My 17-year-old daughter is not making friends at school. She does fine academically but she doesn’t hang around with her old friends because they’re doing drugs. How can I help my daughter develop new friendships so she has a social outlet without seeming like I’m trying to control the issue?
Your daughter has made a good decision to stop spending time with friends who are doing drugs. Unfortunately, that decision has come with the consequences of not having any friends for a time. You may want to encourage your daughter to get a part-time job. It could help her to adjust to a new routine and provide the opportunity for her to meet a new set of people who are different from her old friends at school.
The more social settings your daughter experiences now, the better she will be able to handle things when she is on her own, perhaps in college or supporting herself with a job. Help your daughter identify her God-given talents and interests. Then, help her find activities that involve those interests. A club, group or job that is centered on her interests will help her develop her natural abilities and make new friends.
I found marijuana in my 14-year-old son’s room. I don't know how to respond or what to say to him. He is entering high school and I am worried that the problem is going to get bigger.
As a teenager, your son is trying new things, is easily influenced by his peers and doesn’t always exercise good problem-solving skills. It’s your responsibility to keep him safe. Smoking pot is unsafe, so you want him to stop using it. Like any negative behavior he may engage in, we recommend you teach to it. There are four steps to follow when teaching:
- Stop the problem behavior by calmly describing what happened. "Son, I found pot in your room when I was in there this morning."
- Describe the consequences for what happened. “Because you had an illegal substance in our home, you will be required to attend a substance abuse class beginning on ____ and we will search your room on a regular basis.”
- Describe what he should do instead of using or bringing pot into your home. "The next time you are out with friends and someone offers you some pot, it would be a better choice for you to say, ‘No.’ If we find pot again or find out that you’ve been using it, it will cost you the privilege of going out with your friends.”
- Have him practice what you have taught him. "Okay son, show me how you will handle the next time you are tempted to use or bring pot home." (Your son should say something like, "No guys, if my mom finds pot in our home again or finds out I’ve been using it, I probably won't be going out with you again."
Let your son know this is a trust issue and he has broken your trust by using or bringing pot into your home. Let him know that if his using it or even having it in his possession continues, the consequences will be more serious and his free time will be restricted. He can rebuild trust by being honest, obeying house rules and being respectful.
To find substance abuse prevention classes, call your local police department or the local United Way 211 and ask for substance abuse prevention programs.
My 9-year-old son is smart but he is not good at making friends. How can I help him get more social interaction with other children his age?
Let’s start with a question: What are your son's God-given talents? Help him make friends by developing those talents. Then get him involved with other boys who have similar interests. That's how we make friends — by having things in common with others. After being around these kids with similar interests, invite one of them over for a few hours to play. Perhaps the child's mother would like to come along too. If he is not into sports and has tried team play, then help him expand his experiences. Many communities offer reasonably priced summer camps through the YMCA. The Cub Scouts is another organization where your son could learn to interact with other boys his age.
My 17-year-old son is an angry young man who experiences dramatic mood swings. He has become so angry in the past that he has punched and kicked holes in a wall. He calls me names, is disobedient and flips me off on a daily basis. He refuses to participate in family holiday gatherings – including his own birthday – and he is earning either failing or very low grades in school.
We recently moved in with my sister. She lives 10 miles away from his close group of friends, whom he still sees about three times a week. His father has drug and anger problems and is not present in our son’s life. There is much sorrow and instability in my ex-husband’s life, including the murder of his daughter from a different marriage. When I was attending school full-time, his father and older siblings cared for him.
I have called the police twice. They have taken my son to mental health facilities, where he acts calmly and says he will accept counseling. Both times he reverted back to his angry ways once he was home. I have also taken him to counseling, but he refuses to go back and will not have the necessary blood work done for the doctor to prescribe medication.
You will need to establish guidelines for behavior and enforce consequences when these guidelines are not met. It is not OK for him to show you disrespect and disobey rules. When he does these things, take away a privilege and make him earn back the privilege by proving that he can be respectful and follow the rules. Since his friends are important to him, you can take away his time spent with them.
It sounds like your son has been through quite a bit and has unresolved feelings about the upheaval in his life. His initial willingness to open up with counselors indicates that he wants help even though he reverts back to his unhealthy behavior once he is home.
Given the situation, consider in-home family services. An in-home specialist actually comes to your house and works with your family as a whole, while paying individual attention to family members as well. He might be more willing to talk to and open up if someone comes to him. He would not be able to opt out.
Boys Town can help you find services of this nature in your area. Just give us a call. You can also always talk to one of our counselors at 800-448-3000.
My 18-year-old daughter has “checked out” of life. She quit school in the tenth grade and is continuing her schooling via online courses. She does not have friends and shows no interest in making any. She sleeps most of the day and stays up late reading Internet blogs.
Her father and I were divorced 10 years ago, and she blames most everything on the divorce. I am remarried and have a second child who is 5 years old. My older daughter will have nothing to do with her half-sister and is rude to her.
I have suggested counseling, but she has declined. I have tried to help her get a job, make friends and sign up for more schooling. She lacks social skills and refuses to help around the house. I am afraid for her future.
Your daughter’s online schooling is an unnatural social setting for a teen. Without interaction with her peers, she is missing out on the discussions that teens share about preparing for their future and transitioning into the next phase of life.
At 18, your daughter would typically have a job, be making plans for college, maybe considering entering the military or receiving training to enter the workforce.
She needs responsibilities and chores around the house. Put her in charge of preparing the family’s evening meal once a week. Make the Internet and other electronic communication off-limits for the entire family at a certain time of the day. Help her become more adapted to normal work and school schedules. Have her explore viable job options. Insist that she get this vital experience while you are still supporting her. She cannot wait until she is out on her own and financially responsible for herself.
