I'm worried about my son

He just doesn’t interact with other people, as far as I can tell.

I have two children, a daughter who is 16 and a son that is 14. My daughter is, at least by comparison, a social butterfly. She’s always going over to visit friends, having friends over, going to parties or other social activities. She’s also a bit of a geek, her high school concentration is in math and physics. She’s an artist, who loves drawing, painting and plays the guitar and ukelele, plus makes geeky short films to post on YouTube. Oh, and an athlete, competing in soccer, track and now cross country in school. She gets good grades and is usually sweet and pleasant.

By contrast, my son does almost nothing. He plays video games or read books all day, broken up by some occasional TV. He likes to watch Psych, Top Gear, the Mentalist and was a big fan of House and Monk when they were on. His main video game is World of Warcraft, although he also finds various free games on the Internet to play, and sometimes plays X-box. His tastes in books tend toward stuff like Harry Potter and Hunger Games and that genre tending towards kids/young adults. He gets along pretty well with his sister, and her female friends all fawn over him when they come over, but he really has almost no friends of his own. There is one kid, a bit of a goof, that lives in our neighborhood and occasionally he’ll get invited and go spend the night, where I believe they mostly play video games or watch movies. He never initiates this, and sometimes declines offers. He played baseball until 6th grade, then decided to stop in part because he says he felt stressed since practice took so much time, but in part, I believe, because of coaches who were making the game not be fun. His favorite class the last couple of years of middle school would normally be PE; he loves to play softball.

He’s always been shy and is pretty much the definition of taciturn. He is polite, quiet and generally very affectionate towards his mother and our dog, and to me as well, albeit with less cuddling.

Oh, and he’s pretty smart. When he was younger he was mostly ostracized (not picked on, afaik) by other kids because his vocabulary was generally much more advanced than theirs. In fourth grade the teacher ran out of (age appropriate) things for him to read, he’d read through her whole catalog. He can read much, much faster than I can. In other words, he’s probably like a lot of folks are here, at least to see people describe themselves as youths.

Next week, he’ll start high school, at the same school as his older sister. She’s really wanted him to go there, because she feels he’ll fit in. It’s an IB magnet school, targeted to more academic kids, and many of the kids are a lot like him.

My concern is that he get there and still not really fit in with any group. Then what? I’d love to hear from anyone who has lived through this and has advice.

My son also was introverted at that age. I was concerned enough to talk to a therapist about having him have some sessions. He is in honors classes and occupied his time much like your son including reading the same genre of books.

Then last year when he was 15 the varsity needed a real lightweight (103 or 106 forget which) and a senior asked Ryan if he could wrestle last year. He won most of the matches, because only a few schools had a wrestler in that weight class. Of course his actual wrestling matches he only won 2 of 5 but overall he had a winning record which helped the team. And BOOM, my son went from staying home to going out with friends, now when he is on Xbox he has his headset on chatting with friends. He is outgoing and confident now, a complete and total change.

I am not advocating your son joining athletics or anything else. Because what works for one may not work for all. What I am saying is your son may find a niche and pop out of his social awkwardness so as a parent I wouldn’t let his current state worry you to much. Good luck! Parenting is such a joy :wink:

It sounds similar to me in some ways when I was a kid. I was somewhat shy and withdrawn. I read a lot for enjoyment, but didn’t play much sports. I was always good in most of the nerdy stuff in school - science, math, etc. I would often get a book from the school library and sit inside and read instead of going outside at recess time.

I think part of the cause of this was that my parents had a rocky marriage, and there was a lot of fighting and arguing. They separated when I was about 8, and the divorce was final when I was 9 or 10. I think I retreated into myself as a defense against all of that. But I opened up more in high school and college. I got my degree, got a good job, got married, have a great family and a pretty good life.

It sounds like the magnet high school will be the ticket for your son. Being surrounded by other academically oriented students, and teachers who can interest them and motivate them could be a great environment for him to grow. Try to find out what extracurricular activities they have there - a robotics team, or engineering club, for example, and see if he takes an interest in that. Some positive reinforcement from peers and teachers and family can do a world of good for a kid at that age. One thing that kids this age want is to fit in, and be seen is a positive way by others.

Your son sounds a lot like our son - similar habits, advanced reader, smart, not social. He suffered with migraines at school, missed lots of classes but got into the same academically focussed (UK, so 16/17) college as his older sister (1 year between them, but completely different social outlooks). He found a social group of geeks at college but still didn’t go out much. After A-levels most of them left to go to University, and he stayed at home and got a job for a year and a half. He virtually never left the house, but would chat to his school mates over skype and play Minecraft/WoW/whatever. When he decided to go to uni in NZ I was a bit concerned - he had not even spent a night away from home for several years.

He got on the plane (he was shaking before he went through security), travelled half way round the world on his own to a country he hadn’t lived in for 11 years, moved into a small halls of residence, and is now having a great time, often out with his mates, never on skype and does not reply to emails - a typical student away from home. He has some cousins locally, his aunt is really good at getting him to family events, he sees his other aunt sometimes, but mostly he has new friends.

I guess what I am saying is - don’t worry too much, things will probably work out fine.


Moving from MPSIMS to IMHO, a more advicey home.

My oldest son is the same way and he’s 24. He has a small group of friends who mainly get together to play video games or watch movies. He was in boy scouts and is an Eagle Scout. He lives on his own and goes to school and pays for everything for himself except for car insurance and karate lessons that are family priced with his brother and dad. He’s never dated, though I’m sure he’s interested in girls.

