Raising a Socially Awkward Child


Sometimes the pressure within to write about a certain subject becomes overwhelming to me…and I feel as if I will burst if I don’t put my thoughts down in concrete form. This is one of those moments.

But it is also a moment where I wrestle with my desire to write about a serious subject. My children are growing up and gaining their own voice. They have their own stories to tell, and when it comes to writing about more difficult matters of parenting and homeschooling, I don’t quite know how I feel about leaving digital footprints for them to find at a later time. In other words, I’m scared. I’m scared of what their reaction might be one day to the feelings and words I wrote “once upon a time” regarding their struggles in life.

But if I’m true to myself, I feel like this topic needs to be discussed and shared with other moms who may be going through a similar battle now or in the future.

Raising a Socially Awkward Child @hsbapost

Today I’d like to talk about raising a socially awkward child.

Trust me, even typing the words “socially awkward” brought me pain. I fear the term itself is too judgmental or too harsh. But, it is accurate, I think…at least for our child.

I am the mom to three wonderful, precious, lovely children. Like any other kids on the planet, they are each unique. They are gifted with different talents and each of them have their own personal struggles. But as life would go on this sinful planet, some burdens are harder to carry than others.

My oldest child struggles with social skills and making friends. She’s twelve now, and in the throes of adolescence. She is learning, in very painful ways, that life can be cruel and people can be mean. This time of life is hard for any child, but it’s especially difficult for the socially awkward child.

She has struggled her entire life with being social and dealing with social situations. At a few junctures, we tried to put a label on it. We visited several child psychologists & therapists and we were given a different answer and diagnosis by each. I won’t go into details about that to protect her privacy, but let’s just say it was not a pleasant process for us.

One doctor in particular just wanted to prescribe her a combo of medications to adjust her personality to fit societal norms. We reluctantly tried it. It was, I think, the worst decision of my entire motherhood career. For weeks, I watched my child slip away from her creative and sweet self, into a quiet, dark, and isolated world. She was flat. Without emotion.

We decided we’d take the social awkwardness over her drugged and coma-like state any day of the week. We promptly stopped medications, and thankfully, our daughter’s sweet personality came back to us. I’m not saying medication is wrong. It was just not the right path for us, especially the kind of pharmaceutical drug our “trusted” provider was endorsing.

Because of her problems with being social and making friends, she has been bullied, harassed, and made fun of. I could tell you about a thousand stories, but I don’t have the space here. Let’s just say we’ve endured lots of taunting, name-calling, online bullying, and face-to-face meanness. Through all of it, she has endured. It has made her, and us, I think stronger. I would change it in a heartbeat if I could, but alas I cannot. So I look for the silver lining.

I share all of this with you because we live in a day and age where the socially awkward child is quickly labeled and judged by others. We want to fix everything. But some things aren’t to be fixed, or aren’t broken to begin with. Instead of fixing everyone else’s children, we need to focus more on our own. We need to focus on making our children more compassionate and loving. We need to teach our children that everyone is unique, different, and the best way to get to know someone is to meet them where they are.

I’ve spent the better part of twelve years fighting stereotypes about homeschooled kids. I’ve tried to get neighbors, strangers, and even friends and family to embrace my child for who she is. Some have, but many have not. For those that cannot, or choose not to accept her different-ness, I’ve had to learn to make peace with that. I’ve walked away from friendships and even from a few family members who think putting her in “real” school would fix all of our problems. (For the record, she did attend public for 2 years and it only exacerbated her social problems.)

I guess the entire point of my rambling can be summed up by saying – my child *IS* the “weird homeschooled kid” society loves to joke about. The problem with a joke is, someone or something has to be the punchline. The moral of my story is to keep being diligent. Keep fighting the stereotypes. Keep the faith. Keep loving your child for WHO they are. Embrace their unique personalities and respect others who are also fighting a hard battle.

Lindsey (8 Posts)

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  1. Thank you for this. I really needed to read this today.

  2. Great post. My 7 year old son is a socially awkward child and he doesn’t care. I need to not care, but it’s hard! The other day I was pushing him to go somewhere to “meet new friends” and he replied, “I don’t want any new friends.”

    • This is me too! My seven year old did not really want to be at Rock Band camp, because he would rather be with his dad and I. He likes playing around other kids, but does not always feel the need to interact. He is ok one on one, but in groups of more than three, he will go off by himself. I worry about him, but he seems happy. I need to let this go.

