Socially challenged at 14

This topic contains 18 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  mdellasanta 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #63283


    My daughter had been diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school. Not a problem we thought. School work has been a struggle for her but with her accommodations and our help she has survived, no problems. As a child she never had a hard time making friends, she actually head a lot. Middle school was fine during 6th grade but by 7 and 8 grade I started to notice things changing. Her friends where maturing and she was not maturing at the same speed. She is impulsive and sometimes not patient when she does not receive an instant reply to a text (for example) and this would bring out the nagging in her. My husband and I had talked with her about how not everyone hangs by their phone, etc., we had on another occasion taken her phone. So I assume that this was a big part of her social/friendship problem. It eventually got better. But the social scene didn’t. She is now a freshman in high school and still trying to find her way. She has joined cross country, DECA and the art program which is only one day a week after school. I, hoping this will help but we still need some advice. We had her counsel for a while but it was hard because the counselor said she really doesn’t talk much she is very quiet. She is a very happy girl as far as we see. Teachers love her. She is not a problem at all. She has such a sweet heart and kind. We talk about a lot of things and she doesn’t really notice that she is socially challenged. On the weekends she is either home, while her piers are doing their thing, or she is with family and socializes with family kids or family friends. How can we help??? Or is this normal and we could just let life take its course.

  • #63462

    Janice Molinari

    I wish I had the answer and I will be looking forward to some replies to your post. We are experiencing this with the 11 year old grandson we are raising. It sounds like you are doing all the right things. I keep telling the grandson that all he need 1 or 2 good friends but it’s not easy…

    • #64788


      If she seems happy, let her be herself and don;t try to force her to be more social. I was the same at her age. I was falling behind my classmates in emotional/social development, a situation exacerbated by the fact that I was also chronologically a full year younger. Being forced, or pressured, into socializing with classmates she’s out of step with would only create frustration and a sense of isolation. What I’d recommend (from having been that kid), is that you encourage her in her own individual interests. One of the cool things about her situation, as long as she’s happy, is that she can hold on to her own indviduality, without worrying about peer pressure. She’ll be more able to entertain herself, to hold her own opinions and, as an adult, to enjoy the company of others without NEEDING the company of others. The only thing standing in her way is others telling her that there’s something wrong with her because she’s not socializing enough.

      Another thing you might explore is connecting her with an adult mentor in an area of strong interest. This provides a social connection outside of the family, which can increase her self-confidence and sense of independence, as well as supporting her area of passion, without the pressure of trying to fit in with her “peers.” I wouldn’t force her into this situation either, but instead present it as an opportunity. “You know how you’re totally into raptors? Well, there’s a woman at this sanctuary who rehabilitates them, and she’d love to have you come spend some time with her birds, if you’re interested.”

      Hope this gives you some ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

    • #109895


      great advice! thank you

  • #63486


    I’m 15 and also somewhat socially challenged, for similar reasons, and I think if she’s happy than you should let her mature at her own rate. Also, sometimes school isn’t a comfortable environment for socializing for some people. My best friend outside of my family comes from my church. I also find it easier to talk to kids who are younger than me, because their maturity level is closer to mine.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by  carlandrea.
  • #64044


    Thank you so much for all your advice and encouragement. I wish you both well as we all walk this road which is a little challenging. But I do tell my daughter to completely embrace who she is. Remember that…

  • #64298


    My 13-yr-old son was in a similar situation. He says he has no friends at school. So we have him involved in several other social channels: Church, and Boy Scouts, and cross-country!
    Each of those outlets was an uphill climb, but they have all paid off. Every week, he looks forward so much to going to his church group! (If our schedule gets tight and we don’t think we can bring him to his teens-at-church meeting, he INSISTS that we take him!)
    And he is also thriving in his Boy Scout troop. By design, the troop’s management will nudge him outside his comfort zone, into leadership roles, and he grows. (Our troop has several kids on “the spectrum”, and it’s a very supportive environment.
    The school’s Cross Country coach has made him team captain, and the running helps him burn his excess mental & physical energy. He now goes on runs by himself, just for fun.
    I am definitely seeing progress in his social growth.
    Hang in there!

