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I have a very sweet 7 year old son who is struggling with making friends and specifically he wants a best friend. He has opportunity to see kids often but cannot seem to click with anyone and really wants to. There are some obstacles that I can name with hopes someone has additional ideas that we haven't yet tried.

He is highly intelligent, especially related to computers and science and loves to talk about those topics, which is generally lost on many people, even those much older than he is. He talks too softly. I do not think this is confidence, as he does it with me at home too. He has done that since he started talking, and he will speak up when asked, but reverts immediately back to quiet talking. He is often ignored when speaking because people actually do not realize he is talking to them, adults and children alike. He is also a tad on the small size for age and so that paired with no athletic inclination or interest, makes it hard for him to click with many boys his age here as most seem to be very into sports.

We homeschool, and he gets along fine with kids in the groups, and other activities he has been in, he just doesn't really bond or seem to find someone he "fits" with. I have never seen him have any argument with another child or even friction. He is very easy going and not the sort that would irritate others easily. He just seems to float around near people versus with people if that makes sense.

I have tried all I know to help him have access to places to meet more kids. I give him pep talks telling him to just join in and have fun (and he does, but he wants more than just playing in a group). He actually cries about this sometimes. His siblings haven't had this issue so it's new to me. If he was at peace with this, I wouldn't mind. I do not think you have to have a best friend at 7.

So other than homeschool groups, sports, dance, parks and the like, are there other places I might be overlooking where I might locate more kids to meet? I actually think, based on his personality, that if he didn't have siblings and see them have friends, he wouldn't even likely be that worried about it. He really does enjoy time alone and he is a close match in disposition to his father, who is really not much of a "people person". He likes people just fine, he just tends to prefer solitude if given a choice and always has. That leads me to the second thought and question which is whether I should really even be trying so hard to sort out finding him a friend (I do not tell him that is why we are going here or doing this or that, but it does motivate me to attend certain events, etc). I am not sure how much effort or concern I should be placing on this.

To be clear, he is generally very well liked. I get told all the time what a great kid he is, and other children do seem to like him. He just hasn't found anyone that he seems to really find a connection with. He is quirky and funny and quiet. He has no indications that he has any social anxiety or impairments in any regard on relating other than having such specific interests in things that are well beyond his age level. He also gets along very well with his brother that is a few years older and they are close, so he does have a child in his life he can share secrets with, etc.

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    Have you looked into Scouting? From what I have seen, they are very good about nurturing shy kids and giving them the opportunity to develop nurturing relationships. I was very surprised when my son started wanting to show up at the Eagle celebrations for his scouting mates, and has actually decided to start leadership training activities. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Aug 29 '17 at 21:21
  • make him stand out so kids will gravitate toward him - get him a conversation piece, the latest wireless gluten free fidget spinner or a pink mohawk or something. – I wrestled a bear once. Aug 31 '17 at 4:05
  • +1 for scouting. People are very open to different personalities, and the scouting theme is building friendship and teams. It is a great environment for gifted people. – Per Alexandersson Sep 1 '17 at 6:52
  • If a kid is very bright academically but struggling socially going to a school with other pupils may really be the best option. – Caterpillaraoz Sep 5 '17 at 13:01
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    In case it interests you, here is a mainstream media article on homeschoolers and their college achievements. usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2012/06/01/… – threetimes Sep 5 '17 at 14:24
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Your son's story sounds familiar - I was also a gifted, homeschooled kid who never "clicked" with anyone growing up (and talks softly! funny coincidence?). Part of my problem was that we were in a rural area so there simply weren't many like-minded kids around. (College was awesome, on the other hand.)

Here are some things that helped me:

  • See if the local schools have clubs your son could join. Our district was difficult about homeschooled kids, but I was allowed to participate in a couple after-school activities, meeting kids that I wouldn't have otherwise.

  • Look for local chapters of tech clubs, or organize one. FIRST robotics comes to mind, which has national support so it might be easier to get started. You could also look for "makerspaces" which I'm sure would be thrilled to have a bright and motivated kid.

  • Join a gifted kids organization. I was a member of one which helped me (and my parents!) so much as I was growing up. (I'm not sure if I am allowed to name it here though.) It had internet forums and email lists, topical seminars, and annual in-person gatherings so we could all meet. Even though most of it was purely online, it was a lifeline for me to know there were other kids out there like me.

I would also encourage you to look for adult mentors in his areas of interest. While the dynamic is obviously not the same as kids his age, an adult can keep up with his intellectual curiosity and satisfy his need to have someone to discuss those topics with. An adult also has the perspective to tell him it will get better. For a while I had a "penpal" who did advanced mathematics for a living, which showed me the possibilities of who I could be in the future (there ARE other people who like this obscure stuff! and they work with a bunch of other people who also like it?! Wow, maybe when I grow up I could be in a community like that too!).