  3. This is a great post! As a tutor who often works with what the world labels “socially awkward” children and the friend of homeschool mother who has raised three creative, brilliant children who don’t conform to typical social pressures, I feel that the issue here is not the “socially awkward child” but the outside pressures they face to be something they aren’t–to be more outspoken, to be more social with their age group, etc.
    My answer to students who ask me how to deal with that social awkwardness is this: be yourself. What might seem like social awkwardness in your adolescence and teens can actually become part of what makes you an awesome adult.
    I too was once a socially awkward teen–very quiet, super nerdy, and not interested in having friends in my age group or doing traditional “teen” things. High school was rough, yes, but the same traits that isolated me from my peers then are now what make me a more well-rounded and interesting adult. I made friends like me–introverts and less conventional people who understand that you don’t have to fit social norms to be a well-adjusted person. And I became a more self-aware person who celebrates and nourishes people’s unique personalities, rather than pressuring others to fit a certain mold.
    So think of this social awkwardness as the groundwork for a very rich and fulfilling adult life!

  4. Great post! I have a social butterfly and a socially awkward child, the butterfly unkowing makes the awkwardness more noticeable. What I find though is that my awkward child is developing an inner strength that I don’t see in my butterfly, a confidence in who she is. For us as mothers its hard to see the disappointments and hurts, but they know they have a safe harbor in Mom and they know they can always turn to us.

    • Thank you Joesette for this comment. Its true and while I struggle with what the outside world sees, I need to allow her to flourish inside herself and inside our home. What a wonderful reminder.

    • This comment just made me cry. Thank you for posting this. My 10 year old daughter is also developing an inner strength. She is the sweetest little girl in her class. But she is socially awkward. And she had been all throughout elementary school, and I know middle school will be even worse. Your words have helped more than you can imagine. Yesterday, she came home from school and told me she overheard some girls in her class call her weird. She told them, “I’m not weird! I’m fabulous!” How I pray she keeps this self confidence! She is a brilliant child, but struggles socially. And she has a heart of gold. Teach your children to be authentic. If every parent taught their child this, wouldn’t the world be a better place for our children?

  5. And isn’t it true that, honestly, we’re all awkward in one way or another? And if you’re not, maybe your awkwardness is pride? Homeschooling has kept my children from caring about people’s differences. They don’t judge because they were never taught to judge. They embrace everyone – and the friends they love the most would be labeled “not quite right” by the world. I’m grateful that they love unconditionally because they don’t know that people are “supposed to be” anything. We are only supposed to be the best that God intended. Thank you, Lindsay, for sharing your courage and helping me find my own. God bless your family.

  6. Christine says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I have a ‘shy’ child, but he has blossomed so much through homeschooling! Everyone is different. I went to school with brilliant people who were socially awkward; they’re married and have families. God has plans for every child, and like Anne B. said, we’re only supposed to be the best ‘us’ that we can be, and we’ve all got our own hang-ups!

  7. I am and always have been an incredibly shy person, and being in public school certainly didn’t change that. I have one child who is definitely the image of myself, and my baby looks like she may be as well. The only one of my children who doesn’t seem to have difficulty is my oldest son, and he never met a person (or thing :P) he didn’t mind talking to…the kid seriously lovesssss to chat! But, it’s a part of who they are. My younger two have always been that way, the elder is almost in kindergarten – so homeschool definitely did not do that to them. But, being me, I know in my heart that it’s something they inherited and I’m not apologizing for it. My bashful little girl is adorable, and I’m not gonna try to change them! Teach them good manners and trying to help them when they need – yes. But forcing them into being someone they aren’t – I don’t think that’s ever the answer, no matter the “norm.” If we were all the ‘norm’ it’d be a boring world 😀

    Thanks for sharing!!

  8. I have one of those stereotypical homeschooled kids, too. I admit to feeling a little bit touchy about it at times, because people seem to think that a) this is all my fault for homeschooling and b) there’s something wrong with it. Some kids are loners. Some are very shy. Some have aspergers. Some kids are just quirky. It’s ok!

    I went to public schools with severe social anxiety and selective mutism. With my high IQ and strict Christian upbringing (which I’m glad I had) I was so much the fish out of water that I was severely depressed until I was a grown up, thinking that I was irredeemably broken. When I realized that the artificial environments of schools (and a lot of other institutions) were such hostile places to the quiet mind and the sensitive child that I was set up for failure, I finally broke free of my upbringing and realized that it’s ok to be different. It might even be better, at times.

