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Fourth-Grader Has No Close Friends

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My fourth-grader gets along fine with children in his class and plays outside with them on our block, but he never wants to play at friends' homes, go to birthday parties, or invite anyone over to play. He is generally a cautious boy and prefers not to be a "joiner." I have offered him the opportunity to attend all sorts of activities, camps, and lessons, but he doesn't want to participate in any. He was a scout when I was the leader, but he quit when I was no longer able to do so. He doesn't have any special friends and I don't know if I should be concerned.

I celebrate his individuality and appreciate his ability to be himself and pursue his own interests. I think he'll be able to resist peer pressure as he enters middle school because he's not overly concerned with what the other kids think. I try to present opportunities for him to meet potential friends, but I don't want to push. Is there anything else I can do?

A: Continue to celebrate your son's individuality. He shows a healthy social development and an aversion to additional classes, activities, lessons, and camps outside of those he has in school. All the activities you've presented to him involve attempts to "get better" at something or to learn something new. I'd take your cues from him about what he would like to spend time doing. Don't worry that he does not have "special friends." If he wants to make them, those friendships will come naturally.

I would say that you are "pushing" him to be active in things that you think he'd want to do and to be more social. I think that he seems to have a secure sense of himself and knows how to entertain himself. Please don't let him believe that he disappoints you when he doesn't want to take part in the activities that you suggest. He seems like he's having a great time "doing his job" -- being a child. Thanks for writing. Enjoy this wonderful boy.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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