View Full Version : Helping shy boys make friends (long, sorry)

Jen C.
05-26-2009, 10:15 AM
Well with summer vacation fast upon us, I can feel my anxiety already beginning to rise. I can really use some advice.

My son will be turning 8 this year. He has a sister who is 13 months older. (my DD, of course). The two of them have always been close, and my older daughter is extremely extroverted, and has many friends. Last year we moved into a new subdivision. The new sub has MANY more kids then our old one. The old sub had some older neighbors, who never paid my kids any mind. We'd go for walks, take bike rides, swim in our pool, and enjoy our summers together. On occasion, we'd call or get calls from friends and get our kids together. No pressure, just an on occasion thing.
When we moved into our new sub, it became apparant that there were A LOT more children. There is a group of boys just older than my son, and a group just younger. They are playing toether from morning till night, daily. The slightly older group of boys are "all boy", riding dirt bikes, roughhousing, etc. My son is not like this. He is sensitive, shy, and more artistically inclined. The younger boys will occasionally seek him out to play, but you can tell it bothers him that he is not asked by the older boys. Yesterday, several of the boys from both groups were jumping on our nieghbors trampoline, and my son was swinging all alone on our swingset. Talk about a heartbreaker! :(
My son has ADD, and takes a very low dose of Concerta. He has focus and impulse issues, but is not hyperactive. This year we got him involved with little league baseball and he is enjoying that. We also planned a party for his birthday and invited several of his classmates, that is coming up on June. I'm unsure what else to do. I know that boys typically play with whoever is around, but it is slim pickings where I am! I am wondering if I should attempt to set up "playdates", or if he is to old for those types of interventions. It is just so tough to see your one child excell socially, and the other struggle. I just want to help, but I think I may be putting so much focus on it that I am actually having the opposite effect. :confused: Thoughts??

05-26-2009, 10:52 AM
It sounds like you're doing very good by him.

My DS tends to be very outgoing BUT I have a couple of friends who have boys his age that are completely opposite. So I've "observed" both sides.

First of all having him involved in team sports is EXCELLENT. I personally love "neighborhood" swim teams the best because for the most part the kids are going to the same schools even if they live in different neighborhoods. If the "school" has sports or clubs I'd recommend getting involved in one of these (finding a common ground with others really helps a shy kid come around).

I also have observed with a couple of my friends kids. They were shyer than other kids...but they also enjoyed time to themselves. Sometimes too they preferred really "small" groups as opposed to overwhelming large "rambuncious" ones. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

If you want to plan a "play group" consider a just a play date with ONE other boy that might include a "scheduled activity" that they both enjoy...a trip to the swimming pool, arcade, laser quest, zoo etc. If you can get this play date with a rather outgoing boy...it might help to ease your son into a "group" at HIS pace.

Of the two friends that had the shy boys who made friends with mine. One boy became a lot more outgoing and active (this boy used to go to birthday parties and bring a book to read). He finally found a friend with whom he found things in common with (they both loved swimming) He eventually joined a swim team and made friends with a large group of other boys. The second one was just more of a "soloist". He still prefers HIS time to time in "groups" but he does enjoy time with a single friend over a group.

You might just want to start "small" and let it build from there.

05-26-2009, 12:09 PM
I was very shy as a kid up until halfway through high school. Some kids just are I think. I agree about finding out what his interests really are and going with those kind of things, be it sports, art, whatever. I still value my private time and solitude.

05-26-2009, 12:18 PM
Tough age ... kids at this point (especially boys) are very callous and exclusive by nature. If the older kids are "all boy" as you say and they sense your son is not, they're going to be highly unlikely to include him in their activities.

It might be better for you to push him to spend time with the younger boys where he might have a better shot at integrating. As much as it stinks, I doubt seriously you'll be able to get him accepted into the older group unless he comes out of his shell a bit.

Also, it would be best if you could try and score some one on one time with him and one of the younger kids. A play date is an excellent idea. Getting him "in" with one of the group is the best way to enable him to integrate more easily with the entire group of kids.

And the Little League ... that could go both ways. If he's good at it and enjoys it it's likely to win him more friends. But if he struggles and isn't in to it it might do more harm than good since that's likely to just reinforce what the other boys already think.

05-26-2009, 01:43 PM
I was kind of the same way. I played every team sport out there almost all year long. I still enjoyed and enjoy some solitude. I was a video game freak before computers were out to the general public. I had a PC back in the mid/late 70s, I had an Atari and Intellistation before they were on the market. I loved sitting there playing for hours. I loved playing Dungeons and Dragons. I had to play by myself because too many parents thought the kids were devil worshippers.

Try finding what he truly enjoys, no matter how off the wall it is and get him involved with others that enjoy it. I had/have ADD also. If it is something I enjoy, I can do it for hours and days at a time (I played online games for 72 hours at a time before, pre-DD). If I hate it, I am bored in 5 minutes.

