On the Family Front

Lonely or Loner?

Q. 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.

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May 25

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