Concern for my 14 year old son and his isolation

Home Welcome to the ADDitude Forums For Parents Teens & Young Adults Concern for my 14 year old son and his isolation

Viewing 19 reply threads
  • Author
    • #50664

      Hi-My son is 14 years old and has no real friends. He talks about kids in school but would never do anything with them outside of school. He says that he says hi to people but no one ever talks back. He does not have the communication skills to start and keep a conversation going with a peer. it causes him a lot of anxiety so he has just quit trying and now sits in his room alone playing video games or watching youtube. This breaks my heart. I try to pull him out as much as I can but he needs more than mom. He refuses to try counseling, been there and done that with little help. I have SEARCHED the internet for a social group or hangout place for kids that struggle with this with nothing to be found. I did find a group that taught social skills but they are to basic for an ADHD kid, they are more in line for a high functioning Autistic child. So I am here looking for any and all advice and to see if anyone is near the north metro area of Minnesota and would like to start a group with me. Thank you for you help.

    • #50723

      My daughter had similar trouble when she began junior high and into high school– mostly because her elementary friends peeled off for one reason or another. She was unhappy. Last year I started her in a private school (almost by accident), and I was completely surprised by her willingness to visit the school. I’m a big proponent of public education, but for her the tight-knit, welcoming community was an immense improvement. You might look around your area and see what’s available. Some of them are religious (not a bad thing sometimes :)), but not all are religious, and in our case there was a sliding scale based in income. Still is expensive, but I consider it the best money I’ve spent in the last decade.

      Good Luck to you and your Son and keep the faith that things will become easier for him!
      Best Wishes,

    • #50779
      Penny Williams

      My daughter, not diagnosed with ADHD but with anxiety, has been much the same all through high school (she graduates next week). She tells me she has a hard time reading people and is scared to death of accidentally saying something insensitive, offensive, etc., so she just doesn’t try. She has a few friends but rarely sees them outside of school (they invite her to parties, but she hates parties).

      I used to push her to try to do things outside of school with friends. It just stressed her out. Eventually, I accepted that she’s an introvert, has a lot of social anxiety (as do I), and is genuinely more comfortable being at home or with another person one-on-one.

      Here’s more on social anxiety:

      You’re Not Shy or Stuck Up. You Have Social Anxiety Disorder.

      And on helping teens with social skills:

      Social Smarts: The Teen Years

      By the way, my son (14), who is diagnosed with ADHD, spends a lot of time on the computer, and has finally made some real friends because of that shared interest.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

      • #51556

        For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing the right thing by accepting your daughter for who she is, and not forcing her into social situations she’s uncomfortable with. As she moves into adulthood, she’ll learn to navigate the social niceties when necessary,which will take some of the stress off, but she may never really enjoy socializing. There’s nothing wrong with that. It will help guide her career choices, but it won’t prevent her from having a very rewarding life. I’ve had some amazing opportunities in my life, and most of them have been because of, not in spite of, my problems socializing with humans (I socialize quite easily with other species!)

    • #50877

      Is his Father around, or is he out of the picture?

    • #51183

      First, let me say that I am sorry. Everyone should have a friend. Have you ever tried to do some volunteer work? Maybe a kennel for some dog walking or a senior center? Maybe not a conventional friend but friends come in many different forms. I hope my idea helps. Peace.

    • #51208

      My son who is now almost 16 is the same exact way and it used to break my heart seeing him with tears welling in his eyes as he would tell me about other kids who were all too busy with their other friends and couldn’t do anything with him or how he would eat lunch alone someday’s. I see SO much of myself in him as I was the same way when I was his age, minus the computer, and as his protector you wanna fix it cause you know exactly what he’s going through, but I have to remind myself that I am not my child and my child is not me. He is his own person with his own likes, dislikes, hobbies etc and, although disappointing, this bump in the road is one of life’s lessons he has to learn how to deal with on his own as he grows. I don’t think counseling or anti-social groups would do anything except make him feel like there’s something wrong with him and I highly doubt that’s the problem. You know he has tried, which is discouraging, but at least you know it’s not him. Just because they are kids doesn’t automatically make them nice and sweet, kids can be just as cold, cruel and heartless as adults. Times are changing and it can be tough out there no matter what age you are. In my opinion he hasn’t given up he’s chosen to be himself and if other kids don’t appreciate him for who he really is then oh well he has better things to do. Be proud of him for not changing who he is to try and have a “friend” if he enjoys it then so be it at least he’s at home and not out with the “wrong friends”. What may not make sense to us as enjoyable or seems isolated and lonely is generally what they seek solace in. When my son was 14 I let him get a Steam account, it’s free to sign up, but you can also buy a Steam Pack card ($20 and up) so he can buy add on’s or different games altogether. My son has a lot of friends, many of which don’t even live in this state, I got him a headset and he talks with them all the time. The thing I like most about it is you can verify who the friends really are so you know it’s not some weirdo and he’s made these friends by choosing a game he liked, they were already playing and they started to chat. The absolute best part though is hearing him talking, laughing and joking around with them. Smile Mama everything’s going to be alright

