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5 year old won't make friends or play with others

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

My son seems so resistant to playing with other children. Neighbor kids are out, no interest in playing with them. He would rather swing on the swings by himself or have me or my husband play with him. In his church class during free time, he just sits by himself and colors. I recently tried joining a homeschool group that meets in the park. He refuses to try and play with other kids. He refuses to play at all in general unless I am actively playing with him. I try telling them I will play with them until lunch, and then after lunch I will be sitting and talking to the other moms. He just whines and complains. Wants me to push him on the swings (when he can do it himself). Wants me to play with him (when I would really like to get to know some of the other moms.) He just sits around complains and whines to go home.

 

All my current friends have their kids in preschool, and I feel like I really need to expand my social circle so that I have more friends and my kids have the opportunities to socialize. All the other kids of all ages are running around playing together at the meet up, but my kids will not play. I don't expect my 2.5 year old to do so, but I would think my 5 year old should be playing. My husband's biggest concern about homeschooling is the socialization issue. He wants our children to have friends. I feel like I won't even have a chance to homeschool because my child won't make any friends. I feel like my husband will continue to see him not playing with others and will think the only answer is to put him in school.

post #2 of 14

It sounds like he is not comfortable around the other kids.  It is a lot harder to play with kids than adults, particularly your parents, who pretty much follow your lead.  No doubt he will eventually start to play with other kids.  But if I were you I would continue to give him ample opportunity to do so.  You can't learn social skills without socializing, so keep up with the group activities and he will take in how play occurs and start to feel comfortable enough to take part.  I would also stand my ground in staying while talking with the other moms.  Finding someone to have one on one time might be easier for him at first.  Good luck!

post #3 of 14

My older daughter could be downright antisocial.  She was very sensitive to the relative chaos of playgroups and the unpredictable exuberance of kids on the playground.  At one point she actually growled at them if they showed up!  But playing on her own, she was so happy.  Give her some toys (preferably animals) and she would get engrossed in a play that could keep her enraptured for hours--that is, *if* other kids could have left her alone.  She found kids her age to be unacceptable playmates( could you blame her?) yet she thrived around familiar adults and older, attentive children and she always wanted me around, even if it was on the sidelines.

 

I chose to respect her choices and not push her.  Ultimately that meant leaving our playgroup, as much as I loved the moms.  I would need to find other ways and times to connect with them.  I let her choose the playgrounds she felt comfortable in, usually the quietest ones.  She liked my company, because (beyond enjoying everything better with her family) I gave her that sense of security that I could shield her from being bombarded with the seemingly chaotic energy of other kids.

 

What helped in the end, beyond not pushing her, was enrollment in gymnastics, which she loved.  She was able to connect with others, albeit in a brief, hyper-controled setting.  It almost completely removed the unpredictability from the situation.  She was able to relax and enjoy the others' company and then, long before she had too much, she got to go home.

 

I think you will find that the push for a certain flavor of sociability is distasteful to most homeschoolers.  Sociability comes in all shapes, sizes, flavors and colors, if you will.  The expectation that kids need to play actively with other kids and enjoy their company without their parents right next to them is only one style--apparently the preferred style for their children by most parents in the US.  Which causes me some confusion--most adults I know don't even fit that mold well.

post #4 of 14

How do the kids do at birthday parties and other kid centered activities? What about if you enroll in some sort of Bible Study (you mentioned church) that offers a kid care program along with the study? I did that for a  few years...I'd be in my study, and kids were in their classes......the good part was that year after year, it was the same kids, so the kids all got to know one another.

post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by bellyfruit View Post
 

It sounds like he is not comfortable around the other kids.  It is a lot harder to play with kids than adults, particularly your parents, who pretty much follow your lead.  No doubt he will eventually start to play with other kids.  But if I were you I would continue to give him ample opportunity to do so.  You can't learn social skills without socializing, so keep up with the group activities and he will take in how play occurs and start to feel comfortable enough to take part.  I would also stand my ground in staying while talking with the other moms.  Finding someone to have one on one time might be easier for him at first.  Good luck!

 

If he's not complaining about going with you to X and Y, then continue to go for all the reasons mentioned above.  I might marginally disagree with "stand your ground" in a way, but I might say something like "I really want to talk with my friends.  You can keep me company here or you can play nearby over there, but I'm not ready to play a game right now."  I never found that to really work in my personal experience, but I've been close to the extreme end of things.

post #6 of 14

I think you have two issues here, am I right?

 

You have the issue of you not getting time with your friends, or to make friends

 

And you have the issue of your son not being willing to play with the others.

 

I think these are - well they could become intertwined, because the more socially included you are the easier it will probably be to make friends, but I think they are conceptually separate. 