    I’m glad I’ve got my quiet, awkward child at home with me, where he can have time to grow and bloom, rather than in school where he’ll only be treated as a problem because he doesn’t fit.

  9. Thank you for sharing such a personal struggle.

    The homeschooling community is so diverse and I often say to people that there are many parents homeschool BECAUSE their children are socially awkward rather than homeschooling causing kids to be socially awkward.

    My kids have a few social struggles and as a parent, it’s heartbreaking and even moreso when others can’t looked past their own judgements to just love you and your child.

    The good news is we all grow up and the adult world is much nicer and I’m sure your daughter will find where she fits in due time! There’s always hope!

  10. Hey all – thank you SO MUCH for chiming in and sharing your hearts. It was a very hard thing for me to write about. I never want my kids to read my words and think something is ‘wrong’ with them. I worry about the digital footprint I leave behind for them to find one day, if that makes sense.

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who has to face this and I appreciate so much your words of encouragement.

    Thanks for blessing ME today! :)

  11. I LOVE your heart and this post! Thanks for being so open and real! Your kids are blessed!!

  12. Hi There! First I want to thank you very much for being so open about your baby and your family’s struggle with this issue. You, my friend have just done what many bloggers WISH they could do….just be real. I applaud you for that. I want to encourage you….as you may already know, no two children are the same and everyone has their own personalities. Even though your daughter struggles with socializing the so called “normal” way…it’s really OK! I don’t like the fact that the “adults” have become the bullies and don’t even realize it (go figure)! By the way, what’s wrong with the kids that have spent their ENTIRE life in “regular” school but, have social issues or are shy??? The answer…Nothing. I’m sure your daughter will make friends with those she chooses…and to be perfectly honest, we could all take a lesson from her…Just because you see someone, it does not automatically make them friend material. God bless you for all your motherly instincts. You are doing a wonderful job and so is she. Blessings

  13. God bless you Lindsey! I love that you have the guts to walk away from toxic relationships! God gave her to you for a reason! And He’s got THE most awesome plan for her life … being socially acceptable, sometimes, ain’t all its cracked up to be.

  14. Thank you so much for posting this. Our 13 year daughter was in public school from pre-school through most of 5th grade, when we finally pulled her out. I do wish we would’ve pulled her out sooner, or better yet, never put her in public school. Our daughter has ADHD, and we, too, tried medicines when she was younger. It wasn’t worth it. She had the personality of 2×4 board. She is immature for her age in the “socially normal” world. She has been bullied, too. She doesn’t have any friends outside our homeschool group, and unfortunatley those friends live out of town. We even spoke to the counselor, principal and teachers while she was in public school to address the bullying. We were told that it was their age group and it was common! UGH! One teacher told me that pulling her out to homeschool was not the answer! Our daughter is much happier at home and with her homeschool peers. Yes, she is socially awkward, immature for her age, etc, but we love her. She is ours. She shows kindness to all and has a loving nature. Once again thank you so much for sharing your story, and big ol’ virtual hugs to ya! God Bless you! Now, if we could find that perect curriculum for her… :)

  15. Thank you for writing this. I appreciate your diligence to your children and it’s always good to know that I’m/we’re not alone. I wish you and your family the best. Thanks for shining and being who you are, especially when it’s hard. I believe it makes you shine all the more.

    With love and gratitude,

  16. Thank you for this post. I struggle between thoroughly enjoying my daughter’s individual weirdness (which is partially encouraged by her parent’s weirdness) and trying to figure out how to help/make her fit in. She has to deal with some flak when she attends P.E. and music at the public school. It doesn’t help that she’s a weird girl who’s gorgeous. For some reason that raises the attack level, especially from the girls. But, anyways, thank you for a post that was encouraging and reassuring. As you said, some things aren’t broken to begin with. Thank you.

  17. Thank you for this post. Never let anyone tell you that homeschooling has made your child awkward. My son, now 12, has been in public school for his entire school-career and that experience has not made him “better”. In fact, it has managed to hurt and quiet his uniqueness, so much so, that we are going to begin homeschooling all three of our boys next fall. I no longer want my children to “be like everyone else”, I want them to be who God intended them to be.

  18. Thank you for writing this. I have found myself worried sick over whether my child will mature “properly” or develop the skills he needs. He is also socially awkward and always has been. But he is so much more than that. He is kind creative and funny. Than you for reminding me that maybe it will take longer for him not because of him hit because of society.