    • #51231

      Hey, my name is Olivia and I am a 17 year who has ADHD. I have a network of awesome people that I have built with really awesome people and friends, but I know what its like to feel isolated. These people hang out with me because of my heart mostly, but not usually because of out of the park social neptness. In fact, I think that I can relate a lot to your son in this regard- it took and it takes a lot of courage and forgiving myself for failing to grow, and it is really really hard, depressing sometimes. I have a bunch of friends and some close ones, but not a lot who I can relate with about ADHD. I am looking for a friend or a group like that so if your son wants to chat I would love to get to know him. I apologize if this isn’t relevant but I got bored and didn’t read all of the comments!

    • #51266

      One thing I’m going to try soon with my awkward and lonely ADHD 12 yr old soon is group gaming. In our small city, there’s a few different gaming stores/places where people gather to play Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. One of the owners recently said there’s a group where some middle school boys regularly attend. When I was homeschooling, our group took a few of the kids to a game night of Magic the Gathering that was mostly adults — a couple dozen very awkward, nerdy/dorky adults … who were just wonderfully fantastic with the few homeschool kids who attended! They were warm and friendly guys who clearly knew what it’s like to be an outsider. Unfortunately, the homeschool organizer moved away, and so we never went back. (My son wouldn’t be bold enough to go to a group of just adults and play a game.) But now that I know there’s a group that includes middle school boys as regulars, my husband’s going to take our son whenever he gets an evening off.

      Maybe there’s something like this near you, and you could call and see if any of the groups have HS aged boys who regularly attend? Experts say the best way to make friends, especially for men and boys, is around common interests. It’s so hard, though, for young men and boys who aren’t athletic. I’m also going to insist our son join the robotics club at school next year, so he can meet some other boys who like that kind of thing. Maybe you could talk your son into also trying some sort of after school club, like chess or robotics? With Youtube tutorials nowadays, one can get acquainted with almost anything (games, robotics, etc.) enough to feel comfortable approaching a new thing in real life.

      No easy answers, but thought I’d throw what I’m trying with my son out there in case it helps you and yours. 🙂

    • #51529

      My advice is like the others. Try to find a gaming club or some club that he is interested in. There’s nothing like a shared interest to help build friendships, just like with adults. Both my kids are similar to your son. My daughter doesn’t like groups or to go someplace she doesn’t know anyone unless it’s something that really interests her. Our library had a teen book club that I talked her into going (sometimes you just have to insist to try something) and she loved it. They also have had Harry Potter clubs. For my son the library has a Pokémon club and a Lego club and when he is older they have a gaming club. I’m also going to have him try a bowling league this fall. He likes to bowl. He doesn’t really like team sports but I thought a bowling league might be good. A little bit of activity, out of the house and with other kids his age. And like the other posts say, he is probably an introvert and will have only a few good friends. Which is fine. And I’d like to say that I think it’s great that all of you have said that your son/daughter can tell you why they don’t like social situations. I was surprised to read that they say they don’t want to say something inappropriate, etc. That’s the first step. My husband has ADHD, diagnosed when he was in his 40’s. He has social skills. He always says inappropriate things, and then when the other person gets offended blames the other person for not being able to take a joke instead of apologizing. My husband sees nothing wrong with his behavior. I think it’s great these young people can see where they need help and encouragement. That really is a huge start. Good luck.

    • #51575

      I have a 15 yr.old daughter. Your posts would be a perfect description of her with just a few exceptions…She’s a girl and mostly in to YouTube and Netflix. She’s an only child of older parents with no close family. My husband and I constantly worry how her life will be when she is older since she essentially has no family outside of us. Before internet, kids had pen pals. I’m wondering if there is a way to create a forum for our kids to look for friends that are like them. A safe forum. Is anyone interested? Also, has anyone tried this summer camp called Soar? We live in Hawaii and this camp seems ideal but her interest would mean a trip to North Carolina next summer which for us would be expensive.

      • #51646
        Penny Williams

        SOAR is amazing! I cannot say enough good things about SOAR and their staff. I highly recommend their camps.