Finally, you may need to temper his expectations, gently: he may not have an in-person best friend his own age to share interests for quite a while. This is just an unfortunate truth about being a gifted kid, he's statistically an anomaly. However, this can be made up for by having different friends to support different areas - his brother to share secrets with, a penpal to talk technology, a scouting organization for social activities, etc.

  • +10000 for the suggestion of First Robotics and Makerspaces. – BunnyKnitter Aug 29 '17 at 21:31
  • Specifically you're probably looking for FIRST Lego League Jr which is for ages 6 - 10. – parent Aug 29 '17 at 22:57
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I was much like your son as a kid. Most people liked me and I could say I was at least a good acquaintance with most people I saw on a semi-regular basis. I would hang around with people but many times preferred to listen to a conversation and observe rather than jump in (not that I couldn't, I just chose not to). So my circle of people I considered friends wasn't large by any means, but it was filled with good people. And that was enough for me because I was happy.

Some people bond better with large groups of people. Others are better in smaller groups. And, at least for me, I bond better with people when I have direct interaction with them, usually one-on-one. Your son may be much the same way. If people don't realize he is speaking with them, it's hard to form a relationship (and your son may feel ignored). If he just hangs around people but doesn't interact much, people aren't really going to remember him and aren't going to bond.

It sounds like you are just trying to cast a wide net and hoping to stumble upon that one kid who will just hit it off with your son and life will be golden. I'd like to suggest taking less of a shotgun approach and using more of a laser focus. Talk with your son and see who he'd like to invite over for a play date. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate or special, just time where the two of them can play. This will force that one-on-one interaction and hopefully create a friendship. If things go well, have more play dates. If it doesn't seem to be working out, pick someone else to invite over.

You will find that friend. Your son sounds like a great kid who could make friends with anyone. It just might take a different approach and a little more effort.

  • I was going to try to answer this but you already said everything I wanted to say. +1 – anongoodnurse Aug 29 '17 at 13:14
  • He never has anyone he wants to invite. Maybe I will just start inviting kids one at a time and seeing how each visit goes. You are right that he might have an easier time if he had more one on one chances to interact. That is an excellent idea. – threetimes Aug 29 '17 at 14:47
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I think @Becuzz' answer is key. Just one suggestion for you, though.

I also homeschooled my kids. We belonged to a large weekly co-op, so there were plenty of kids to choose from there. Also, we were involved in a large church. Yet one of my kids was still a loner.

One thing I did was to organize short-term "clubs" for homeschool kids, usually about 10 weeks. We had a French club (basic vocab incorporated into a weekly Mission Impossible type hunt for a spy), we put on plays, had a poetry club (everything from Shel Silverstein to Robert Frost to Robert Burns), had Burns suppers, etc. My kids had lots of friends, but my youngest didn't have a best friend. He blossomed in college and has more close friends now than I think I ever did.

Maybe you can do a computer-related club kind of activity? I'm too computer illiterate to even know what to suggest, but making it related to your son's interest might attract some kids he could click with.

Good luck. I know how much we want to see our kids fulfilled.

  • I love the idea of maybe organizing something club like now that you mention it. I will have to pick my husband's brain about it because in all honestly my 7 year is already well beyond me in what he understands about computers. I can still keep pace in science though so far, but I am not sure for how long. And your last sentence really touched me. That is precisely where my heart is at with this. He seems to want this so much I just want to see that wish fulfilled as my 1st best friend absolutely meant everything to me and we are still friends 30+ years later. – threetimes Aug 29 '17 at 14:45
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    I was just thinking about formulating an answer like this when I read this @anongoodnurse's answer. I agree 100%, and would just like to add a couple of things. Be sure to open the club up to kids who are a bit older than he is--in my experience there are a limited supply of 7 year olds, particularly male 7 year olds, who are able to manage their own energy enough to listen to someone who is fairly quiet. – magerber Aug 29 '17 at 15:44
  • @magerber - A good point! My clubs (because of the nature of homeschooling) had a pretty wide age range, and, say with poetry, the younger kids did Shel Silverstein, and the oldest ones Burns/etc. But some things (e.g. scouting) were age specific. – anongoodnurse Aug 29 '17 at 15:49
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It sounds like your son is describing to you what he is feeling using words as he has cried about not having any real friends. I'd like to suggest that although distressing, that is a sign of great emotional maturity and of a good bond between you two. That is highly admirable on your part and also on his.

His feelings about the matter might be quite hard to express in words and might be a bit deeper than just worry about not having friends. Perhaps pondering on the meaning and possible causes might shed some more light on what is going on.

From what you described, he seems to have the ability to have friends emotionally and even intellectually. So, I'd suggest the trouble is actually skill based, which is good news, because those can be taught. Not having them isn't an indicator of anything deep or permanent except that trying to develop those skills will be a challenge that he can bravely accept or not.