Your daughter can decline counseling if she can prove that she does not need it. So, let her know what she is required to do to prove her normalcy and if she does not comply, ensure that she attend counseling sessions. This is not optional.
Our daughter is 12 and is in the fifth grade. She is much more mature than her classmates and is thus, having difficulty making friends.
Looking older or developing earlier than classmates can be difficult, and unfortunately is out of her control. But you can help her focus on her interests and talents. Encourage involvement in those areas of interest.
Her association with others who have similar interests will automatically create a peer group. Based on her interests, you can get her involved in athletics or perhaps art courses or music classes. Involvement in her areas of interest can be both in school and out of school.
My 11-year-old daughter hit her friend in the face over something as ridiculous as a card game. This is the first time this has happened, but I am very upset. I don’t believe in physical violence. Rarely have I spanked her. I never have in the last three years.
We encourage you to first have her apologize to her friend and promise that this will never happen again. That is the first step in mending the friendship. Then you must concentrate your energy on teaching her what she can do the next time she gets frustrated or angry with a friend.
Ask her to think of a better way to handle it. If her suggestion is acceptable, go with it. If not, make a suggestion yourself. Provide her with a good reason for doing this (to help her make and keep friends). Then help her practice the skill.
Pretend to be her friend who is doing something upsetting. Have her use her new skill to resolve the situation that before would have made her want to physically lash out. Reinforce her attempts at practicing by praising her efforts. If she needs more practice, provide that opportunity.
Remember that our children’s misbehaviors provide us with teaching moments. If that is our focus, we are less likely to get overly upset ourselves.
Our 6-year-old son is obsessed with Spider-Man to the point that he thinks he is Spider-Man and only wants to play Spider-Man. This is affecting his friendships and his time at school. When he raises his hand, he wants his teacher to ask him if his question is Spiderman-related. Nine times out of 10 it is. Our son is not as happy as he once was. How do we tame his interest in Spider-Man to include other hobbies without breaking his heart by confiscating all of his Spider-Man toys?
When your son’s interest in Spider-Man interferes with school and his daily schedule it is time to set limits. Talk to your son about how everyone has interests. If you are a golfer, you can’t talk about golf all the time, bring your clubs to work or practice your swing during business meetings. There is a time and a place for hobbies.
The classroom is NOT the time and place for Spider-Man. Spidey can surface at recess. But even then, Spider-Man cannot be around all the time at recess; sometimes Peter Parker has to be the role he plays in order to live a more normal life. During school, your son needs to be “normal” and focused on school.
Perhaps it would be helpful to introduce him to some other superheroes such as the Hulk or Superman since they have qualities a 6-year-old can admire. If you can, purchase plastic figures of these superheroes for each of his friends to use when they come over to play superheroes.
My 16-year-old son is involved with a girl in an unhealthy way. He likes her very much, but she says she likes him as only a friend. She has problems, however, that result in her leaning on my son too much. She does not have many friends, and other young men keep their distance because she leads them on when she needs a crutch.
This is what is happening with my son. She says she is going to inflict pain on herself, such as cutting herself, so my son feels needed and thinks he has a chance with her as a result. My son is a good student and athlete. He has many friends, but they say he has changed since he became involved with this girl. They have noted that he isn’t as happy, and I agree.
Is it wrong of me to block her texts? Should I talk with her and tell her to leave my son alone? I know this will hurt in the short run, but I feel the relationship is not good for him. Other parents have advised me to just let it run its course. But I don’t like to see my son being used.
Your son probably won’t respond well to your blocking her number. With Facebook, Twitter and other communication options, he will most likely find another way to communicate with her.
If you want to solve this problem with discipline, you can institute cell phone-free hours in the home. You put all of the phone chargers on one counter, and make a house rule that all phones must stay there between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. so that everyone can rest without distractions.
Infatuation is a powerful force. Your son may have to work through some of this on his own. Let him know that you are there for him and that you support him and will comfort him when he is hurt. Explain to him that she is not treating him in a loving, respectful way. He deserves to be appreciated in a committed fashion.
Keep an eye on his disposition so that his natural sadness and pain don’t worsen into depression. If you see any signs of this happening, encourage him to talk to a counselor. Some teenagers need the impartial voice of a counselor to help them out of emotionally damaging situations.
My 7-year-old daughter comes home almost daily from school crying that her classmates do not play with her at recess or sit with her at lunch. I think she needs to learn people skills. She has been looking for attention, but I don’t know if she is going about it in the right way. I want to teach her self-confidence, but I also want her to know that not everyone is going to like her.
You have identified that friendship skills are important social skills for her to work on now. The first step in teaching these skills is to introduce them to her. Tell her that you are going to help her learn some skills that will help her make and keep friends at school. This will reassure her.
The next step is to identify some of the things that you both feel are important in friendships, such as honesty, conversation skills, fairness, etc. Then make a list of the things your daughter can do to demonstrate that she is honest, has good conversation skills, is fair, etc.
To make it fun, role play. You become the potential friend, and your daughter tries to strike up a conversation with you. Or you can role play that she is in a situation in which she has to tell the truth about what she might have done. Praise her for practicing and using her skills correctly, and give her goals. She should use one new skill a day at school. See how she does.
You might consider visiting the Boys Town Press website at www.BoysTownPress.org and consider some of the materials. Books and workbooks that focus on various social skills are available. Two such books are A Good Friend: How to Make One, How to Be One by Ron Herron and Val J. Peter, and Friends Forever by Fred Frankel. Both books advise children and parents on such areas as friendship do’s and don’ts. Activities for the two of you to do together are included.