    • #51929

      You could also try getting him some gaming related T-shirts or some stickers and patches for his backpack. If he has trouble with conversation, maybe a few conversation starters will help.

      I used to be into games a lot in my teens and 20s. He’s definitely not the only 14 year old with that interest. Maybe the other kids at school will be easier to talk to if they know what he’s into.

    • #51932

      Hello JK12,

      My son is also 14 and when I read your post, I felt like I was reading about my son! I also live in the Northwest area of Minnesota, Rogers. Would love to start a group with you, and hopefully find others, send me a message and we can connect!

    • #52106

      My son is now 22, but suffered terribly in the small, private school we thought would work for him. He also had no friends, even though he was so smart, sweet, and funny. He felt like the kids in his class were from another planet and couldn’t understand why they were so mean. I was lucky to learn about a place near us which also helped autistic and Asperger kids with a special group format they simply called “Friends’ Club.” Even though my son had neither of these issues, after meeting our son (then 8), the director explained why this group would still work for him. To my happy surprise, she was correct. My son was treated like one of the “lead” helpers, because he was so kind and considerate, while he actually helped the group function during the hour-long sessions. He was equally helped with social skills he lacked due to his ADD and intelligence. He spent one year going once a week and it was the best thing I did for him.

      I say all of this to offer the hope that the group you mentioned may actually offer something more than you’re expecting. The group near us (Carlsbad, CA) had groups for kids of all ages, up to 18. It’s possible the group you mentioned is worth another look.

      My son is now getting straight As in college (granted, on a slower ADD track), and does have friends there, but he STILL doesn’t invite anyone over! Apparently, that’s just how he is comfortable in his life. He, too, spends time gaming on the internet, both with friends he knows, and with gamers he doesn’t know beyond the game itself. I do wonder what people like him did before the internet provided this outlet, but he is happy and is enjoying his adult life.

      Two other points about him, just FYI: (1) after suffering through “regular” school up through grade 3, I finally took his pleas to homeschool him to heart and he successfully graduated with a lot of help from our local junior college which allowed students under 16 to enroll with professor’s permission (he started taking classes at age 14 and loved it). During those homeschooling years, he and his little sister who barely made it through Kindergarten, thankfully made friends within the homeschool community); and (2) He still doesn’t drive… another concept we just have to figure out: even though he WANTS to drive, he just doesn’t have the “drive” to make it happen on his own, which is aggravated by the admission that he’s worried he’ll kill too many bugs with the car and is fearful he might try to avoid a bug at the expense of whoever might be around him. Yeah, that’s scary!!

      Good luck, there’s a lot of great suggestions from others to your questions 🙂

    • #52113

      I am diagnosed with ADHD and ASD. In my teenage years I never really had friends and like your son I was addicted to the cyber net by games and youtube.
      Many times my parents kicked me out of the house to play outside and dropped me at parties. When I entered those parties I walked a circle and eventually went outside to sit on a bench waiting till my parents pick me up again.
      Because I got forced to socialize I got more and more the feeling that I was defective, mentally crazy or just stupid.
      When I was 16 years old and could get a student-job I loved it. But also there when there was a barbecue party I just went alone and didn’t speak with anyone.
      Eventually after graduating school and when I got a full time job Work became an obsession. I loved it, but also there I hated social events.
      Now with learning that I have ADHD and ASD it makes me realize, I DON’T need to act like I am social.
      I can be an amazing employee, have a happy life and don’t need to act like someone I am not.
      Eventually I got married by somebody who also doesn’t like social situations.
      There are still a lot of things I need to figure out about my disorder.
      My mind works different, I like mechanical things more then humans, I like plants, trees, insects, animals more then humans.
      I wasted many years behind youtube and games and the only regret I have is not spending it outside (alone) in nature and creating stuff.
      My strong point are mechanical inside, I feel very well how machines work. This helped me very well as a train driver where I was working alone and needed to repair complicated systems.

      I wouldn’t advice you to force him to socialize. It makes him feel more different than he actually is.
      Find his strong points and let him become amazing at those things. This makes him feel more confident instead of insecure.
      It would also help him with future jobs where he wouldn’t need to be that social

    • #52114

      I have an almost 18 yo son with ADD and a 16 yo daughter with social anxiety/anxiety/depression. Both are stable. My daughter is very focused student with top grades. My son’s grades tend to be all over the place. As is typical of ADD kids, he does well in subjects and with teachers he likes. He is capable and intelligent, but not “good at school”- turning things in and on time, keeping an organized notebook, etc.