05-26-2009, 05:41 PM
Are there one or two boys in the older group that look like good potential matches for your son? If so, invite them to a play date elsewhere (a park or the pool or wherever). You want it to be somewhere neutral. Let him get to know those couple of boys a bit and gradually, I would bet he would be included more and more with the bigger group.

Good Luck!

05-26-2009, 06:10 PM
My DS11 has Asperger's and is EXTREMELY shy -- he doesn't know how to mix in with his peers etc., even though he would love to. A couple of years ago, on the advice of his Psychiatrist, we bought him a PS2 and a hand held PSP (His doctor said, it will give him the common language, and also create an environment that the other kids will want to be a part of). We have since bought the Wii and PS3 as well. He has the full arsenal, and as a result, he has plenty to discuss with the other boys now and thanks to a natural ability, he is very good at the games and can provide guidance to the other kids. He can even strike up a conversation with a new kid if he notices that he is playing a game that he knows or likes etc. That said, he really only has one good friend. Our DS is absolutely happy with his own company...he likes to build things, and read his books and play his games (his way). So even though most often, he would rather be on his own, he does now have the equipment for creating social situations, and he also has his one close friend.

05-26-2009, 08:12 PM
Mine two boys made a lot of friends through little league. Our league played in a complex with a snack bar, rather than run out at the end of the game we use to watch the next game and some of the kids would get a snack and hang out on the bleachers together. Made my day longer but they always had a great time.

05-26-2009, 10:42 PM
:twocents:Put yourself out there. Get to know the parents of the kids you would like your child to play with, and invite them all over. Look for the kids who are respected by the group, there is usually at least one who isn't the leader, but all the kids like. That's the one who will get the group to accept him.
I had a gentle boy too...still do:) My oldest needed me to "open doors" for him. I volunteered at his school and even worked as an aide one year. The kids liked me and they warmed to him. He is different and we know it, so I made sure the kids saw the good parts of him, and appreciate the different side. We also make sure he accepts himself they way he is. He is perfect as is, but he still needs to try and join in. I would invite the nice kids over and made our house the most fun place to be. We have an annual Halloween party that the kids all talk about. We also give amazing birthday parties...pony rides, carnivals, theme parks, etc. Friday night get-togethers and playdates at a park or Chuck-E-Cheeses help too. Now, he has 2 or 3 really good friends and no problems with the other kids. He is still different...he likes to play with the girls, because they aren't so pushy...but the boys accept that. It took 2 years and a good deal of work, but it paid off. Now, I don't have to worry about him, because he has the confidence to be who he is and the other kids respect that.
My youngest had no such problem. I was in the school and on the PTA by the time he went to school, so he was set. He is sweet, but he can hang with the boys:)
One thing to keep an eye on is the sports. My oldest had little interest in sports, but we signed him up for soccer anyway. Well, he was put on the championship team and they did not like the fact that he wasn't very good. He did not feel a part of the team and they did nothing to try to include him. I wish he would have been on the worst team, just for the experience. Maybe he would have stuck with it. But, if your son likes it, keep it going.
I know my tactics might seem overboard to some, but I'm a realist. I know exactly who my kids are and what the other kids will pick on. If my kids need help, I will do everything in my power to help them. And since I did the work while they were very young, I can just sit back until puberty...OMG...I'll be asking for advice in a few years!!!

05-26-2009, 11:20 PM
I think it's good advice to remember that there's no RIGHT or WRONG way to be a boy. Sensitive, outgoing artistic ... whatever. Find out what your son enjoys, and let him do it ... support and love him and let him be himself. Don't let what society says is right push you to encourage your son to be anything other than himself.

As someone that was sensitive, NON sporty and totally artistic and musically inclined growing up, I cherish the fact that my parents acknowledged all those things and supported me and my interests. It brought me friends and in fact because I felt my folks said it was ok to be me, I was very popular in school with all groups. I was myself and people accepted me because I knew who I was, was OK.

05-27-2009, 12:18 AM
I think it's good advice to remember that there's no RIGHT or WRONG way to be a boy. Sensitive, outgoing artistic ... whatever. Find out what your son enjoys, and let him do it ... support and love him and let him be himself. Don't let what society says is right push you to encourage your son to be anything other than himself.

This is so true. My immediate response was to say no to scheduling playdates with these boys. If your son isn't interested in the things they do, why force it? On the other hand, there might be some commonalities there where they could do some things together. Do you talk to the other parents at all? Are any of the kids enrolling in local programs this summer? There are day camps, swim clubs, summer sports leagues. Even if that particular group of boys isn't enrolled in one, perhaps you could still look for some activity for your son to be involved in on his own where he might meet other kids.

I will tell you, though, it's not the end of the world if he doesn't befriend these neighborhood kids. I was shy as a kid and pretty much lived my entire life without having friends in my neighborhood. All of my friends went to my non-neighborhood school and in the summer I was enrolled in day camp, and starting at age 13 I worked at that day camp for 8 years. There were definitely times when I felt alone, but I got through it and I always had a great imagination. Good luck. Let us know how it goes.