• Other Friendship Advice

My oldest son (a young teen) is left out by his circle of friends

Published: March 26, 2017 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
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A mom wonders how to help her son deal with being left out of the circle.



My husband and I have three sons, ages 11, 12, and 14. We are involved in many activities and are active in our community.

My oldest son is on the outskirts of a social group he would love to be a larger part of. Some of these kids are nice to him when it is just the two of them, yet the others often get together socially and leave him out. Yet, he does not seem to mind. He still wants to be where these kids are.

I have encouraged him to make other friends. He always had good ones before middle school. Was I wrong to suggest that? What would make someone continue to want to be around kids in that situation? I wonder if he is blinded or still hanging on with hopes that something will change. Thank you for any input.

Signed, Mandie


Hi Mandie,

Adolescents, like adults, have different social needs. During the teen years, bodies and minds are growing rapidly. Kids are becoming young adults who are trying to find their place in the world. For teenagers, school is usually that world. Social norms often tell them with whom they “should” socialize, often based on social status/group, which doesn’t always coincide with the kids who make the highest quality friends.

As an adult and your son’s mom, you have the benefit of age, experience and outside perspective. Unfortunately, most teenagers need to navigate their own paths, even if those paths are bumpier and more painful than the one you’d choose. You were right to suggest that his current group might not be his “people”, since they aren’t including him in social activities. Have you suggested he ask to be included with statements like “I’d like go out with you guys this weekend”? Also, has he made any overtures to suggest socializing with the boys on an individual basis like asking one to go to the movies with him?

Nothing you’ve said suggests anything is “wrong” with your son. You haven’t said that the guys treat him unkindly, which would be worrisome. You seem sensitive and perceptive, so I bet you would have noticed if your son had any social skills deficits. Since he doesn’t seem unhappy, you might be projecting your (adult female) social ideas onto him. His reaction probably reflects where he is at in his social developmental process.

Continue to offer him occasional social suggestions while trying to avoid being judgmental. Does he want to invite a friend to sleep over or to go the movies? Accept his answers. If he expresses social concerns, listen more than you talk. Help him problem solve with questions about what he thinks would improve his friendships. He’s lucky to have you in his corner. I have no doubt he will figure things out. Sometimes teen friendships are more painful to parents that they are to their kids!

Best, Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Helping children deal with friendship problems

Comments (3)

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  1. Doreen says:

    It just might be that the others are participating in activities he has no interest in or doesn’t approve of. The few that he is willing to interact with do not exhibit those behaviors. What I am getting at is just maybe the group might be getting high or having sex and he doesn’t want to be a part of this. So he is being selective about his friendships. As a teenager I often lied to my friends and told them I was not allowed to go when they were doing things I did not approve of. I never told my parents because they would have been alarmed and I was never going to participate in the behavior. Just a thought.


  2. Gardener says:

    It’s good to allow him to explore being at the fringe– maybe he is feeling out the group before he decides to make a step to be accepted as part of it. IME, boys have an easier time with that than girls do.

    Ideas like sports, teams, and clubs are good, and he can meet people in an expanded circle and branch out.

  3. Liz says:

    Try to get him into some extra -curricular activities, scouts, sports, any teams, clubs, etc. The ones we hang around with usually/often are who we become friends with. Being on the fringes of groups is more acceptable to kids than being completely alone, and while that is hard for you to watch, it happens.

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