      Neither one of them has any close friends. Very seldom has either of them gone to or had kids over since they finished elementary school. They enjoy other kids at school but it stops there. I felt like they were missing so much, not attending school events and games, hanging out with friends, etc. but I have mostly reconciled myself to the situation after observing that 1)few kids now “hang out” the way we did, even the more socially adept. Texting has replaced much of that. 2)They’re in no rush to drive either, likely because of the texting and access to everything online. Everything comes to them so they don’t have incentive to go out and seek others. My daughter talks about some of the You Tubers that she subscribes to as though she knows them personally. In a way, she does, I guess. 3)They are both good kids, if homebodies, who seem to get almost all their social needs met in our small family.

      I have had to accept that they are different kids than I was. I feel like I have mourned what I feel they are missing, but they aren’t missing what they don’t seem to need.

      I also know that my daughter made some valiant efforts to develop friendships but she’s surrounded by kids whose manners and social skills are, at best, limited (much of this affected by cell phones) and who do the least they can to get by and are disrespectful and disruptive, even in Honors classes. Because she is so tentative socially, I was coaching and encouraging her but when I truly saw what she was up against, I ended up telling her I was fine with her reading a book during lunch. Hopefully college will offer a more appealing set of peers.

      We never bought a game system for my son because we found that when he played video games, it sucked up all of his energy and ability to focus and he was very irritable trying to stop when time was up and after stopping. We told him that if it was really important to him, he could save up and buy one on his own. He never did and we NEVER missed it. He does play some on the computer, but is not as absorbed and obsssed as so many boys.

      I wanted to share some of my experience to acknowledge that many of us are facing this and it was my extremely long winded way of saying that sometimes we just need to say to ourselves: if they’re happy, I’m happy.

    • #52118
      Wendy Lichtig

      I have a hard time teasing out shyness, from social anxiety, from introversion. I feel like some of the comments are equating these things. My understanding is that introverts don’t want to be around others, shy people do but don’t know how, and people with social anxiety are shy to what is considered a pathological level. My son cannot initiate conversation and whether he can participate in the conversation, once started, depends on the conversation abilities of the person he’s talking to. He doesn’t talk to anyone outside of school, but calls a couple kids in school his friends and nobody, thank God, is mean to him. He sits with other kids at lunch and will speak if spoken to but, otherwise will sit doing origami or reading a book instead of participating in the conversation at the table. Like your son, he won’t go to therapy. I know he would like to have a more vibrant social life outside of school. I’m just wondering how to try to get out of him how he feels about what i perceive is his isolation. If it doesn’t bother him, fine, then i guess he’s an introvert. But i think it does and that, perhaps, learning about what social anxiety is might help. That said, I’m hoping that my suggesting he read information about it won’t come off as a criticism on my part that there is something wrong with him.

      • #52147
        Penny Williams

        I think it’s really common for people with social anxiety to also be introverts. I have significant social anxiety. I do enjoy the company of others, when I know them and know what to expect of them, and know that they like me and accept me. My social anxiety seems to be driven by an inferiority complex.

        However, I find it much more enjoyable to be introverted, because I don’t have to work so hard, and struggle with the stress, and push myself until I’m so anxious that I feel physically sick (which is what would happen if I attended a social gathering where I knew no one). Acceptance from others makes it better, but I still prefer to not be social more often, even if spending time with people I’m at ease with. I wouldn’t say that introverts don’t want to be around other people, it’s often just easier for them not to be, and that comfort drives them to be introverted (that’s how I see it).

        Now, my daughter’s social anxiety stems from struggling to read and understand people and a fear of upsetting others or of people thinking she’s weird (a kid called her “weird” once in 3rd grade and it has stuck with her and completely changed her). She definitely has some lagging social skills and abilities, where I am really good at faking it socially, but terrified the entire time.

        No matter how we label it, some people a just happier being less social. Our job as parents is to determine if that’s the case, and support our kids for who they are.

        ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #52127
      Sarah Haug

      This blog has answered the most painful issue I wrestle with as a parent of a kid with ADHD. My son is 14, a gamer and science nerd who just wants to be at home with his family and does not care for socializing outside of school. I have pushed him to attend team sports and get out with other kids, but he is communicating that it just isn’t “him.” How great it is to hear from parents, but most of all kids with ADHD who can attest to what I’m just really beginning to understand: accept your kid for who they are. Pretty tough sometimes for a parent who cannot really understand a child who is so different from themselves. I think when a child is at a point where they can really verbalize how they feel about social situations, it’s time to listen and accept. My son is really into gaming, coding and anything to do with science. He plays with other gamers on Steam and I’ve decided to just go with his urge to be a computer/science nerd and all that goes with it!

