Monday, May 19, 2014

The Search for Friends

Before we moved, I had one friend who had a girl Builder Boy's age, and another daughter ten months younger than Early Bird. We went to a very small, older church that for the last year before we moved had no other children. We attended Bible Study Fellowship once a week and Builder Boy did AWANAs once a week. That was almost the full extent of their experience with other children. They never mentioned making friends in either of their activities. They were (and still are) each other's best friends. My friend's older daughter started public school in kindergarten, so our time with her became very limited during the school year.

After we moved, we did not know anyone. We now belong to a huge church that is easy to get lost in, and hard to connect with people. The boys each have their own Sunday School classes; but the classes are so large that they tend to get lost in the crowd. We started AWANAs again this fall, but still no friends made.

Early Bird started bemoaning our lack of friends, and kept mentioning how sad that made him. I asked him what about the kids in Sunday School? Nope; they don't count. So I asked him what "friends" do, and he defined "friends" as people who came to our house and played. After we joined a weekly small group from church, where we go to someone else's house every week, he has been perfectly content.

If your child is expressing a need for friends, defining terms and expectations can be very helpful.

At first, I really hoped that the small group weekly get together would produce friends for Builder Boy. There were two boys close to his age and I had high hopes. But as time went on it became clear that Builder Boy did not fit in with those boys; and one in particular did not want to include Builder Boy.

On one hand, I can understand. Builder Boy is still working on his speech; if you're not used to listening to him, he can sometimes be difficult to understand. He likes things a certain way and when things do not happen that way, he can get upset. Which, thanks to emotional over-excitabilites, is more emotionally expressive than other kids would expect. Builder Boy also has different interests than other kids his age, and has not been exposed to most of the pop culture that the other kids have.

On the other hand, I had very few friends as a child; in some grades none at all. I am very sensitive to my child being purposely excluded. (Which he is thankfully so far oblivious to.)

I had a good talk with the mother of the other little boy, and

I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations. 

It was unfair of me to expect that group to provide everything for my kids, friend wise. Even though it would have been nice. And talking to Builder Boy I realized, he has different needs than the ones I have been trying to fill. For Builder Boy, everyone (unless they are out right mean to him) is his friend. So he thinks he has a ton of friends. He doesn't really have much of a desire for much else at this time. (Which is not unusual for a seven year old boy.)

Determine your child's actual needs.


And lastly, diversify.

This applies to both where you are looking for friends, and what your idea of a friend is. Builder Boy does much better with kids much younger or older than him. Okay, I need to stop obsessing about him having a best friend his own age. Now that it's almost summer and our out-of-home activities are over for the "school" year, we have more free time for playdates. Early Bird's "bestest buddy EVER" from our church is from a homeschooling family with older boys that are very sweet about playing with the several years younger Builder Boy. And it's working out GREAT! Their mom, who I have talked to about having difficulty finding friends, has suggested that he's more likely to have stuff in common with homeschooling kids than with public school kids. (Not trying to be a homeschooling snob. That's just been her experience.) So, gulp! we're going to join their learning club in the fall. We're also looking at Boy Scouts or 4-H clubs in the area, though that's probably going to be put off until next year. One new thing at a time! We will probably have a better chance finding friends where we know they will share at least one interest.

Builder Boy came out of his Sunday School class all excited last week because he finally had a friend! It was girl. Not that I have a problem with him making friends with a girl; I was just hoping he could hang out with a boy, too. But he's very excited and he made her a card to invite her to our home to play. He noticed that her dress had rainbows on it, so he inferred she must like rainbows and made her this card:

Flowers, a rainbow, butterflies, and hearts. Not your typical boy card; but super sweet. He drew what thought she would like.

I don't have all the answers; and we still don't have scores of kids clamoring to be the boys' friends. But each is getting the needs they have at this time met; and that makes a happy mama.

So if you, too, are struggling to find friends for your homeschooled and/or gifted kids, here are my tips:
  • Determine your child's actual needs.

  • If your child is expressing a need for friends, define terms and expectations so you're on the same page.

  • Adjust your expectations.

  • Diversify.

This blog post was my contribution to the GHF Special Tips, Toys, Tricks, and Tools for Parenting and Educating Gifted/2E Blog Hop. For more great tips, toys, tricks, and tools, click here.


  1. This is great. Thankyou! We struggle with this at our house too. What a great way to clarify exactly what our kids mean by a 'friend'.

  2. I like your advice about determining your child's actual needs. It is easy to fret when our idea of perfect playmates for our children does not happen.


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