Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Don't They Ever Call Me? The Lament Of A 7th Grader

I was contacted recently by a parent who had a question about how much to intervene in the social life of her 13 year old son.  7th grade has been a good year, A-B student, played multiple sports, seems to be liked by his peers and most importantly grew 6 inches. Wow, talk about an out of body experience. Mom's worry is that though he seems engaged with his friends when he is at structured activities like his games, or school plays etc, when the weekends come, he is "home alone". He sees the other kids getting together on the weekend, but he is not an "initiator" and instead waits around for friends to call him, and when they don't, he feels like a loser. Mom's question was how much do I help him with this? She is worried that she might become one of those helicopter parents.

Here is the deal with middle schoolers. You absolutely could not find a more self-centered bunch of kids. The reason they are not calling this guy on the weekends, is that they are too busy thinking about themselves and their plans to think about whether there is anyone they have left out. The excitement of this new idea of a "social life" VS a "play date" is in overabundance. For proof of this just walk through your town center when your middle school has a half day. These kids are literally jumping out of their skins as they roam through town in huge numbers ecstatic with these new found feelings of independence and grown-upness. They are focused on how they look, how they act, and who they are with, period. They love their friends, but mostly because they see their friends as a reflection of themselves. When the weekends come, only the strong survive...literally.

Those kids who are obsessed with these powerful new feelings of independence, and grown-up ness will be extremely motivated to make something happen. Texts begin to fly around the town, who is doing what with whom. If you don't get into the "game" you are left out of it. This I suspect is what is happening with this 7th grade boy. He needs to get into the action. No more sitting on the bench and waiting for the coach to put him in. In these early years of adolescence, friendships don't run deep. This guy's friends are not thinking, "oh I wonder what X is doing today, lets give him a call." If X doesn't send a text to someone saying: "hey whats up for today" he will end up "home alone".

So if you have a son/daughter who is waiting to "get asked to the dance" here are some ways you might help. Understanding that right now your teen is a bit overwhelmed, and could use a little help you might say: " I have some errands to do at the mall, town, the city on Saturday, I would be happy to drop you and some friends off at the movies, the batting cage, the mall, McDonald's, etc. Why don't you text X and Y and see if they want to come. Even if that plan doesn't work it will get him/her into whatever other action plan is in the works, as he gets into the texting conversation with his friends. Most likely what he/she will get is a "oh so and so and I are going to X wanna come? And that will be that. Middle School is a transition time. Many kids are used to parents orchestrating their play dates, and now they are a bit adrift here in the sea of plan-making. They have no experience doing it, and it may actually go against their basic nature. Especially boys. How many husbands do you know who get on the phone and make the plans for weekends and vacations? I rest my case!

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