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ADHD Parents Together
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Social challenges for middle schooler

I have a 11-year-old, son heading into 7th grade. He is having difficulties socially the last couple years and I’d like to get some opinions.

He does fairly well in school, mostly A’s/B’s in advanced/honors classes. When he was younger K-3 he was very social, had lots of friends, always talking, always happy. We used to joke what he was going to be a politician as he knows and could talk with everyone.

4th and 5th grades were more difficult socially for him. He was diagnosed with ADHD (5th grade) though he’s somewhat of a borderline case I’d say. No medication but has been going to executive functioning coaching to help him organize his thoughts and deal with change.

Like most middle schoolers, he’s learning, developing and a work in progress. He is very smart.

My concern is socially. He reads a lot (most of the time) and enjoys playing computer games. He’s hyper-focused on reading/games which I theorize is an escape for him socially. When he’s truly happy, he’s very talkative and engaged. We saw that when he was younger and with a very select # of teachers (and friends) now. He has shut down socially a lot. My guess is as he got older and his “quirks” became more evident, he wasn’t able to deal with the comments or differences he had with other kids. Of my 4 kids, he has fairly thin skin. Kids/friends make comments… most of the time as a joke but he takes them personally. He then shuts down and won’t engage. It is like pulling teeth to get him to do anything socially or with his peers. He goes to swim team but sits alone, etc. He is better with kids younger than himself.

Middle school is tough for everyone but more so a child with some social challenges. My goal is to help him build is confidence socially so he’s happy and engaged. He needs friends and to be somewhat social as that’s when he is truly happy.

Thoughts?

Thanks

Howard

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Hello Howard- Thank you for sharing your son with us.. that is not easy to do. I am curious why you decided not to give your son medication. The reason I ask is that I feel like some of the quirkiness could be taken away with medication because I imagine it is due to impulsiveness.. (woild you agree?) I have a son that just finished 6th and is going into 7th.

There is so much "other" stuff besides academics in middle school. Take excessive talking, without medication my son has no filter and will go on and on, kids will not put up with this. This is just one of many examples. I am not here to convince you, but ADHD medication only changes the parts of a child's personality that impacts the parts that are deficient.

I would also recommended he do a sport that can help him with self confidence like Tae Kwan Do or any martial arts which builds self confience. It's an individual sport but gives him something to achieve.

I hope this helps. I only say this because I have live through it...

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Thank you.. great insights..

Agree w/you on sports. He did Tae Kwon Do for 5+ years. He got to brown senior but couldn’t make black belt as he couldn’t do enough push-ups. He tried for a year, he got very frustrated.. that really didn’t help his confidence. He is currently taking a break and I’m hoping he’ll try again at some point.

He plays soccer in the fall and swim team in the summer. All physical activity seems to help him mentally (as it does for most people I think), he’s just not motivated to do the social/team aspects of the sports. He’ll have a good practice where he’s engaged, happy and very talkative but then shut-down for the next few. Typically after someone says something or something else happens.

We’ve gotten mixed feedback/recommendations on medication for him. One doctor says one thing, the other something else, etc. We’ve also had a couple friends who had a very bad experience regarding ADHD medication with their son so are hesitant. He’s doing well most of the time, so it’s probably gray with him. It is something we are continuing to evaluate.

>> There is so much "other" stuff besides academics in middle school. Take excessive talking, without medication my son has no filter and will go on and on, kids will not put up with this.

This is so true and I see this with him.

Thanks for the discussion..

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My son will be in 9th next year. He also had tough times with friendships.

Other Kids found him overwhelming.

I did find that when he found the right medication he became a happier person in general. That really helped socially. Even though my son still struggles with many other issues at school friendships have improved.

We didn’t try medication until middle school.

I honestly didn’t really even try to get him to engage with his peers until he did it on his own. I think I had so much on my plate just getting him through the day, that I didn’t concern my self with his social skills.

It sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job involving your kiddo in sports and he does well academically! That is so great! I pray for that with my son.

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Thanks for being open to listen. I will say one one more thing would you be open to "try" it to let him see how he feels during summer? Now is the time.

I would hate for him to not know "how it could be". It might not be right the first time and you might be watching him and he might not look any different.

Just wanted you to consider it for him... kids are really not honest about what they struggle with. I'm not saying your son isn't...

Then if it doesn't work you know you have tried it.

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I don’t have any good advice, but I’m here to commiserate! My daughter will be in seventh grade in the fall, and we are having many of the same troubles.

She tries to shake it off, but being called “weird” by other kids gets to her. I know she tries to make the things she struggles with part of her persona. She identifies as “the kid who always acts weird and loud, and doesn’t care about how she dresses or that her hair is a mess.”

