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Not fitting in

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
My 9yo son is a sociable kid who loves to be outside. He likes exploring in nature and playing pretend games with friends. He doesn't like competetive sports. It seems like as the neighborhood kids get older, all the boys want to do is play sports and my son feels like he doesn't fit in anymore. He realizes that his motor skills aren't as good as his friends' are, so he's embarrassed to play with them. Usually he doesn't play--he just comes home. But I encouraged him to give the games a try and just ask his friends to teach him how to play. I guess I had more faith in the neighborhood boys than I should have. They told him he wasn't very good and said he doesn't know how to play the games because he's homeschooled. He got kicked in the face and chest with the soccer ball (accidentally, I think) and came in crying.

I feel bad because I encouraged him to play. He's never liked competetive sports, but I thought it'd be good for him to practice so he could get better and then enjoy hanging out with the neighborhood kids more. I don't really like the neighborhood kids to be honest. They are very different from all the homeschooled kids we know. They cuss and are mean to each other. But they are the only kids around.

What can I do differently when things like this come up? How can I help my son in these types of social situations (where the kids around him don't have good social skills!)?
post #2 of 20
Help him meet new kids and hopefully he will make friends that way. These neighborhood kids don't sound like very good friends between the lack of things in common and their attitude towards homeschooling.

Have you joined a local homeschool group, community club, or church?

When this comes up again I would just tell him to do what he wants. He can choose to play a sport or not. It's up to him. The same would go for any activity.
post #3 of 20
Oh mama I feel the heartache. I so want to on the one hand teach my kids how to join into social grups, yet also protect them from the potential bad outcome.

What to do? Well, he's not into sports, so I can see why the neighbourhood scene isn't a go. Is the issue not so much making the neighbourhood scene work, but rather learning how to navigate such a scene and possibly deciding why it's not for him? I mean he could take classes on these sports to learn on his own and then try again, but if these kids are generally mean ( I so know this scene) and if they're already labeling your son, and your son feels his skills are not up to par, I wonder if there's a future in pursuing this group at all, kwim?

Does your son want it to work out, he sees them out there and wants in?

There are various things to learn here, just not sure where you want things to go, what you hope to teach or help him with.

I hated it when we had older kids on our street who played and would not involve my kids. I get it, I just didn't like it. They moved away. I feel joy, and am ashamed of it, but I don't much care anyway.
post #4 of 20
Friendships of convenience can be so different than friendships of choice. My ds isn't into sports, either. But the times it comes up are at homeschool parkdays with kids who have good social skills and are used to playing with kids at different levels. So sometimes he joins in and seems to enjoy it. Sometimes, I think it would be nice to have a bunch of neighborhood kids around but I know that would also likely bring a bunch of headaches, as well. I think I'd just support your ds when he decides not to play with the other kids because they are doing something he doesn't enjoy. There is a lot of value in being comfortable walking away from situations.
post #5 of 20
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
There is a lot of value in being comfortable walking away from situations.

This is top on my list of things I want my kids to learn. They struggle with it and have yet to find that strength.
post #6 of 20
Boy, this sure sounds like an introduction to real life! And what he will almost definitely face throughout his life. (teens, young adult, college, the workforce, etc)

I wonder, what does he think he should do? Have you asked him what he feels he would like? Does he want to keep trying to get to know these kids?

If so, one idea is to invite one of the boys whom he thinks is better friend material over to his house to do something besides a sport, something else he enjoys. When kids are one-on-one, things can be much different, especially among boys, who may tend to swear or act tough to gain each other's approval but when alone, may act very different (hopefully in a good way). Plus your son may feel more confident being on his own "turf".

Or, has he tried to be more proactive and suggest a game of his own when he is with the group? If these kids are anything worth hanging out with, they might listen and give his ideas a chance, too. But if the group doesn't work that way, it's not worth his time and emotional effort.

If nothing comes of it, at least he'll know he tried to see if there was anything there to make friendships or fun with, and he can know it wasn't HIM that couldn't fit in or something, but that things weren't clicking and he can move on.
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well, the kids used to come over a lot and play in our backyard. They'd play pretend games for hours. Or they'd build with legos and play on the computer or Nintendo DS. They don't do that as much any more, so my son now plays in the neighborhood by one or another of the kids' houses with them. They'll play war or something pretend some of the time, but more and more as they get older, they want to play sports. I think my son wants to play with these kids because they're the only ones around. And he doesn't have any siblings. If there were another nature/science/fantasy loving kid around, I think he'd prefer to play with that kid. If I ask him if he wants help to learn how to play a game the neighborhood kids are playing he says, "Yes please!" So he wants to fit in with them--at least a little.

We do have friends in our homeschool group, but he only sees those kids once or twice a month. I think he'd like to have a best friend--someone like him. But since he's not at school everyday, he doesn't have a big selection of easy access friends. I think there are a lot of opportunities to do things in groups as homeschoolers, but for us anyway, not so many for forming close friendships at this age.

We need a family of computer geeks and science nerds to move into our neighborhood!
post #8 of 20
are there any kids in your homeschooling group you can make more of an effort to see more regularly?
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yes actually. There is one boy who has come over to spend the night a couple times. They get a long well. I like his mom too. They aren't in my homeschool group, but they do homeschool.

The other boys my son likes in our hs group are a few years older than he is. It's been fine until recently, but they're starting to go through puberty and their interests are changing! They don't really have time for a 9yo any more--so that's another disappointment ds is having.

