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Dr. Irene S. Levine

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Making Friends: Kids Who Are Different

Posted: 02/ 8/2012 10:30 am

Adults can help children learn the social skills they need to make friends and get along with others.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

My 7-year-old son has recently started coming home saying that he isn't wanted at school. He asks me: Why is it that he is not accepted amongst his peers? Is there something wrong with him?

He is the only second grade and has been identified as gifted and talented. He has already received his black belt in martial arts. I consider him to be funny in a clumsy way. Anybody who meets my son is impressed with his maturity.

He is somewhat OCD like myself, I can see him having to correct his peers or even telling on them when they are doing something wrong. At this point I have instructed him to mind his own business but it is too late. He has already built a reputation with them.

His peers don't allow him to participate in anything they are doing. They now are starting to call him names. It breaks my heart to see him feel like an outcast at this age. The last thing I want to happen is for him to get frustrated and end up hurting someone when they are excluding him.

Signed, Rosa

ANSWER

Hi Rosa,

It sounds like you son is different than his peers. You say he is exceptionally bright, mature beyond his years, and a bit awkward. When children are different, it's easy to be excluded from a group.

At seven years old, your son may not yet have the social skills to fit in and may require help from the adults around him. I have two suggestions:

1) When your son has children come to your home, use the time to observe the way he interacts with other children and how they respond to him. This can be helpful in teaching him the skills he needs to fit in with others. For example, if he is bossy, you can remind him that it makes other kids feel uncomfortable.

2) At school, it would be worthwhile to speak with his classroom teacher. Tell her your concerns so she can monitor his and other children's behavior on the playground and intervene when necessary.

You might also want to question what kinds of accommodations the school is making to assure that his work is challenging and interesting to him. If you think that he has some obsessive-compulsive traits, you may want to speak to the school psychologist or guidance counselor to see whether this is interfering with his social skills or academic achievement.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Some prior posts about children and friendship on The Friendship Blog:
Worried Mom: My daughter doesn't have a close friend
My daughter feels like an outcast at school: What should I do?

Good Housekeeping asks Dr. Levine about children's friendships
The Bad Friend: What's a mom to do?

 
 
 

Follow Dr. Irene S. Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IreneLevine