 

First off, I think there is nothing at all wrong with wanting friends, and there is nothing wrong with needing support, or wanting to know that that network is there in case you need it. I think that's entirely good really, all round. I think an issue with HSing can be getting everyone's social needs met, parents, siblings, everyone because everyone tends to socialise together. I think it is more than fine to insist that you get (relatively) uninterupted time talking with adults, and for you to be going there primarily for you to socialise with adults. My kids have always had to tag along with me to some stuff, and we've always worked it out. They don't always love it but goodness I've sat for enough hours in soft play centres for them. For you to want to be around adults, chatting, is really ok and good, is what I'm trying to say, don't feel bad about it or telling your family that this is something you need (in case you do). I agree broadly with "stand your ground.". You are there, and if he has the option of playing with others or, say, looking at books or playing with playdough at your table, that really seems reasonable to me.

 

Second, I think some kids need help to learn to interact with a group. One thing I've done for mine is make sure (belatedly, ex Waldorf parent) they have some access to the media experiences common to their age.Every other HS kid seems to want to talk about Minecraft, play Minecraft....  in their mainstream circles, Dr Who is the big thing. Made a big difference. I had a big hang up about not taking screens to a group meeting but, yk, I was the only parent saying this. Compromise.

 

It might be a simple case of breaking into the group even. Kids that age can be terribly cliquey. Maybe see if one of the other parents will meet up 1-1? Maybe set him up with a low interaction, fun activity at your table or nearby-that other kids can join in with too? 


Edited by Fillyjonk - 10/4/13 at 8:38am
post #7 of 14

How many times have you attended the homeschool group? 

 

It's very very common for kids to stay at the sidelines the first 2-3 times they attend a new group. Even older kids who are really social. I wouldn't blink at a 5 year old wanting to hang with mom the first few times. 

 

Having said that, if something seems off to you, I would try to figure out what it is about playing with other kids that makes him balk, and address that.  Because of my family's issues with poor eyesight, one thing that came to my mind was that he may not see well, and that might make playing with other kids hard, because he might feel less safe running around, and wouldn't be able to see what was going on well. I also think arranging one-on-one playdates is a good idea, so he can get to know some kids outside of the big group. But it could be that he either doesn't want to play the big running games for other reasons or he's not sure how to talk to the kids or something else altogether. 

 

Another thing to think about is when you play with him, make sure you expect him to play in a way that is fair to you. Sometimes it's easy for grownups to let kids have their own way when they play to such an extent that they don't know how to deal when they are playing with other kids who won't just go along. That might not be an issue here, but it's something I've seen often enough I thought I'd mention it. 

post #8 of 14

All good advice.  

 

I'd like to be Miss Negativity for one more post, if you'll indulge me.  There is a Certain Kid who can get himself in a negative feedback loop regarding play.  At some point, this kid starts equating playing with other kids as inattention or even (pardon me) abandonment by momma.  Usually it is the toddlers, but, as I had one of these, to be that way at 5yo is entirely possible.  It can be made worse if the parents usually separate at one point, and the more often they do this, the faster this Certain Kid is going to make the connection.  It is not enough for this Kid to have momma play until lunch and then he's on his own, because it's highly likely that he can brood an entire morning anticipating when he'll have to play alone while momma talks.  Instead of making the best of it and finding the fun and starting to anticipate that, he anticipates the abandonment (and yes, I think this Certain Child does feel that.) 

 

This child needs to be busted out of this negative feedback loop.  His need for closeness needs to be acknowledged and not dismissed as inappropriate for his age.  That's the first step.  The second step is to have some patience.  He can grow out of it enough to enjoy the company of other kids, but expect that he might prefer you there for a long time.  The third step is stop pushing him to interact with other kids.  The fourth --this is where it can get difficult--is to give him your undivided attention around social situations.  Especially don't attempt to use your child's social time as *your* only outlet for social time.

 

My daughter was and still is hyper sensitive to chaos that swirls around kids.  At 8.5, she often comes of a big round of play discouraged.  The difference is that now she has no problem with me being on the sidelines talking.  She joyfully enters the fray with her girl scout friends, and does nearly as well at the playground as well.  She still likes having me or another close family member on the sidelines, and this summer disliked being dropped off at the girl scout day camp they attended.  She did have fun, but she would have had more fun if I had been there.  No problem.  I did push her to stick it out for the 3 days, promising we could revisit planning for the next year.  In the end she wants not only the day camp, but the 5-day one, but only after much consideration on her part.  I also plan on enrolling all of us in a camp just for leaders and their daughters because I know she loves sharing her fun with me.  

 

I was reluctant to back off my social time in the form of play groups, etc.  I didn't mind having to try to make my own social time (which I ended up not doing, not being highly motivated-- I'm pretty content being by myself and when offered a break, my first choice is to spend that time alone.)  But in dd1's case, it was really the best thing to do.  Having one child over was OK, but she felt invaded in her own space.  So, by about 4yo (we had been going less and less often for about a year), we started generating our own fun.  We'd go to parks, we played at home, she played with her sister.  She would still growl at kids in the park and stomp off if more than one showed up.  