  • #64329


    I have a 14 year old son who was diagnosed about 2nd grade with ADD. He’s in the same boat. I count myself fortunate that I’m only dealing with the diarrhea of the mouth (not potty mouth, just nonstop “has to talk” if he’s awake) and never listening to daily things, so I have to repeat everything a billion times even though I know it won’t stick. Oh, and he’s still in pullups at 14 since he won’t pay attention to his body and will wet himself otherwise… I’ve heard and read horror stories from other parents with ADD kids who have just “Wow!” bad behavior in school for the most part, and other than maybe two or three rebellious instances a year, I don’t have much of a problem with him in school. Part of me figures I’d rather have the meltdowns myself at home, rather than at school.

    But like your daughter, he’s not emotionally maturing as quick as the kids at school. So he always gravitates to kids younger than he is to socialize, i.e. in daycare (since I school choice him, he can’t take a bus to school, so I have to drive him, and he uses their after school daycare program until I can drive out to the town he’s in and pick him up after I leave work).

    Most of the time he is fine, he sometimes is friends with someone randomly for a short while, then with someone else. He’s so friendly and WANTS to like everyone and to be liked by them, but I can see even when I drop him off at school, he goes running towards some kids waving his hands like he’s in second grade, and I can see their expressions and how he’s putting them off with that behavior. He just isn’t as mature. HE doesn’t see that, of course, but THEY do and his reality is that he has few friends because of it… And while he’s not getting in trouble like some kids i hear about, he has had a few instances where he just digs his heels in, refuses to do anything, or throws stuff on the floor and storms out of the class because he needs to just decompress, and those things all stick in the other student’s heads as something that makes my son “different.”

    Every once in a while the situation breaks my heart to the point of tears… About two months ago he woke up almost deliriously happy, and I asked, “What has you in such a good mood this morning?” He replied, “I had a dream where all my friends at school liked me back.” And my heart just broke, and I pretended I had to go to the bathroom because I didn’t want him to see my tears…

    But the root cause is also the bit of silver lining in the situation. His immaturity makes it difficult for him to maintain friendships with kids in his age group. But that same immaturity kind of makes him mostly immune, and a little bit ignorant, of it as well most of the time…

    His social worker at school had him in one of these social lunch groups that helped, but that’s not done this year now for 8th grade… Fortunately his special ed teacher has him changing for gym class in the teacher’s bathroom, so nobody at school at least knows he’s still in pullups (I can’t even imagine how much WORSE it would be for him then) but I think that also alienates them since they know there’s something different going on with him…

    I am scared to death of what will happen next year in high school if he won’t get past the pullup stage…

    So you’re definitely not alone, and your daughter is by no means unusual in this regard. Seems that almost every parent I know with an ADD kid has a similar experience… I just keep telling him that the kids just aren’t sure how to act as far as he is concerned, since he’s unique. He takes it in stride, and bit by bit this year he’s starting to stretch his own social butterfly wings, even if it’s just with a few younger kids in our area (since he is school choiced he doesn’t know anyone around here from school since they go to the local schools). But in the last four to six weeks, he’s actually been going over to OTHER kid’s houses to see if they want to play… So for me it’s just baby steps. He’s 14, and he’s only starting to do what I would do when I was 7… But he’s at least making progress…

    For the most part he’s happy, and that’s what I try to focus on, not the part that makes ME a lot sadder than it makes HIM. He’s always been shy and had difficulty with social situations, so for him this is all “normal” and he doesn’t know that it’s not like that for everyone… I think that eases it a bit for both of us…

    As long as he makes even those baby steps, I’m just going to be content and keep encouraging him, and let him do more as he becomes more ready. I think I would do more damage trying to push him into social situations like I knew at his age, when he’s clearly not ready for them…

    But all that being said, NOTHING makes any of it easier for us parents, does it?

    Hang in there!