So, I'd suggest helping him develop these skills. Although, I've found that teaching skills to kids can be quite frustrating because they never seem to pick up on them as quick as I'd like (like instantly).

Friendship Skills:

  • Inviting
    • This is the main skill for developing friends. If somebody is invited to participate in something, even if they don't accept, it will make that person feel cared for. More often, if they are invited multiple times, then they will accept. So, the challenge is for your son to learn to invite others for things. This can be hard because if you lack confidence, then it might be intimidating to invite others. Fear of failure here is the main challange. The fear partially comes from the fear of being rejected, but as this is done repeatedly, one can learn that you can't fail at inviting others because success is in the invitation, not acceptance.
  • Planning/Organizing
    • It will be much easier for your son to invite people to things if there are things to invite them to. The plans can be as simple and as complicated as they are made, but simple plans have more of a chance of success, especially for kids. Keep in mind that success here isn't the activity being perfect, it's about being with friends. Ex. Lemonade stands or pretending to be a superhero.
  • Watching and Listening
    • This may be pretty hard for a little kid, but being able to watch others and understand where they are emotionally is important to being a friend. The simple habit of listing to others and watching them is helpful to develop that empathy. It will also help your son know what to organize and who to invite.
  • Leading
    • Being a leader is many things, but here I mean doing something first, without waiting for someone else to do it. This takes courage and self-confidence, but as your son goes out to do what he thinks is right, then others will follow.

For your specific questions:

  • Are there other places I might be overlooking where I might locate more kids to meet?
    • Potential friends are everywhere. I'm confident that if your son develops these skills to any degree that he will find friends anywhere and everywhere.
  • [Should I] really even be trying so hard to sort out finding him a friend?
    • In the sense that you should provide him opportunities for finding friends, I think so. Maybe giving him some help with organizing activities to invite people to would be helpful as well. Also, spending time practicing the required skills could be really helpful. But, as I'm sure you know, it's impossible to make him have friends to any degree, thus, if you try to force it to happen, then it'll fail and frustrations will abound.

I think the most important point to remember here is to be patient. It isn't a law that someone has to have a "best friend", especially as definitions of that may vary. Even though your son may disagree, not having a best friend at this stage in his life can be just fine, though difficult.

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Depending on where you are there may be organizations specifically for children with special gifts. Mensa is an obvious one, and also the National Association for Gifted Children. They run programs for children which can provide an opportunity to meet others with the same interests and gifts.

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Adding to what EM C said: Makerspaces are a wonderful resource for being able to discuss, explore and in most cases, tinker with things. I'm part of a local one and I think I speak for most members in that we would welcome polite kids to come and chat and watch us do things. If a kid were to come with a project or wanting advice or guidance then we'd probably be more than happy to also help said kid out.

It may not be a "best friend" but (again, as EM C said) different people can fulfill different "friend" roles. Adults to talk tech and tinker with is one part of that. Plus, adults who are into tech may have kids who are somewhat into tech as well or could perhaps direct you to other resources.

(Also, it goes without saying but strangers are strangers so be sure to stick around and supervise at any makerspace you connect with.)

My makerspace also puts on classes at local libraries, it may be worth looking into tech-focused classes and things in your area (through the library or elsewhere). Tech-inclined kids are likely to gather in such places.

Also, see about putting him in classes with somewhat older kids. I was a "gifted" kid as well and always interacted better with kids 1-3 years older than myself.

local universities are another possible class/camp provider. There are a few in my area that do tech camps for kids.

For social interaction that has some sort of tech to it, look into Minecraft. It is a video game that is quite popular with kids right now. It is fairly easy to set up a PRIVATE server such that only people you choose are granted access. This is a safe way for kids to interact online with each other and build things together (or on their own). The best part is the modding community though: There is a HUGE number of "mods" created for Minecraft that can be installed into the game to add additional functionality. One of these (called "Compucraft") and it adds the ability to program mini robots INSIDE the game using a very easy to learn programming language called "Lua".

Regarding your question about finding him a friend: If he is hurting because he doesn't have a close friend, then please: keep trying to find him a friend. Maybe even take to message boards online for your community to see what locals say and what suggestions they may have (Reddit has sub-reddits for many major cities).

As a kid I didn't really care that I didn't have close friends but there has been a time in my life where the pain of not having a close friend to talk to was very real. For some people though, there are VERY few people who they "click" with. In elementary school my mum enrolled me in an "anti bullying" class and there was one girl there that I REALLY hit it off with. I have always wondered what would have happened if our parents had enabled us to keep in touch. Highschool I had friends but... it wasn't until university that I again found someone that I really "clicked" with. From there it took joining a makerspace to find other people that I "clicked" with.

(I think this answer rambled a little, but I hope some part of it is useful to you) :)

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