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Twelve-Year-Old Alone Too Much
Q: My 12-year-old boy spends a lot of time alone and I am concerned. He is not athletic and does not belong to any after-school groups, but he's obedient and an excellent student. He has one good friend and they talk and visit with each other occasionally. He seems happy and confident and carries himself well. I am concerned about his lack of activities after school. He has expressed an interest in playing an instrument and I intend to get him lessons as soon as I can afford them. Will this be enough?
A: I understand why you might be concerned about your son's rather sheltered existence outside of school. Social development is as important as any other form of childhood development. I take particular note of the fact that he has a good friend with whom he plays occasionally. This may be all the socialization your son needs right now. You observe that he appears happy, well-adjusted, and confident. Have you ever discussed why he's been unwilling to associate with the children who live nearby? Does he stay at home because he is avoiding things that he fears or dislikes in his neighborhood, or is he staying at home simply because it's the most comfortable and enjoyable place to be after school? I would also ask his teachers about his social skills at school and whether they perceive him to be a loner or excluded from the school's existing social groups.
I would suggest having a few casual talks with him about how he's enjoying his life. Just because he's an obedient child and a good student, it doesn't mean that some things in his life don't bother him. He may be trying to protect you from worrying about him by remaining silent. On the other hand, he may feel just fine about all aspects of his life. A kid's healthy development is not dependent upon his playing sports or participating in after-school activities.
As for his desire to play an instrument, ask your school's counselor for some help with this issue. Playing music is not only personally rewarding, but it also provides a child with many opportunities to socialize with other musicians. You are a very involved and caring parent and you will continue to provide your boy with the love and guidance that he needs.
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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.