Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"I'm a single mother with a 13-year-old son. He likes to play piano, read his Bible, and watch television. The problem is, he has no friends. I've always made my home open to other kids; in fact, I even converted my living room into a game room equipped with a ping pong table, stereo, and computer with games. My 17- and 19-year-old kids have friends over all the time. Yet, my son still prefers to be alone. What can I do?"

A. First of all, it's important to determine why your son prefers solitude. Does he want to be alone as a way of protecting himself from outside problems or does he actually find pleasure and contentment in it? For the most part, if your child is happy and able to get along with people but prefers to be alone, I'd say you have little to be worried about. Some people simply don't need as much social interaction as others.

If you feel, however, that your son is experiencing a social problem, start by trying to determine when it began. Has it been life-long or has it come about after a traumatic incident, such as the death of his father or divorce? If it's the latter, then your son is likely experiencing a common phenomenon where he feels the need to stick close to you to "protect" you. If your other children were older at the time of the loss of their father, they probably already had social networks in place. Younger children often feel they're the last frontier of family, especially as your older children begin to move on with their lives and even out of the house.

As you encourage your son to develop outside friendships, consider the following steps:

Pursue your own friendships. Set up a regular get-together with a girlfriend. Whether it's lunch or a movie, the regular time out will do you good. Talk to your son about the "empty nest" stage that's coming and how each of you are preparing for it. Remind him that you're strong and that both of you need friends in addition to your close mother-son relationship. If his father is alive, see if you can involve him, an uncle, a male family friend, or an older brother in encouraging your son to let go of you a little, and move out into the world.

Take small steps. Tell your son that both of you need to spend more time with friends and talk about a couple of people you each can try to get to know better. Pray together about this plan regularly. Make Friday nights a no-TV night and encourage him to make plans with friends instead.

Make friends at church. Is there another mom in the church (single or otherwise) in the same predicament as you? Make plans for the four of you to see a movie - the boys can go to one movie and the moms can see another at the same theater. Meet up for ice cream after the movies. Ask your youth director if there's an outgoing boy who might be willing to be a buddy to your son and help him get involved in youth group activities. If your church group isn't active, seek out a Campus Life club or other parachurch organization at his school.