Helping Your Socially Awkward Tween

Being the parent of a socially awkward tween is difficult and heartbreaking. I was a socially akward kid all through school, and to see my son experience this social awkwardness is hard to deal.

My son’s name is Michael. He is 11 years old and in 6th grade. Michael, or Mike, as his father and I call him, also has developmental delays which categorize him with ASD. Needless to say, social situations have always been tough. His father and I are guilty of sheltering Mike in the past, not really going out for fear of embarrassment. Mike had a tendency in the past to just blurt out observations of people in public. Usually these observations involved morbidly obese persons in restaurants. Flash forward to now, the social blunders are lack of eye contact and one worded responses to questions. Also, just flat-out ignoring people.

Now that Mike is a tween, and being in middle school, the social pressures are just getting worse. My son has mentioned in the past he had no friends at school. When asked why, he just said he didn’t like anyone. Once I dug deeper with my questions, it was that he is incredibly shy and scared of rejection. Ok, so what do we do about it?

I turned to my trusty reference Google and searched for ways to help socially awkward tweens. Here is what I found out and what I am going to discuss with his father to implement:

  • Get your child involved in activities with other children where they can develop their gifts and strengths. These include the obvious, like team sports. But if your child, like mine, is not athletically inclined, there are tons of other activities, like Martial Arts, Book Clubs, Summer Camps, 4-H, Community Theater, Art Clubs, Running Clubs (athletic, but not team sports), Music clubs.
  • Don’t be afraid to check out other clubs through non school agencies, someone told me about meetup groups for teens, but I haven’t really checked it out yet.
  • Help your child develop friendships with like-minded kids outside their classroom or school, like church, or other places of worship.

Another thing I noticed with Mike is that he has low self-confidence. With the lack of friendship and having a ‘tribe’, loneliness sets in. It’s hard to be self-confident when you are sad and lonely. I am guilty myself of this and as parents, we need to watch our own self talk.

If your child’s anxiety with meeting new friends and being in social situations is severe, it may be helpful to talk with a counselor to see what the root issues are. Mike is currently seeing a therapist and it has been helpful to at least figure out what is going on. Mike’s father and I feel like we need a crow bar just get our son to open up. I challenged Mike this week to talk to other shy kids his age. Because more than likely, they are feeling how he is feeling. Being welcoming and kind is a great way to get to know others.

Since I was a socially awkward kid myself, I find it helpful to share my stories with Mike about what I went through in my younger years. Sharing in a way that is entertaining and funny is a way to help lessen the anxiety of your child.

Since kids are incredibly perceptive, they are watching us as parents. I am going to ‘practice what I preach’ to set a good example. Meaning, making small talk with the barista at Starbucks, or complimenting someone.

What issues have you had with being socially awkward as a tween/teen? Do you have children that are socially akward? What action steps did you take to help your child?

Co-parenting Conundrums

This last weekend, I made a road trip. I drove my home in Orlando to Naples to pick up my son for the weekend. My ex-husband and I have joint custody of our 11-year-old son. At this season in my life, my ex is the custodial parent, and I pay child support. It wasnt always like this. I was the custodial parent for about a year and half. Then my son had behavioral issues and it was recommended by his psychologist that he needed to be with his dad. So my son moved to Florida to live with his father about a year ago. I ended up moving to Florida myself a little under a year ago as well.

It is nice to be close to my son. I can say, in all honesty, that if I was still living in Missouri, I would probably not see my son. Travel is so expensive. Trying to get off work for several days at a time each month to visit is almost impossible.

Even though I live in an expensive area, and rent is outrageous, I don’t regret moving down here. The trip from Orlando to Naples is about four hours. I pick up my son, turn around and drive back home. Last weekend, my air conditioner in the car stopped working. So this trip was made in the 90 so degree heat, with just the windows down. Again, no regrets! We spent a great weekend together, swimming, watching golf, movies and relaxing.

Those brief weekends, those few hours of time together, I cherish. Even if they are not weekends full of amusement parks and dining out. Just feeling like a mom again gives me so much joy. To see my son smile and hear his laugh this weekend playing in the pool, was priceless.

You see, I suffer from “mommy guilt”. Modifying the custody agreement to let my ex-husband be the custodial parent was like a punch in the gut. Things are better now, but I still have the nagging voice in my head wondering why I can’t be with my son 24/7 like it used to be. Like it used to be during my marriage and shortly after.

Is it selfish to feel this way? My son is living with his dad and step mom, who are financially stable enough to send him to one of the best schools in Collier County. They live in a gorgeous condo, with many opportunities for recreation. I am grateful for his dad and step mom. They stepped up as parents.

I still get mildly irritated when I have to text back and forth with my ex regarding weekend plans. It’s always something. Dates don’t work, times dont work. My son showing up missing half his clothes for the weekend due to last-minute packing. The usual.

It’s all worth it to see your child. I thank God that my ex and I have enough of a cordial relationship that we put our son first.

Who has some co-parenting stories like this? Do any other parents out here feel like I do sometimes?