I worry all the time and wish I had done more to get him out of his shell in his younger years. He became this way as a young teen and I chalked it up to normal moody teen behavior but it turned out to be a depression problem. Now he’s taking antidepressants and I can tell he’s improved but the habits of being alone are set. I should be thrilled that he holds a job, goes to school, seems happy in his life, and doesn’t drink or do drugs, but I worry about him every day.

If I could do it over I would have exposed him to more activities outside of his comfort level even if I had to use the excuse of him helping me. A good idea would be to sign up for volunteer activities and get him to go along because they need more help.

I am not a parent, but I was a kid who was very similar growing up. I didn’t have many friends in high school. Didn’t go out a lot doing things with people. I had one or two close friends, played a lot of video games, didn’t play any sports or extracurriculars, focused mostly on school work, etc. I am now a very well adjusted 26 year old with plenty of good friends and a nice social life, balanced with a great career.

My parents (mostly my dad) did try to force me to get into some sports and activities, and I just didn’t stick with them and hated it. I don’t think it did anything for me in the long run, other than make me a bit resentful.

If he’s playing WoW, that’s pretty much the most social game there is. Same with XBOX Live (if that’s what he’s playing). Doesn’t sound too introverted to me, he’s just not extroverted in the same way people were generations ago. You may not see playing video games as a social event, with “real” or “genuine” human interraction, but believe it coming from me, a life long gamer, games can be a great way to connect, make friends, meet people, etc. They aren’t very PHYSICALLY healthy of course!

I wouldn’t worry too much, is all I’m saying. That being said, look for signs of depression or anxiety. If he seems happy, does well in school, and has a good optimistic outlook on life, then I would let him be. Encourage him to do physical activity as much as possible, but it doesn’t have to be in the form of sports.

Have you talked to him about the move to the new school? Ask him how he feels about it and if he has any concerns about getting to know people there. See if he seems interested in any advice on how to try to get to know people at the new school. Maybe his sister can help him meet people there.
You really do need to get his take on this. Being a loner can be a big problem if the person is lonely and craves interaction. However, some people are just naturally introverted and don’t want or need a lot of friends. Don’t make him feel like it’s wrong to be that way if he doesn’t seem to think of it as a problem.

If he were my kid, I’d encourage him to go out for a sport.

He might like the actual activity. The physical part would be beneficial even if he doesn’t like the activity. He’d have some structure for interaction with others, which might help a not-too-social kid ease into a new situation.

And: being on a school team has a de-geeking effect. Even a minor sport is more normal-sounding, by high school standards, than a life of video games, junior fantasy lit, canceled television shows, and hanging with your sister’s friends.

If, per that last item, he likes the ladies – ask about DanceSport. That’s the competition version of social dancing, and guy competitors often mention interaction with the ladies as the aspect that drew them in.

My mom solved this problem by putting me and my sister to work if we stayed indoors on sunny summer days (also we didn’t have a computer, or computer games, we just had a PlayStation and only one tv in the house–it was self-limiting). It was a bummer at the time, and mostly all I ever did was go outside and read books anyway, but sometimes we rode bikes and did stuff outside. Which was healthier than working on my monitor tan every day. And, as someone who has enjoyed both, reading books is much more mentally-stimulating and less engrossing than WoW (in a good way).

But by now it’s probably too late; his indoorsy habits are well-established, and he would resent the hell out of you for taking away his game (which may have become his only social lifeline, I know I’ve been there). It’s not healthy to sit on your tuckus and play WoW all day (the same goes for *any *computer-related activity). *Especially *as a kid. Once he’s an adult, he can do that all day long (as long as he gets to work and pays his own bills). Until then, it’s the parent’s responsibility to enforce moderation. These next few years will represent the *easiest *time in the world for him to ever make friends. How’s he going to turn out in adulthood if he doesn’t learn it now?

I’m not a parent, so I don’t really have any advice as to HOW to do this. But I’ve been where he is, and it’s not a good place to be. My WoW friends were (and still are) freaking awesome, but I didn’t have any real-life friends who weren’t also family, and that’s fracking pathetic.

Your son sounds like me at that age, though more physically active.

Does his life bother him? Does he act or say things that indicate he wants to be different? There’s crippling shyness, and then there’s introversion, and only one is a problem.

Talk to your son, and try to get a bead on his feelings about his social life. If he seems content to do what he’s been doing, please back off, and try to stop worrying. Some people are happier living solitary lives, and know it from a young age. If he does ever want to expand his social life and circle, he will. It sounds to me like he’s already taking control and being as social as he wants to be.

Sounds like me when I was your son’s age.
Sounds like my middle son (he’s 16 now)…the only difference is that he quit sports and took up music/band/wind ensemble…and practically 10x his friend list. They practice, play and travel just like any sport team.

I second a team of some type. If it hadn’t been for orchestra, I wouldn’t have done any “fun” in high school. Let him pick what he wants to do, but tell him he has to join something. No more couch potato business. Help him brainstorm some introvert-friendly activities that are extroverting. Drama and chorus may not be wise choices, but maybe the AV club and the art club are. Cross country is a good sport for introverts.

He needs to be assured that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. But balance is also good, and he also needs to develop some other skills besides video-game playing. When talking to him, emphasize the importance of developing different skills. I wouldn’t even mention your concerns about the socialization stuff. I know when I was a kid, I was all about learning and knowledge. You would have been able to convince me to do anything just by appealing to my hunger for more “brains”. But people skills? Not so much.

He sounds like me when I was his age and look at me now…
Get him to an team of doctors NOW!