Friday, October 30, 2009

The Last Hardest Year

Maybe I should add “so far” to the title.

My son’s transition to high school was not easy; freshman year posed new problems, but (happily) also brought new skills.

In sixth grade he was friends with twins – newcomers to his school who left after one year. My son was looking forward to reestablishing ties with them at the high school – all of our town elementary schools (which run kindergarten through eighth grade) feed into one high school. He was disappointed when they expressed no interest in picking up where they had left off with my son, having never put the same importance on the friendship as he did.

This was one of the first times when he felt a need to communicate his feelings to peers, and it was a difficult thing for him to do. He was hurt by the fact that they were ignoring him; I think he was also more aware of how hard it was for him to make friends.

For the first two months or so of high school, he was disconsolate. The work load was demanding and the social scene was unfamiliar to him. The therapist (we called him a “talk doctor” when my son was younger) he had been seeing for some time was particularly supportive during this time, and I also let the Learning Center teachers know he was going through a rough patch. (I like to think that this was proactive on my part, and not controlling!) They introduced my son to one of the school’s social workers. He turned out to be the one extra person who was able to get my son out of his funk, by giving my son specific strategies not only to help him talk to the twins but also how to get involved elsewhere in the school.

By Christmas break of his freshman year, he was in a much better place. He let the twins know that he was hurt by the fact that they were ignoring him and they apologized; they had not intended to snub him and really had not been aware of the impact of their behavior. He was still not one to go out on a weekend night with friends, but he continued to play rec league baseball and that helped him cultivate peer connections. Having developed a taste for drama by doing a production in eighth grade, my son auditioned for and won a role in the freshman drama production of "Animal Farm."

Any young teenager goes through a period of finding themselves among their peers in a new situation, and it was not very different for my son. His four years of high school proved to be a true growth period – academically, physically, and in his own self confidence level. Social connections were coming as well, albeit much more slowly than a “proactive” parent would prefer.

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