Social Studies: What to Do When Your Kids’ Social Lives Differ Drastically?

Posted December 9, 2010 by

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Do your kids’ social lives differ from each other drastically? When my son E was younger, it seemed easy to find play dates for him. I belonged to a play group in my neighborhood and a bunch of my friends had kids around the same age. Even when we moved from the Midwest to the east coast, I was still able to help him find friends (it was easier for him than for myself). Nothing delighted me more than the sound of kids running through the house screaming. It meant that he had friends and was having fun and I excused the loudness.  When we moved to a different state last year (also out east), E once again made friends automatically. He connected with our neighbors’ kids, as well as kids from shul and kids from his school.

E was 2 ½ when he and his friends were running through the house screaming. M is 2 ½ now and I haven’t seen him share that same delight with his friends. Sometimes he even hits them if they won’t share a toy, which makes me worry that his friends’ parents won’t want us to bring him over anymore, despite how much we discipline for such behavior.  M is very sweet and outgoing, so it saddens me that he’s always in his brother’s shadow when it comes to social situations.

M’s social life seems small in comparison to E’s. M goes to a school and has lots of same- aged peers there. He talks about friends from his school, whose names seem to change from week to week. However, he’s had very few play dates all to himself. In fact, he’s usually the one tagging along on E’s play dates even though the older kids don’t include him or call him a “baby” or “monster.” I try to have families with kids his age over for Shabbat meals. E gets annoyed when I don’t have anyone his age too, even though he has a lot of friends over all the time. He usually ends up playing big brother to M’s friends and they seem to flock to him more than to M.

When my sister and I were younger, we used to spend hours together in the basement playing with our Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. As we got older, we continued to share interests and do fun things together. She would hang out with me and my friends and I’d sometimes hang out with her and her friends — it didn’t matter whose friends were whose. We made connections for each other. Sure, there were days when I’d pick on her friends or get annoyed with her for tagging along with me and my friends. However, we usually struck a good balance.

I don’t feel like the same is holding true for E and M in terms of sharing friends. Usually, E wants his friends for himself and doesn’t want to include M — or E will win over M’s friends and they’ll want to play with him instead.

Does anyone have a solution for this type of situation? I’d also appreciate ideas for more ways to plan social time for M on my busy schedule of being a working mother.


Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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  1. Anne (Edit) Report

    I have three sons. This article is almost exactly. Except my second does not act out aggressively. My first, 15 very social and takes over friends, second 14 not shy but does not have one good friend. immature for age but smart gets upset because his brother always has friends to go hang out with. We go to church regularly and no he seems to click with. third child is 10 social and has friends. My middle has my personality which I was extremely shy more social now have friends but not close friends which may be due to the fact I have moved a lot which has truly made me more social. So, I am about to find yet another social outlet which maybe would also be good influence. Problem is I can not and don’t want to exclude my older from going. Both are becoming more involved in church and growing spiritually, so really they don’t have any positive friendships in school and church friends too busy. I want them all to have at least one good friend. I think it is important and certainly more fun. I would love any response to how or what else I could do. I would just keep trying. Anne

  2. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor (Edit) Report

    Melissa, this post got me thinking about my own childhood. Growing up, my older brother and I were about as different as night and day. I was pretty social and had a few good friends, but for awhile my brother struggled socially and seemed to have a hard time sustaining friendships. Then in high school, he found a great group of friends — people he’s still in touch with to this day. I think that kids change over time, and what is true when they are very young might not be once they get a little older…so hang in there. (Also, my son did all the things you mention M is doing now, in terms of not wanting to share, etc. I worried, too, but he ended up growing out of it and is doing just fine with his peers these days.) Good luck, and thanks for the great post.

  3. Brittany Roshelle (Edit) Report

    That’s a hard situation! I’m sure M will be fine 🙂 My family always really encouraged me and my siblings to include each other (especially for our older siblings). Growing up as kids, if you hung out with one of us, you had to be ok with all of us.

    Of course, we were 4 girls and 1 boy. It is kind of female in nature to share and include everyone…so I think it is harder for boys to have that mind set.



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