loves video games. Last year in preschool he played alone every day. This year he has a few friends that he plays with, and seems to be coming out of his shell a little, but I do worry about how he's going to do socially in the future.

Maybe you could get him into something like karate that's not a team sport, but is still getting him out interacting with others a little bit. That might also give him confidence. Or if not that, maybe another academic type club activity or a chess club or something like that so that he can meet people he has something in common with. Hang in there!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Definitely do karate ... it will give him more confidence that you can imagine. Also - maybe you can also let him know that in a few short years EVERY guy in the class will be dying to be paired up with one of the girls and he's getting 2-3 years worth of a head start making friends with them, etc. Turn the negative into a positive! Best of luck ... it is such a heart breaking age isn't it?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsfield on

I also have an 11 year old who doesn't like sports. He goes to a small Catholic school though, and luckily for him, sports hasn't been very important to the other boys there. Some are into soccer or basketball, but these aren't at all connected to the school. In the fall he is going to be starting at a charter school (grades 6-12) in our town that uses art and technology to teach everything. They don't have any sports, so the boys that are really into sports tend to choose the regular public middle/ high schools. Even in gym, they don't do typical gym stuff, but rather focus on things they can continue to do into adulthood like cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, bike riding, etc.)

I don't know whether a school switch is an option for you so he can be around more like-minded kids, but if not, does his school offer non-sport related after school activities? Some schools have a Lego robotics club, for example. Encourage him to join anything they have that he is even somewhat interested in.

You could also do this outside of the school. Our local bowling alley has kid bowling teams. The library may have programs where he may meet other boys. My son went when they had a club based around a popular boy's book. They would all read the same book, talk about it, and do some activities. Something like Karate might help boost his confidence. When he meets kids he likes, invite them over to your house so they can spend time together and develop a friendship.

Very best wishes! :)

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answers from Boston on

There are plenty of kids interested in things other than sports. Karate might be good because it builds confidence as well as strength and skills. The science camp sounds great - anything that appeals to his skills and interests. What about music programs or art?

I would also speak to the teacher. If the "popular" boy is bullying, the teacher needs to step in. The school should have an anti-bullying policy and program. That will help teach kids not to engage in this behavior and to speak up when they see it occurring. The teacher should also be making up some of the pairings and mixing up the groups to help kids develop skills in dealing with others and to stop the popularity contests that are going on. When I was teaching, I mixed up the working groups all the time. Your son also needs to learn to speak up to the teacher, privately, when stuff goes on rather than let it simmer. He needs to see the teacher and school staff as his advocates and not just save it for you.



answers from Dallas on

I always wonder how many of the "social" problems are due to being younger than other kids ONLY because we are currently dealing with this issue. Ours will be 5 in July and the school (we're doing private) said he's more than ready academically but recommended holding him back because years later it will really affect him. I wonder how true that is and then reading stories like these make me just curious as to if any of them are summer babies. Anyways, to answer your question I would really check into a charter school as well. Not sure where you are but my friend just applied her child the science one off of Hulen and 20. They just did the interview so not sure you could get in now or not for next year but it's worth a shot. There is another science charter school in N. Richland Hills area too. Then there is Westlake Academy, a charter school in Westlake but they already had their lottery too. Charter schools are free and are run like a private school but they work on lottery systems so it's hard to get in unless you're just lucky! Anyways, it's worth a shot of looking into. There are also some great homeschooling "schools" in the area (I'm by Ft. Worth so I know quite a few in this area). This would be where he would go to school 2-3-5 even days a week, usually from 9-2. Then there are others where you pay per class. These you would have to pay for though and of course have a flexible schedule to pick up/drop off so not feasible for everyone, just an idea. I hate the social aspect of school - it really scares me for my oldest especially who is also very shy/on a different level. Good luck and feel free to email me if you'd like the names of any of the places I mentioned. I don't know them off hand but can ask my friend for you...



answers from Tyler on

I'm so glad you asked this question. My son is 7 and sounds exactly like your son. I have been wondering how it is going to be for him in a few years and I have also been wondering about karate. I'm worried about Karate though because not only does my son not like sports, he is NOT good at them - not coordinated at all. So, I'm not even sure if he could do karate.

As someone else suggested about the charter school, that is EXACTLY what I am trying to do with my son. I find out if he has been accepted later this month. I think he will enjoy it much better than a school full of sports minded boys.

