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How much social time is enough? How many friends are enough?


CoffeeMusicLaughs
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Hi there,

 

I'm currently homeschooling my two oldest boys, who are about to turn 7 and 9. We go to a co-op that meets for a few hours once a week, and we go to Sunday school and church every week. That's where my boys get the majority of their social time. I'm wondering if this is enough. There's one boy who lives a couple doors down who comes over occasionally, but he doesn't get home until after 4pm so it's hard to find the time. I don't know of any other kids their age in the neighborhood. My oldest son does gymnastics, but he hasn't made any friends through it yet. My second son goes to karate, but he also doesn't have friends there. They both did little league for the first time this past spring, but I don't know if they're going to have any friendships come out of that. It seems like the kids who did little league all knew each other already, and I don't know if we're going to get any playdates out of it.

 

I'm particularly concerned for my oldest son because all 3 of his friends that were his age at church have moved, so now he doesn't have any friends there. He has one good friend at co-op, but I'm wondering if that's enough. How much social time is enough? How many friends is enough? How do you know?

 

I must confess that my husband and I both carry baggage from our childhoods when it comes to lack of friends and not fitting in, and I'm concerned for my kids. I don't want them to conform, but I do want them to feel ok with who they are and to feel that they are wanted as friends. Does that make sense? I don't know if I'm being paranoid. I'd appreciate any thoughts on the matter.

 

Erin

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I would say that depends a lot on the person. My oldest is an introvert like me. I’ll admit to often feeling worried that he’s not a kid with a ton of friends. He’s friendly and gets along with people but he’s just as likely to sit and read his book at the pool as he is to go and hang out with a bunch of boys. I’ll find myself pushing him to go and play and be social only to realize that I’m happier sitting there reading my book than chatting with the other moms. Like me, he’s also a kid who is ok with a small number of close friends. I have to remind myself that he is happy and thriving whenever I start to worry. For a more extroverted kid, they might feel like they want to be with people more or need a bigger crowd to run with.

 

For us, we do a co-op and church. Both boys are in other various activities that provide social time but not really friendships. They get along with the kids at baseball or swimming or Scouts but don’t really see them much outside of those activiites. I am intentional about inviting friends over from co-op or church about once a week. That seems to be the sweet spot of amount of social time for us.

 

My two boys are also very close friends. I don’t believe that brothers have to be best friends or that having a sibling friendship makes other peer relationships unnecessary but I do think that homeschooling has provided them with the opportunity to become buddies in a way that they might not be if they were not together much of the time. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that relationship or dismiss it as not counting because the culture puts such an emphasis on non-sibling peer relationships.

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It depends on the kids. Do they seem happy? Do they play as friends with each other? If so, I'd make sure there was time for your EDS to play with that one good friend regularly, maybe try a standing playdate with the neighbor (like every other Thursday after school?) and just keep an eye on things for a while.

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I had to smile when I read the OP. No matter how many friends or social activities my kids have, invariably they complain it is 'not enough'. I think it has to be up to the parent to determine if a child's social activity is 'enough'. One guideline I use is if the child's social life is interfering with his or her education, then that child has more than enough of a social life. I would say a couple social activities a week is fine, and I do like to see my kids have at least one close friend once they get around age nine or ten. Before that, it seems to me that friendships between kids are more dependent on the parent and who the parent is willing to take the child to spend time with rather than the personal preference of the child for a particular person. Typically my own kids found their own friends gradually as they got older and spent more time pursuing activities that interested them over just being in school (which my older kids attended until high school) or being involved in the generally expected round of dance classes (for girls), scouts, sports, ect. It just takes time.

 

As for 'not fitting in', I just think that happens when kids are not subjected to so much pressure to conform on a daily basis in public school and a certain amount of 'not fitting in' is just to be expected from kids who have been able to put more focus on developing their own thoughts, ideas, and unique qualities over a focus on conformity. Sometimes homeschooled kids feel free to develop interests and talents that are not common in other kids their age, and this can contribute to a feeling of 'not fitting in' but isn't something to discourage.I also think that it can be a sign of maturity as well, and not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a child might need some coaching to help him handle social situations appropriately or to find things in common with other kids their own age, and if you suspect that one of your children might benefit from this you can do some social role-play type games in your homeschool to help him work on his skills in interacting with other boys.

 

It all tends to even out later in life as well. Humans tend to gravitate towards other humans who share their interests and as your boys get older and have more pronounced interests they will probably find other people who share those interests to spend time with and friendships will grow naturally from that. For now, you are exposing them to a variety of social situations and giving them opportunities to be around other kids and I would say that is just fine and perfectly appropriate for the ages of your sons.

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