  • #64336


    This sounds just like me in Jr. High! (Now I’m 33 and I just got diagnosed with ADHD a few months ago – I also have dyslexia and was diagnosed with that early though). In elementary school I was inventing games and always had new ideas and was the center of the social group of girls in my class. Then in Jr. High, girls were no longer interested in creative things and just wanted to talk about makeup and boys which I had no interest in (now I’m married to the nicest guy and got to skip the drama of dating immature boys – my mom would tell me that “the nice boys like my dad and grandpa were too busy building radios to notice girls at this age” and it was true for him). Also because of this lack of interest, I didn’t dress “right” and became the dorky kid with no friends. This was hard but I think the thing that kept my self-esteem alive was having social networks outside of school. I volunteered a lot (mostly working as a camp counselor for younger kids and even leading groups of adult volunteers teaching them how to lead outdoor activities for “at risk” youth). I made friends through this, but they were mostly older or younger. I also had support from family friends who I saw regularly who all thought I was still awesome – which boosted my self-esteem. Eventually, after Jr. High, the girls started losing their insecurity about being creative and having real interests again and using their brains. My mom would tell me this was an issue with the girls being insecure, not me, which I didn’t believe then, but do now. I also really feel like being dorky and not cool, while painful at the time, helped me avoid a lot of drama that the cool kids faced that I wasn’t ready to handle – like navigating alcohol and boys… I used to wish my mom had helped me be less dorky – I had the wrong jeans and didn’t shave my legs soon enough, had an out of date hairstyle (that’s back now) and all those things that make you “different”, but if I had a daughter now, maybe I’d rather her be kinda dorky and miss out on all that drama. I really think having friends from a broad range of ages from outside of school, and volunteering and being involved in things that let me learn leadership skills and that I felt good at buffered me from feeling that not being good at school and not being “popular” at school defined me. Eventually, I found great friends – I found guy friends in Jr. High (once I realized that was a possibility) because they were still creative and into inventing stuff and doing outdoor things (I think this is what is called “immature”, but I feel like I just skipped the Jr. High set of interests and still have my same elementary school curiosity that became cool again in late High School). Then, in high school, I found some nerdy girls who were really nice and some of the “cool” girls from Jr. High even turned out to be good friends later (in their 20s) when they were less insecure about doing cool creative things again. Anyway… that’s just my experience, but I really think the other replies about having friends outside your age group (younger and adults) was really important for me. Also spending time doing things I was good at and making friends with those people (both in school and outside of school) was really helpful for me to survive not being cool. I have a friend in her 40s who says that if you were cool in jr. high, I don’t want to be your friend – and I think this goes to show there are lots of people who are tagging along trying to be “cool” who, if they were braver, would rather being doing “immature” fun, active, creative, smart things. Good luck to your daughter!! Make sure she sees that there is life beyond the Jr. High social bubble, and help her find/see the talents she has to bring to the world ๐Ÿ™‚

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by  Ellings4.
  • #64337


    I’m an adult with ADHD, and I went through exactly this situation as a teenager. I started to become aware of my lack of a social circle at age 15, and when I moved to a different country later that year I found it very difficult to fit in with my peers.

    I still haven’t quite figured out how to get a social life, but when I was at university I found it so much easier to make friends, because I had a lot more in common with the people I was interacting with, and there’s such a wide range of people to meet! I think at that point as well I was closing the gap between my development and that of the people around me.

    So things might not get better yet, or even soon, but if your daughter doesn’t give up on friendship, it will come!

  • #64348



    I as an adult and having been diagnosed with ADD at about 35, find that thinking back to my own childhood it can be hard to know if my memory is trustworthy – after all it is known that witnesses to a crime are confused about the color of clothes or height of people after only a few hours… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyways, I remember being socially akward, introvert, sometimes felt really excluded, sometimes redrawing myself, finding it hard to trust my class mates. Luckily I had a few nerdy friends outside of school that didn’t care about social hierachy and fancy clothes. We absorbed ourselves in cartoons, starwars, gadgets and toys and never talked much about who we were or what we thought of other people. This made it much easier for me to interact with these friends, compared to my class mates.

    I’m not saying that this is the path to happiness but sometimes it can help to focus on stuff outside of yourself and I think the art class might be really healthy for her mentally. A “holiday retreat” is called just that because sometimes you need to get away from the bustle of life – so long as it doesn’t become a prison – meaning that we actually ‘want’ to come back from it – I think it is good. It could lead to new and better friendships than what the school offers…

    hope this helps

  • #64349


    Thank you everyone for your input and your stories. I truly appreciate it. The hard part for me is that I see it and understand it. But as some have mentioned, let her be because she is happy and really hasn’t noticed the social challenges. She is just so happy and sweet and I think that is why I try to protect her around the high school girls because she misses those social cues and sometimes thinks they are her friends. Let’s face it we all know how high school girls can be. yuck!!!! She is loving cross country and as I mentioned joined DECA at school and the art club. She will be getting involved with a group of girls at our church, so I am hoping that works well. You have all really eased my mind and heart. Thank you.

