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My Teen Has No Friends
Q: My 13-year-old is in the eighth grade. He's doing well, but still has no friends. He doesn't have any interests other than the computer. I'm hoping that joining the computer club will be a plus. He just doesn't know how to interact with others and can't carry on a conversation. He has greatly improved his grades and is much more organized. What can I do?
A: Not all children are outgoing and gregarious. Some prefer more solitary pursuits. Nevertheless, everyone needs to have some basic social skills that allow them to interact effectively with others.
Certainly, joining the computer club is a step in the right direction for your son. One of the best ways to find friends is by taking part in activities with others kids who share the same interest. It will also be easier for him to talk to other students in this environment. Perhaps his counselor will have more suggestions or can initiate situations that will let him interact easily with other students, as well as computer buffs.
While your son may never become an extremely chatty person, he can certainly become more skilled at conversing with others. And, fortunately, you can play a major role in making this happen simply by talking to him.
Try to spend at least 15 minutes a day talking one-on-one with your son. It certainly doesn't have to be all at one time. Good conversational moments appear while riding in the car, at mealtimes, and even while watching TV.
One very effective way to encourage family conversation is by having everyone briefly describe his or her day at dinner. Descriptions can range from what everyone ate for lunch to a good, bad, or funny experience. In this way, you model the good conversational skills your child needs to acquire and give him an opportunity to talk.
To encourage your son to talk more, ask him open-ended questions that can't be answered with "yes" or "no." "How?" and "why?" questions are especially good conversation-starters.
Finally, make sure that your son has learned basic conversational skills that make talking to others much easier. These include knowing how to:
- Greet and say good-bye to people.
- Exchange names.
- Compliment others.
- Be a good listener.
- Ask questions to initiate a conversation.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.