 

But somehow, at 5yo this suddenly changed.  She started engaging the kids, and that's when I put her in gymnastics.  That started the turnaround.  I think part of the turnaround was directly connected to my backing off.  After a while other kids didn't automatically equal my inattention (and protection from chaos).  It was connected to reassuring her that she could invite friends over when she felt ready.  She does occasionally, but her home really is her sanctuary.  She much prefers meeting them at their house or a playground.  

 

OK, so hopefully in this monster post, Miss Negativity turned to Miss Positivity.  It can turn around, but some kids really need it to be on their own terms, and they really need to have your support.

post #9 of 14

FWIW, I agree with Fillyjonk about letting him use media enough to have common experiences. When I take my 7 year old to the park, talking about Minecraft is often how he breaks the ice with other boys his age. In our area, Minecraft works for both homeschool and mainstream kids. 

post #10 of 14

I haven't read through all the threads, but wanted to quickly write something before running out the door.  My soon took a long time to really have an interest in others.  He was a bit younger when he started being interested, but what helped was playdates with another kid (the same one each time).  I am not a group person; I do much better one on one in general, when I am getting to know people, and my son seems to be the same way.  We probably had a dozen playdates (or more) with the same kids (2 sisters), before he would ask to play with them on his own.  He would even tell me that he wouldn't play with them, and then hide if they came over for the first 10 minutes, but over time, that really changed.  He also did well with his cousins, who are bigger kids.  He's still not a super social kid, but he now asks to play with other kids, rather than just wanting to play with me. So I recommend just finding a mom who has a nice easy going child and have frequent play dates with them to allow your son to develop the confidence to play with someone closer to him in age.  Btw, the sisters my son played with were younger than him, so it doesn't have to be the same age exactly.  

post #11 of 14
If you'd really like to keep going for you and your whole family to make connections, what about setting him up with things to do as an alternative to interacting?
My nearly 5yo wasn't into other children much, and still isn't, unless it's on her terms.
So when we go to the park, her 2 yo brother plays with other kids and mucks around doing typical playground things, but my dd looks for bugs. We bring a bug box, and a magnifying glass. Over time, she's started welcoming kids into her sphere, to look at the bugs or help her search for more. Sometimes -- and only very recently -- she will play with the other kids if they're doing something she's into. Which is rare.
She doesn't like playground equipment, and she doesn't like playing with other kids just because it's an expectation of the park.
If she was into it, I'd let her bring a book, or a game, or art supplies, so that she'd have something to do while I chatted with the moms, and my 2yo played.
I do think you can put boundaries on the amount of interaction you're up for. I think that's healthy, and realistic.
But I also think there should be zero expectation to play. He's there, he's socializing in his own way, on his own terms.
I was the kid who brought a book everywhere and read while the other kids played. I'd be okay if my kids did the same. Eventually, you find other kids who are like that, and those folks become your friends. Same idea as having Minecraft in common, or being big into card games. Hey, what about a card game? I see lots of quirky, quiet homeschool boys drift together to play that Magic card game. Lots of other kids are running around and shouting and playing, and then there is always a small group of smart, introverted kids sitting in a circle, bonding in their own lovely geekified way.
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions!! And the stories of other kids not wanting to play with others all the time. It's been very helpful. I've tried to relax my expectations. I have been paying more attention to how he interacts with others, and he does seem to do better in areas where he is very familiar. I think he was also upset at me telling him he'll be on his own after lunch. That was probably a mistake. We had another park play date today that I think went pretty well. I brought sidewalk chalk and some of their trucks. I think it was useful in helping them feel more at home, and even getting kids to want to come up and play with us, rather than having to have my son initiate play with others.

 

He did play with another boy with the trucks, so I was really excited for that. I think after some time he'll probably get more comfortable and get to know some of the kids more. And if not, it's reassuring to know there are other kids out there who also aren't social butterflies, and that's okay too. :) I also exchanged info with another homeschool mom so we can set up a play date outside the group.

 

Thanks again!!

post #13 of 14
Some kids just AREN'T social. That's okay though! Not everyone can be super outgoing...imagine if EVERYONE was super outgoing and talkative? We'd never get anything done!

Anyway, I would suggest picking out a few moms from your group and inviting them to do something in a smaller setting. Invite someone over to play...or meet someplace you KNOW your son enjoys. A big group setting can be hard at first....my daughter is little miss social....AFTER she gets used to the setting. The first 20 minutes in a new place can be UGLY with her. Her discomfort with the setting is enough to overshadow having playmates (which she is all about).
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiderMum View Post

 A big group setting can be hard at first....my daughter is little miss social....AFTER she gets used to the setting. The first 20 minutes in a new place can be UGLY with her. Her discomfort with the setting is enough to overshadow having playmates (which she is all about).

For my borderline anti-social dd1, it was closer to 2 *hours*.  She was the life of the party after that, if things stayed mellow and she had some good experiences there before.  2 *hours*.

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