  • #64351


    The friend – making aspects of adhd are greatly improved with a dedicated speech therapist. The nuances in how to talk to peers, having parallel exchanges when challenged understanding empathy need pragmatic one on one coaching. Often this is missing from the care team for ashโ€™s /aspergers teens. Friends are easy when young because they just play – some time at 6th, 7th grade talk exchange exposes these weaknesses and the exchanges fail and they pull back and avoid exchanges.

  • #64356


    My son is 16. He had friends to the end of grade 8. In high school he decided he wants to spend his lunch times in the library to read. Doctor said he needs downtime to give the brain some quiet time to relax. My son says he’s happy. His wording to me: “Mom, you’re a social person. You go into a party and you make everyone feel good, and you get everyone to have fun. I go into that room and I see people like you and I want to go into the next room where people are playing video games.” Then I said… “but I worry about you, and I just want to be happy. Are you okay? are you happy?”… He said “yes, mom, I am. Stop worrying.”

    Of course I still worry, but this little insight to his personality was an eye opener. It made me stop in my tracks, and actually took my breath away. To this day I am so very proud of him for saying this at the tender age of 15. I still encourage for him to try to make friends, but I don’t push him to.

    When he’s with family, and especially people he feels comfortable with, he opens up and is very funny and can be social. He has one cousin with whom he feels very close. They can go into public and have fun in social environments. This tells me that my son is not the type that will have many friends, but the kind that will have 1 or 2 super close friends. Sometimes having that 1 close friend beats having 400 Facebook distant friends.

  • #64361


    I am both happy and sad to read this article. I have a 12yr old daughter with the same issue and sometimes I think it bothers me more then her. I ask her on a regular basis if she is happy and she always states “yes, mom”. So, I have come to the conclusion while it really bothers me, she is happy so I need to let it go. It is my own insecurities, not hers and I shouldn’t bring them on to her if she is happy and comfortable in who she is. In fact sometimes I actually admire that she can do her own thing and not care about what others think or that she doesn’t feel the pressure to fit in. In conclusion, as parents we won’t stop worrying because that is what we do but one day this will be all behind us and our kids will have grown up to be fine adults but until then thank goodness we have forums like this to help us through.

  • #64534


    I can relate with the experience im currently 25
    I have not sought out a diagnosis but my teenage life was strange, I always felt like missing some ingredients in what it meants to be a teenager or a human in general. I remember i had trouble in my old country as in not understanding how to keep up communications, its just friendships and didn’t make sense

    I moved to Ireland at 14 and remembered barely said a word to for 2 years, guess there was assumed that that it was my second language so its ok not to speak well. Or at all. During junior cert i was mega depressed to the point of barely functioning. Just books and school. I kinda thought that was all there was.
    I felt no one explained the basics

    While in the mean time I also hid me not being ok from my parents as partly they were buisy and stressed and partly I knew no other state of being than that.

    After something clicked out of fear of dying alone, i started volunteering at local youth centre
    Which was good but i never felt as if was a deep connection it’s more the type of connection people observed and repeated

    My problems was that I developed a personal that was always cheerful and ok, while having no clue how to conect or understand how the web of human connections works. It’s like i see it but im an outsider never sure how to react.

    Guess my advice would be, make sure that there is trust between two of you and communicate, the most simple problem from to the parent might be the most complicated for her
    Actually reading about behaviour is helpful. Since she may or may not be good with social q.

    Good luck with it

  • #64587

    Although I’m not a mother, I felt compelled to respond because this reminds me so much of myself growing up. As I was reading it was almost like looking into a mirror and seeing myself back when I was in middle school. The only major difference in your daughter’s experience and my own is that she appears to have the privilege of being virtually blind to the fact that she’s, as you put, “socially challenged.” I, on the other hand, was not so fortunate as to have been excluded from the knowledge that I was somehow different from my peers. I was MORE than well aware of it. More like HYPER-aware I’d venture to say, and it was a constant source of deep, nagging unrest for me, like a vengeful, burdensome ghost that won’t release its hold on your heart.

