Lonely Child

By Katherine Smith
Katherine Smith
Katherine Smith
is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a gifted divorce mediator in NYC. She is a former high school English teacher and college counselor with a passion for enhancing the lives of others. Additionally, Katherine has extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, family systems, and group therapy. Readers can contact her at AskKathyMFT@gmail.com.
October 9, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     I have two sons who have always been close to each other. When they’re together, they joke around, wrestle with each other, and play video games. Unfortunately, their relationship ends when they go to school. My sons attend the same high school, but don’t socialize with each other at all in school. They have completely opposite social lives.

     My older boy is very popular and plays sports. He is the life of the party wherever he goes. My younger son is shy. He doesn’t reach out to the other kids and they ignore him. He has a couple of acquaintances he talks to a little, but no real friends.

     I’ve spoken to his teachers and guidance counselor and they told me to encourage him to join some school clubs. I encourage him but he won’t go. He says he has too much homework to do but I think he’s just too shy to go alone.

     I want my older son to go to a couple of clubs with his brother so he will feel comfortable and make some friends. They’re brothers and they should help each other out when they need to because that’s what families do. My husband tells me to leave the boys alone. He thinks our younger son should work it out for himself.

     I’m worried that he’ll just stay this lonely kid and wind up getting depressed. What do you think? 

Mother of Two

 

Dear Mom,

     I empathize with your concern. As a mother of five, I have experienced similar concerns about my shy daughter. She seems to be overlooked by her peers while her two sisters are the center of attention in their respective social circles.

     I see you doing all the right things regarding the situation.  You are clearly aware of your child’s social life, have initiated contact with his teachers and guidance counselor, and you are following their advice by encouraging your son to participate in after-school clubs.

     In addition, I suggest that you and your husband have a good heart-to-heart discussion with your younger son about how he feels about his social life. Ask him open-ended questions and really listen. You may be surprised by what he has to say.

     You assume that he is lonely and may later become depressed as a result. It’s possible that he, unlike his highly social brother, recharges his batteries by spending quiet time in his own company. Two of my high schoolers are similar to your older boy – they love to be around people and get bored easily. My more timid daughter is easily overwhelmed by too much noise and social stimulation – she likes her peace and quiet after a long day surrounded by other kids.

     Talk to your son and find out what’s going on inside for him. He may be happy exactly as he is. If it turns out that your assumption is correct that his shyness interferes with his ability to make friends, you may consider enrolling him in a social skills group for shy children. Your son’s guidance counselor may form such a group within the high school or give you an outside referral.

     Additionally, you and your husband may consider encouraging your son to work part-time or volunteer for an organization which interests him and is people-oriented (i.e. an animal shelter, grocery store, house of worship, etc.).  

     As for your older son’s input, I think it would be best if your younger son made the decision as to whether or not to ask his brother for assistance. It’s wonderful that your children get along so well. I suggest that you not change the dynamic between them by pressuring one of your boys to help the other in a way that one or both of them may not be comfortable. It could be humiliating rather than helpful to your younger son. Please let me know how things work out!

All my best,

Kathy

Readers, please comment on this mom’s dilemma. Your feedback is always welcome. Additionally, send your letters to AskKathyMFT@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a gifted divorce mediator in NYC. She is a former high school English teacher and college counselor with a passion for enhancing the lives of others. Additionally, Katherine has extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, family systems, and group therapy. Readers can contact her at AskKathyMFT@gmail.com.