It’s back-to-school time, and my 14-year-old son is dreading it. He misses his friends from sleepaway camp and doesn’t gel with the boys in his class the same way (he is brainy and into science fiction and history, and they are ... let’s just say, not). This happens literally every year since he started going to camp at age 10. Short of mail-ordering new classmates, what can we do to help him accept and connect with the peers he does have instead of wishing he was back at camp?
It can be so hard when our kids aren’t flourishing in the environment we have chosen for them. Of course, usually there aren’t too many choices of where to “put” them, so short of changing schools entirely, we are going to have to help your son become comfortable where he is right now — help him “bloom where he is planted,” if you will. (Mind you, I always found it supremely annoying when my mother tried to use this clever little saying on me, but let’s go with it for now.) This is not in any way, shape, or form an easy proposition, so let’s come up with a few things you might do to gently facilitate his blooming process.
First, encourage him to maintain his camp friendships, but he should not spend all of his spare time communicating with those friends. This will exacerbate the problem and romanticize those relationships, which can certainly be a large impediment to forming local friendships.
Second, come up with some creative ways to find kids that he is simpatico with. I remember when my nephew started going to Rubik’s Cube competitions. I thought it was the nerdiest thing in the world, but my sister told me that he had “found his tribe.” It can be a little difficult to facilitate finding a tribe, but figure out which of your son’s hobbies could be a social opportunity. For example, you could put out feelers for kids who like sci-fi, or maybe he can start a history club at school with the help of a friendly teacher. This is a great way to find a group of people who share a common interest. All it takes is an adviser, an email/flyer, and a room to meet, and the history-loving kids will come a-calling.
It’s good news that your son is capable of making close friendships, and his local tribe is out there, I’m sure of it. Listen, sympathize, and help him find them. Good luck and let me know how it goes.
All the best,