    • #52179

      This post describes my almost 16-year-old son precisely. He is an only child and has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and inattentive ADHD. He is medicated and went to counseling until he learned to respond like he knew was expected. It just became a waste of everyone’s time for him to be a yes man. He has no friends that he sees outside of school. He vetos my attempts at inviting friends to do things like go to the movies, drive go-karts, attend baseball games, etc. He has a few friends that he plays online games with that are local. I can’t decide if he doesn’t want to invite these guys out of a fear of rejection or simple lack of desire. He is an excellent student with mostly A’s and a few B’s. He does the absolute bare minimum at the last minute but somehow pulls it off. We are trying to encourage him to get a summer job, but most things I find are only hiring at 16 due to work permits and hour restrictions. He is not interested in searching for a job or learning to drive with his learner’s permit. Again, is this out of fear of the unknown expectations or responsibility? I don’t feel like he is lazy because he will help willingly around the house, with his grandparents and other family members. I have cut off the financial support for his many “wants” in hopes of encouraging his desire for a job, without success.

      He had “friends” at school last year that repeatedly did rotten things like steal his lunch or squish it when he isn’t looking. I have suggested they probably aren’t his friends and that he may want to find somewhere else to sit. He refused to speak up for himself, find a new seat or change the situation. I wanted to intervene on his behalf but didn’t because I know this would make it worse, not better and that he will encounter challenging people in life. It breaks my heart for him to spend so much time in isolation with video games and YouTube. He doesn’t seem to mind that he is not experiencing life. He will laugh and carry on with his gaming friends, but I feel like there is a lot to be gained by interacting with people in real life. He is in an engineering program at his school that requires volunteer hours. He will drag his feet until the last moment and do them begrudgingly. He is always hesitant and dreads doing these things but always comes home in a good mood and chatty about the experience.

      How much do I push my little birdie out of the nest and insist on him being involved in his own life and how much do I respect his comfort bubble?? My husband has suffered from social anxiety his whole life that his parents ignored. There are many things in regular everyday life that still affect him. My husband is pushing for our son to interact with people, get a part time job and act like a typical teenager. I tend to fall in the middle because I see it from both sides. My son doesn’t seem unhappy, but I fear he isn’t learning how real life operates. Having friends, even one or two seems like it would be so beneficial. I don’t believe we were meant to do life alone. Seeing my husband struggle in social situations and work relationships as an adult makes me want to help my son work this out now, so he doesn’t face the same challenges. I’ll be following along for suggestions.


      • #52300
        Penny Williams

        Expectations must match capability. Since ADHD is a developmental disorder, your 15-year-old is really 12-13 in a lot of areas, likely including social skills. Asking him to act like “a typical teenager his age” is asking him to do something he physically isn’t capable of. It takes kids with ADHD longer to mature. Your son will get there (driving, job, etc.) when he’s ready. Now, that doesn’t mean he can stay jobless in your home the rest of his life, it just means that he needs a little more time and room to be ready.

        Stop Telling Your Child to Act His Age

        Grow Up Already! Why It Takes So Long to Mature

        ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #52316

      My son is an adult now with many, many friends. This was not always the case. My son only had people he called friends at activities like karate lessons. All the people there had something in common and therefore something to talk about. Throughout the years we would pursue any activity my son showed interest in: art lessons, choir, violin, zoo camp, chess club, theater camp, auditioning for plays, etc. He also has a huge interest in automobile mechanics and sports cars. He like comic books and fancy yoyos. I bought auto magazines and comic books and yoyos and he would take them to school. Boys with simular interests would gravitate to him to see a magazine or try out his new yoyo. He is also very interested in computers and can fix anything electronic. He became the go to guy to get your computer fixed in high school, not only by other students but by teachers as well. I told my son to not approach other kids because he came on to stong. When he started letting the kids come to him things changed and every since high school my son has been blessed with the best friends anyone could ask for. Most of them share the same interests and they will be friends for life. They work on computers and cars together and they go on vacation together every year. What more could I ask for. I hope this helps someone.

    • #101151

      Hi JK12,
      I stumbled upon your question today when i was doing a google search for similar issues for my 14 year old son. I know, your post is from June 2017 but i would really like to connect with you and see how your son is doing. Also share my own struggles. If interested in connecting, please reply back. I would love to connect with any of the other moms too who have posted replies here. Thank you

Viewing 19 reply threads

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.