Looks like it's up to me to facilitate those couple of friendships with other homeschoolers with similar interests. I wish there were other HSers in our neighborhood. They have better social skills...
post #10 of 20
Mm, I see. Yeah, it looks like the kids and your son are drifting as to their interests. I wish you well on figuring out some ways to cultivate those friendships with other kids that are meaningful to him. I can see in a few months we will be in a similar boat, too, as far as going out of our comfort zone to make some friendships for my two oldest.
post #11 of 20
Originally Posted by ReadingMama View Post
Yes actually. There is one boy who has come over to spend the night a couple times. They get a long well. I like his mom too. They aren't in my homeschool group, but they do homeschool.
I think sometimes just one special friendship can mean a lot to kids, especially when they're not surrounded by kids they can hang out casually with. hugs mama, it's hard to see your babies struggling!
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the support, gals. It is hard to watch him struggle, but I know if he were in school the struggles would be even greater. BTDT. I know what it's like to long for someone who gets you. It was difficult for me to make friends when we moved here from out of state after college. So many adults seem to have their friend cards filled, you know? I agree that one really good friend can make a difference.

One thing I've found that works when exploring new kid friendships is that I always volunteer to pick the kids up and bring them home. It's harder for moms of many to pack up and get around than it is for me. I guess I just need to make the effort. It' s easier to just sit around and let the neighborhood kids play, though!
post #13 of 20
Can I comment even though we're not unschoolers, lol? We are actually pretty CL.

I can totally identify with your son's heartache right now. I'm so mad at those kids that picked on him! That was pretty much my life through elementary school!

What we do is work on ball skills as a family. We don't do any competitive sports, but we do kick, throw, practice "guarding" and stuff like that just for fun at the park. That way she's getting the practice necessary if someday she did want to join in on a soccer or basketball game, etc. We've never done a "real" sports game, but dd is now quite handy with a frisbee and has good catching/throwing skills with balls of various sizes. She does swim and karate for athletics, by her choice. I do not want her to do competitive sports right now, so I don't mention them whilst browsing the seasonal parks and rec catalog.

As far as snotty neighborhood kids go, I definitely discourage her from associating with certain kids because of their language/attitude/etc. I don't see anything wrong with that as long as your boy does have some peers that he feels comfortable with. Bad friends are worse than no friends in my book!

I agree with pp saying let him do what he wants. I'm also the kind of mom that is very honest with my child, and I will tell her, "I don't really like you hanging out with ___ because I don't like the way she and her sister talk to each other, and I don't want you to think that is cool", but I do leave it up to her if she wants to go play with them or not. Sometimes I can tell that she wants an excuse to not go play, so I'll say "I'd rather you help me with dinner right now" to give her a window out, you know?

Anyways, I'm so sorry that your boy had such a horrible experience!
post #14 of 20
"If I ask him if he wants help to learn how to play a game the neighborhood kids are playing he says, "Yes please!""

I guess my question is, if he wants to learn, why aren't you facilitating it with some kind of profession instruction? Asking the other kids to teach him seems like a recipe for disaster if he's not naturally gifted.

Sports matter for guys (from all I've seen) both as kids and adults. Being able to play sports or discuss them knowledgably really seems to operate (especially in the business world) as a social lubricant.

I have absolutely no sports ability and really regretted it later on in life:

the summer internship, where the office softball league was a big deal. Lots of missed networking opportunities there.

client entertainment -- can't take them to the golf course!

moving to a new city -- it would have been great to meet people through a sports league, etc., etc.

I have found not being able to play one team sport on a somewhat proficient basis to be limiting.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for your ideas and support! My son's in a homeschool p.e. class. They work on a different sport every week. He's also taken hip hop dance and karate, but he chose to stop taking those classes. He's not a fan of lessons or classes unless it's in something he's really interested in. Sports is not an interest of his. He just wants to be able to hold his own in the neighborhood. I think just working on ball skills, like you mentioned craft-media-hero, is the key for now. I need to learn how to play four square so I can teach him!
post #16 of 20
that's a tough one! i would definitely start doing some sports with him, and see if you can pick up folks he'd like to spend time with...what about organising sports yourself, amongst homeschoolers? we're considering doing this, as there is some weird stuff going on here in london around girls playing football (soccer), so we can't find any girls to play it with her and the boys play very differently...very tricky after leaving canada where there was a girls league for her age! sigh. a hug for you. it isn't easy.

post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the hug! Just out of curiousity, what's going on with girls' football there?
post #18 of 20
post #19 of 20
We are in a similar situation. Artistic, sensitive, verbal child....no interest in team sports. But you know what has been a dream come true? Kung Fu. It is awesome. They teach discipline AND RESPECT so the atmosphere is nothing like the competitive, rotten, environment that sometimes can exist between kids. The class is all-ages from 4 up to parents' age. They learn physical moves, confidence, discipline, and BOY do they have fun!! He gets that sense of belonging that comes from being on a team, without the competitiveness and nastiness.

Also, I plan to get him into theatre when he's a bit older. He's artistic, musical, verbal, dramatic, and having been in theatre when I was in school, I know the fantastic camaraderie that exists there.
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
We did karate for a while and he liked it. It was just at an inconvenient time for us and we were overscheduled at the time, so we're taking a break. Maybe I should ask him if he wants to start again.

My son is involved in drama (as was I growing up.) It is a natural fit for him--I just wish there were more opportunities for him locally. Our "youth theater" is mostly made up of teens. Our homeschool group does a play/musical each year, so that's a good opportunity. I teach a drama class for homeschoolers, so he gets to do that too.

There's an every Friday homeschoolers gathering at a community center here. The moms are clique-y, but the kids are nice. Perhaps we'll go check that out.

Thanks for the ideas and support all.
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