Middle school kids an insecure bunch. They pick on anyone who seems different.

Hang in there! You aren’t alone!

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I wonder if some type of counseling would be helpful. It seems like talking to a professional with a background in social skills may be able to teach him some coping skills on how to deal with peers in different challenging situations. You’d be surprised how helpful it can be for our kids to talk openly with someone they trust other than a parent.

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Navigating the social arena is hard for all kids, but especially difficult for kids with ADHD who have quirks, executive functioning deficits, impulsive behaviors, and have a hard time reading and interpreting social cues. The natural tendency is to withdraw from social situations and as parents we have to keep giving our kids opportunities for socialization so our children can have the potential to make and keep friends and also to learn how to treat people properly. It's a mammoth challenge, to be sure.

My 14 year old struggles with this daily. He uses rubix cubes as a coping skill to deal with loud situations or long drives with other peers. It was interesting to see just recently that when some of his peers discovered how talented he is with solving the cubes it gave my son an opportunity to have a positive interaction with them rather than a negative one as they were impressed with his ability. I guess what I'm saying here is that those positive moments will come, so don't give up. :)

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It sounds like you were just describing my son! I have the same exact concerns. My son is a huge reader and loves video games. He’s very intelligent and does really well in school. He has become increasingly nervous in social situations the older he gets. I think my son is overwhelmed by the social interactions at the middle school level bc they’re starting to be interested in girls and become more and more independent. In my opinion, my son (who’s going into 8th grade) is just not as mature and isn’t ready for that level of independence. He too has a much easier time with younger kids. My son plays soccer and enjoys hanging out with the team but it’s on a superficial level. He’s hesitant to reach out and create deeper friendships.

I know that people have mentioned that medicine may help but I personally think self-confidence and maturity are the things that are needed to make them feel more comfortable in social situations.

My son takes medicine which helps him get through the days especially at school but the medicine seems to actually make the social interactions even harder bc he’s more aware of how his actions affect others.

I wish I had some helpful advice but just know that you’re not alone. I know I‎t feels like I‎t sometimes. Our kids are wonderful but are following their own timeline. I guess we just have to be extra patient with them.

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>>I wish I had some helpful advice but just know that you’re not alone. I know I‎t feels like I‎t sometimes. Our kids are wonderful but are following their own timeline. I guess we just have to be extra patient with them.

words of wisdom.. thx...

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Anyone have luck with social groups aimed at kids with ADHD? Would love to find him a few kids similar to him that he'd mesh with...

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I haven’t heard of social groups for adhd kids but I love the idea.

I actually posted awhile ago about how cool a yearly gathering would be.

Kind of how all the twins gather in Twinsburg Ohio for a weekend each year. No clue how to organize that type of thing or what the cost would be, but I think it’s a great idea.

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I also have an 11 yr old boy going into 7th grade and I'm worried about the social skills. He has a boy from his private school he attended also going to this middle school and this boy bullied my son horribly. He was malicious and incredibly cruel and then would be his friend (one and only friend) and then repeat the cycle over and over. I'm anxious of him bullying him again, let alone my son finding a good group of friends or just one friend. He did have a "girlfriend" for a while over the summer so maybe he will get some ego boost from girls and not boys. I took him to a therapist yesterday just to have him talk about any concerns he has. That way if something bad happens he will know this therapist a little and may confide in him and get some tools to help him.

I talked to a parent of a socially challenged son going into 10th grade. He has his son enrolled in a year-long course the high school offers called inter-personal skills. The teacher happens to be the case worker for this boys IEP program and takes the kids on field trips during school and has upper classmen as mentors. Sounded great since I'm sure she would encourage friendships among the classmates. The parent didn't know it existed till this enrollment so I guess the moral of the story is to really talk to the counselors and school advisors to get the low-down on what is available. I know I told the counselor to not put my son and the bully in any classes together.

Good luck.

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This is definitely a concern I have for my little guy. His currently 6 and super social, but worry things may change as friends start noticing the differences more.

I’m mostly just seconding already made suggestions, but:

1. See if the school / school counselor offers any social skills / help services.

2. Find other kids with ADHD (they are there, though it’s not exactly something parents advertise.)

3. Is he passionate about the sports he’s in? If not, maybe replace them with something he is passionate about - that way at least the other kids are hopefully more tolerant, as they probably also have the same interests.

4. Keep him hanging out worth slightly younger kids. Though it doesn’t help so much during the school day, they are probably more developmentally in his level / more tolerant. It’s good social skills training, and at least he’ll have some friends to hang with when the school day is done.

5. Our faith-based group has been invaluable to us, and much more tolerant and modeling that for their kids. Maybe any faith or any other organizations with a strong basis in acceptance would also lead to a good foundation / place to turn to.

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