    It is for this reason that I am thankful she has been spared this same isolating experience. I can tell your concerns are genuine and heartfelt, and have little doubt that her unique qualities, gifts, and talents are as beautiful and special as you’ve depicted them to be. Despite none of us having the ability to predict what changes may take place in our lives, the only advice I feel I can offer having been in her position and yet not being a mother is to take as much comfort as you can in the fact that she is happy with where she is and who she is right now, in this present moment. Keep a constant line of non-judgmental communication open and be diligent and mindful with consistent affirmations reminding her of all her great qualities so that she always remembers those things that make her wonderful. Looking back, these are the things which (had I gotten enough of) would have made the greatest difference for me in the long run. The point at which the realization that I was socially different began to affect me to the extent that it did was the point at which other people began to make me aware of it and act as if it were a problem. Had I been given enough reinforcements in the form of positive affirmations to form a big enough shield between it and my self-worth, I would have fared much better.

    That’s my two cents: constant, unconditional encouragement, positive affirmations, and acceptance for the person she is right now, not who others may want her to be. If she’s happy, that’s what matters. We have our whole lives for other people to try and steal our happiness away from us; let her be happy, and remember that we are all wired differently. Some people are more extroverted and get their needed rest and stimulation from being surrounded by others, while others (like myself) are more introverted and get the same effect through having alone time or close-knit connections with just a couple other people (quality over quantity). If she seems happy keeping to herself, let her be the version of herself that makes her happiest as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and consider that although being different from the crowd may seem like a sad nightmare from some people’s perspectives, it may be a blissful safe haven for the person to whom that reality belongs (“Not all those who wander are lost”) ๐Ÿ™‚

    I wish you both the best of luck, and I sincerely hope she continues to stay happy and content, and receives whatever she needs to embrace her uniqueness as the superpower that it is.

    Best wishes <3

  • #64768

    Stacey Turis

    We might be raising the same kid! I have a 14 year old daughter and I couldn’t describe her better than what you just did. I love that these kids have the confidence to stay true to what makes them happy – hanging out in their comfort zone like family, family friends, etc. is PERFECTLY OK and says a lot about how much effort you put into that positive environment.

    She’s in a huge transition at 14 and it sounds like she’s a pretty sensitive kid, so she has to deal with that on top of everything else. If she is happy and content, be happy and content that you are doing everything right and that she has the self-awareness to modify her environment to keep herself on track. Introverts are perfectly happy not having to deal with the energy, drama and exhaustion of tons of friends. When she’s ready – she’ll probably find one or two friends that she feels “get her” and that will be all she needs. Just keep walking beside her – she knows the way! XO

  • #64847


    I am overwhelmed with all these replies. Thank you everyone. Each of you have had so much insight and many interesting stories and pieces of advice. Thank you all so much. I am truly sorry for all you have through or are presently going through this issue. I am happy to know that my husband and I are approaching Sophia’s challenge well. I actually hate referring to this as a challenge because I always tell her she is awesome. As I myself have never been diagnosed with ADHD (our pedetrician has diagnosed me on many visits – lol) I had my own learning challenges and social challenges but back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, I was referred to as lazy when it came to learning and just quiet and shy when it came to socializing. I managed to grow and at this point in my life I have the most amazing friends but 4 very special women in my life that I am so extremely happy I have met and bonded with once I became a mom because the older you get and make these friendship, they are the ones that will last. High school friendships and early 20 and 30s, I have found move on. Although some people remain friends from the Kindergarten age and forward, I find that very rare. Sophia is a very happy young girl and sometimes my husband and I look at her and are just amazed because she doesn’t see herself alone. Again this is our issue, foolish I know. But we are truly blessed with her beauty inside and out. She loves to learn even though its hard for her and loves people even though she hasn’t truly learned how different we all are, but that is what make her awesome to us. We will continue to always let her know we are here for her, keep open discussions, and love what she loves. She also has our 19 yr old son (her brother) to talk with her. I myself overthink alot, that’s part of my anxiety and my husband tells me to stop, she is fine. He is right. Thank you everyone. I love these open discussions. I am so happy that you have been here to help me. When she was diagnosed with ADHD I told her she was no different then the girl with blue eyes (as she has brown). Her brain/thoughts work one way and the girl with the blue eye might think the same way or may not. We all learn different. Imagine if every person looked and acted the same way… how boring would that be? She just laughed and told me my ADHD was sometimes a little hard to live with. hahaha … Imagine.

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