My son is in the 8th grade and seemingly has no friends. His only 2 friends at school moved away, and he says he has no friends, eats lunch by himself, etc. His teachers confirmed this. He has a younger brother in 6th grade which he hangs around with, but the younger does have a set of friends and doesn’t always hang out with his big brother. He’s really not an unhappy kid, except he does get down sometimes. He gets decent grades and is overall a great kid. I know I can’t make friends for him, but the thought of him sitting in the lunchroom all by himself breaks my heart. Is there anything I can do to help him?
A: What a good dad you are to want to help. Being 13 years old can be the pits. When a kid hasn’t figured out the social scene in middle school, it is so painful. I suggest you start by having a private conversation with the school guidance counselor and his teachers. How do they see the problem? Is it that your son doesn’t know how to make friends? Has he inadvertently alienated the other kids? Or is this one of those mysterious situations that happens in middle school where some kids just aren’t accepted and the adults don’t know why? Having some idea of the nature of the problem may help give you some direction in solving it.
You could also ask the guidance office if they can find some job your son could do during lunch hour that will take him out of that lonely eating alone situation. Can he grab a quick sandwich then man the office or staff the library desk most of the lunch time? If it’s posed to him as a need for help rather than a rescue for him, he might accept the offer.
Fortunately, school’s almost out and you have the summer to work on building him up and helping him gain some skills. I’ve worked with many kids whose emotional lives have been saved by becoming involved in a regional theatre or music group or a specialized sport or a volunteer project that draws kids from many towns. They may not have friends in their own school, but the phone rings at home and they are engaged with peers on weekends. If you can manage it, I strongly suggest that you follow his interests and find a local camp that will let him develop a skill and at the same time meet kids with similar interests who don’t go to his school. Once he feels better about himself and develops more self-confidence with these kids, the problems at his own school may gradually disappear.
Then again, September will bring a new year and a fresh start. Stay tuned in to your son and give it a few weeks. Sometimes these problems evaporate just as mysteriously as they started.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 May 2008
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). My son has no friends.. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 4, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/01/my-son-has-no-friends/