Good luck...



answers from Dallas on

You have described my 16 year old daughter! She has struggled with this for years. She has very different perspectives and has for years. It wasn't a big deal when she was younger but as she hit pre-teens and now teens it is much more challenging. She has limited friends because her interests are so different/unique compared to what "typical" teens enjoy. And of course this makes her the odd man out in school just as you described -- the other kids come to her for help/answers but don't really socialize with her, and they sometimes get verbally nasty with her. She absolutely hates school now because she just doesn't relate to the other students, even most of the GT students, and her grades have suffered severely. So starting next year she will be attending a very small private school with the expectation that the environment will be better for her.

As for activities outside of school, I've discovered it's best to go with what interests her -- in her case it was art classes. And she enjoyed them, but still never bonded with the other students (she seemed to bond better with the instructors!) although at least it was a friendly atmosphere. This summer she will be attending an animation camp because she wishes to pursue a career in animation. I think it will be great for her to be with like-minded students -- it will be the first time she'll be surrounded by other people who share her passion.

So there is no easy answer, and it's a constant work in progress. You have done the best thing you can -- be aware, be involved and let him know you are there for him. It's heartbreaking to watch your child going through such angst, and there are times I feel completely powerless because I know I don't have all the answers but I desperately want to make things better for her.


answers from Dallas on

I really feel for you, we are in a similar situation, my 11 yo is that way too, we go to a CHarter school (one of the ones listed below) and we play martial arts, I wish I could say it helps, but the athletic kids go to charter schools to and they have bullies there also. My son is developing a small social group of what I sometimes think of as misfits, the non athletic group that are all a bit socially awkward, but they are good misfits, good kids just not the "popular" kids. but they work well together on school projects and seem to be going through all the same stuff as the rest of the kids his grade.

I've been working to build his confidence in the things that I know he is good at and let the rest go, he's never going to be a athlete, but he will be a smart and tactical Martial Artist. and Smart too!

but hopefully by asking this question, we will all find help for our kids, thanks for posting your question, you are not alone!



answers from Dallas on

Try an acting class. This will help him get out of his shell. he will learn exercises on how to calm down and might be able to come up with answers to bully situations.


answers from Jacksonville on

YOU can't.
But the Karate and science summer camp are GREAT ideas.
Karate is an individual sport. My kids both do it...ours son since before he was 6 yrs old. He is working on his 2nd degree Black belt right now. It can be a wonderful self-esteem builder. Most (be sure to visit classes and see for yourself though) schools' instructors are very cognizant of helping build self esteem in the kids. They expect respect from them, and they show respect to them. Respect is a HUGE deal in martial arts. And it includes respecting YOURSELF. Getting involved with martial arts can also help your son gain some possibly lacking self-confidence. That can go a long way with bullying issues.

The science camp will expose him to other like-minded kids. He may even meet/make a great new best friend. Maybe even someone else who is experiencing or has experienced the sort of social issues your son is dealing with.

Also, if he is 10, then he is probably going into 6th grade next year... right? Our school has 6th grade as the first year of middle school. So you have several schools that feed into that one middle school.... and TONS of new kids. In fact... ALL the 6th graders will be "new". So it is a whole new year with a LOT of new kids for him to "start over" with. It can be challenging when they transition (change classes for every subject, the sheer numbers of students, and going from being the biggest to the smallest on campus), but it is also full of opportunity for him.

Also, if he does meet some new kids at science camp, try to invite them to do something together... an afternoon at the movies or playing putt putt or SOMEthing to help facilitate a friendship.

My son (7th grade this year) was never that sports minded either. But having lots of friends in other venues than school (karate, church, his former private school friends, extended family, friends in the neighborhood) really helped keep him balanced if things were rough AT school.




answers from Cleveland on

I did not have a chance to read the other responses, so I am not sure if I am repeating something.
Kids who have social difficulties are especially challenged in groups. From my experience as a SpEd teacher and of a parent of a socially challenged son, I would recommend arranging small group "playdates". Ask your son (or his teacher) who he gets along with. Set up times when that child can join you for lunch and some social time afterwards - try to get them to do a little something first before, and then allow them to play video games together. Legos? If they are both gifted, perhaps some challenge game like chess or a ThinkFun game? Give them time to socialize one on one, and then continue to use those skills playing video games together. If socialization is a challenge for him, it is going to be really tough in a large group setting - it would be good for him to gain these skills with 1 or 2 friends, gain more confidence, then apply the lessons and skills he has learned to larger groups.

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