My 12-year-old son is a smart, good-looking special guy who is hanging out with a group of ‘odd’ kids from school. They are only minimally supervised at home and are on video games at all hours online whereas my son still has a firm bedtime. They are not the well-rounded peers I want him to have, and I worry and don’t know how to put a stop to these friendships.
Navigating friendships in school can be a brutal endeavor. Just ensuring you have someone to call a friend is often good enough. Regardless of what you may think of your son’s ‘capacity’ there is no way of knowing what is truly going on at school and where he stands in the social pecking order.
My point is we have little control at this point, and your son is old enough to need his dignity intact and not to feel like the group he has chosen (or has chosen him for all you know) is in any way second rate! I assure you if that is the case he KNOWS it and likely wishes he could be in the ‘inner circle’. We all did/ do. But more than anything he needs friends. If these kids are not dangerous (drugs drinking or immoral behavior) then I suggest you become the home they come to; the parent who supervises and helps build their self-esteem and social comfort! There are very few ‘well rounded’ pre-teens or teens for that matter. The ‘in’ group changes regularly and the cost of being in it and keeping up with it can be exhausting. High school DOES change things of course, but at this point, it is better that he have friends you are not so impressed with then have NO ONE!! Many of my friends have kids who are isolated and depressed
You could ask him ‘what he admires’ about his friends! Maybe there are things you are not seeing. Maybe they make each other feel less ‘odd’. Maybe your kid is at the top of that particular social group (which can be quite compelling). Just leave the communication channels open but allow him the dignity of not thinking he is ‘beneath himself’ as this place he has landed may be the safest place emotionally for him right now.
Lastly, the online video world is a captivating place for young men whose social skills may not be in place and where behind the safety of their controllers they feel like they can interact without awkwardness. Your job is to ensure that the balance stays in place. For every hour you allow of online time try to ensure that an hour of physical ‘in real time’ activity (sports, exercise, bike riding, cooking, baking et al.) also happens. Your job is to dedicate Jewish values into your child; to raise a child with soul! For now, I would back off of his social circle and put more focus onto helping (or insisting) that he learns to balance his time in a way that will ensure he becomes the ‘well rounded’ young man you wish him to be.
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