I have a bright, funny middle schooler who now has little interest in anything or anybody. He has no behavioral problems but can't focus on anything or connect with anyone, and it's affecting his home, school, and social life. If he was happy to live in his head, I could understand that, but he is frequently bored and lonely, and he seems incapable of making connections, both to other people and to new ideas. Can anyone give me some strategies or guidelines for working with him?
Can anyone give me some ideas to try to get my 11-year old son interested in anything
so he isn't bored and isolated all the time?
He just started middle school, and his teachers tell me that he's "just sort of there" in class. He's very introverted and has trouble reading social cues, hasn't made new friends, doesn't speak up, and does just the bare minimum of work. He's gone from being an A student a few years ago to mostly Cs now. He's in an honors IB program, which I don't want to move him from because the non-honors classes are basically holding pens, and he shuts down when there is chaos.
He comes home at four, has an hour of screen time, does his homework, and then won't do anything else. On school days, that's not so bad, but on weekend and holidays, he's visibly lonely. He is miserable when we put him in after-school activities, and as a fellow introvert, I can understand the need to get back to a quiet home after a long day of being around other people. But then he's at a loss for what to do, and I can see him getting less and less invested in anything outside his head.
I asked a question
several years ago about repetitive movements he uses while he "thinks" - his word - and while these haven't been apparent during the past few years, they've come back strongly now. I can hear him in his room "thinking" for an hour or two each evening.
If activities aren't his thing, then I would have thought books would be. We keep trying to get him to read a variety of genres, but he can't seem to get into any book beyond a few pages, even if he's the one who selected them. We've had his vision checked, and he scores highly on all the reading assessments he takes at school, but he can't seem to get invested in a narrative. Non-fiction doesn't work either. He likes re-reading the Bone series over and over again, but I'd like to see him try something new, even if it's a new graphic novel. He now views reading as a chore, and he can't even name a subject that he'd like to explore. I watched him spend about 20 minutes on 2 pages of the Maze Runner yesterday, and he explained that he just can't focus on the plot at all.
He loves, loves, loves video games - mostly fighting and FPS titles - and would happily spend all his waking hours playing them. We've restricted his screen time, as I've said before, and I've found myself cutting down on them as well to be a good example. But the only thing he wants to talk about are video games: strategy, reviews, upcoming titles, best fatalities in the MK franchise, and so on. I've suggested he look into programming, but he's having none of it. When he gets an interest, he tunes out anything else, to the extent that he can't even follow a discussion on another subject. This was cute when it was whales and he was four, but now it seems to be getting in the way of any conversation, hobby, or curiosity. And since he can only play them, or watch Youtube videos about them, for a short time each day, his one focus only takes him so far.
Other things we've tried: guitar lessons, which he takes but often wants to bail on; therapy to see if he was depressed (prognosis: no), bike riding, which he does for a short amount of time each day; pets, which . . . well, thank goodness we
wanted a dog as well; art classes - eh. And with the exception of therapy, these were all things he suggested.
I don't want to sound like a mother who is fretting because her baby likes them shooting games and isn't going to be a doctor. But he's disengaged from school, he doesn't have many friends, and he's at a loss for what do for 23 hours of the day. And then he gets bored and lonely. Everything we've suggested, he either dismisses immediately or tries and then is miserable. We have never had an experience where we have taken him to do something he didn't want to do - let's all go for a hike/get a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch/go see a play at the college - and he turned out to like it.
And he is a smart, kind kid. He still acts so caring around me. I want to do something because I feel like he's gotten into this situation because I haven't done enough to engage him with the outside world in the past - I'm an introvert and have pretty severe depression. But I don't want to force him to be something he's not.
So has anyone either had or been a kid like this? What advice could you give me? I know the tween/teen years aren't periods of mental serenity, but he's shutting out the rest of the world so much that I'm scared for him.