  19. Thank you so much for your post. My 6 1/2 year-old daughter is “socially awkward” and has been that way for some time. She has yet to learn to pick up on cues that her behavior can be annoying (teachers and children have stated this) and at times unacceptable. She is a very sweet girl, but can definitely be a bit too rambunctious at times. My husband was the same way when he was younger and admits that he sees a lot of himself in our daughter. It just breaks my heart that her peers don’t see the good qualities in her and I truly worry that if she doesn’t learn to “tone” her enthusiasm down, that she will eventually become a victim of bullying…

    Several of her past teachers have used the ADHD label and alluded to putting her on meds. As a previous poster mentioned, I’d rather have my sweet & lively girl, instead of a zombie.

  20. Socially awkward is made up word for people who can’t handle different people, situations are only awkward if you let them be, so ironically the people who feel the awkwardness are the ones who aren’t supposedly awkward, If you can’t handle someone because they have a speech impediment, lisp ect. Maybe you need to work on something

  21. A big thank you! It’s so encouraging to hear of other mothers on the same path as I am, dealing with the same challenges.

  22. Thank you so much for writing this post. I have a wonderful, creative, smart, “socially awkward” 13-year old daughter. She has attended public school, private school and home school. She is who she is in every environment. I love and admire her for who she is. But sometimes I just wish, for her sake, that she could make friends more easily. It can be heartbreaking to watch the loneliness. It is so comforting to simply read a post from someone who understands this journey.

  23. THANK YOU! This article was very much needed. I have a 9 year old whom has since birth been very “Unique”, but able to carry out tasks, redirectable and highly intelligent. He has always had problem relating to other children and often is isolated even within a crowd of children. The most ironic part is he appears unbothered. As you stated, children who have this awkwardness have a different level of self confidence- I am only hoping it continues throughout his Adolescent years. As a Single, parent this has taken me through a world wind of emotions..but mainly fear of how other children perceive him and/or react to his personality. I hope you continue to share your experiences with us! I can’t thank you enough for your article!

  24. I cried through this whole thing and I’m a pretty tough cookie! Thank you

  25. Wow, painful to read but brought me some comfort. I have many children.
    One is incredibly socially akward and it just breaks my heart and seems to be getting worse. We started home schooling this year. He seems to be angry and I feel it’s from frustration. His siblings are all highly functioning socially. Unfortunately the one closest to his age has so many friends and a neighbor who comes and knocks on the door and never asks him to play:( ever. I pray all the time that God bring him a special someone that can fill the hole I cannot.

  26. Kerri Wartnik says:

    Good news! I have a socially awkward daughter nestled between two social queen bees. She is now graduating from high school. After years of tears, worry, and lots of wincing, she and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. She is way less mature than others her age, but who cares? She is maturing… and maturing well. We read that those who mature slowly actually grow up well and healthy, while those who grow up too quickly spend their adulthood acting immature/childish. Being the neglected, ignored, bullied one has caused bitterness to grow, so it is important to teach these special, deep kids that forgiveness is essential. (Visualizing Jesus in their particular painful moments as if they could see what He was doing really helps with that.). Being a parent of one of these kids is extra work, but an honor. I have to say, they grow up to be beautiful people (and hopefully tend to find each other in college!).

  27. Sean's Mom says:

    I understand your pain! I needed to read this article. May God bless you and your child.

  28. As a longtime teacher turning homeschooling parent, I just want to say that school often does absolutely nothing to alleviate the distress of a child struggling to develop social skills, and often overlays judgment, bullying, and pressure to conform on top of the everyday tension that children feel when they struggle to connect. Schools often have an “invisible curriculum” that rewards students who have very particular types of social “skills”, and penalizes those who can’t or won’t conform to that standard. So much avoidable pain and suffering! After teaching for 15 years, I am making a different choice for my own child and encouraging everyone I know to consider doing the same.

    When my students have struggled socially over the years, I’ve told them that it does often get better as they get older. They can start to choose their own terms for socializing – joining clubs and workplaces where like-minded folks gather, avoiding high-stress social situations, and exploring their own unique forms of expression, dress, speech patterns, and values. If they have the genuine desire to build up their communication skills, there are so many ways to do that, too. But it should be out of a desire to connect with others and enjoy relationships, NOT to “fit in” in an artificial social environment like school.

  29. Can I just say you are not alone in this? My five year old had speech difficulty and we’re bilingual so we focused on her English, unfortunately it is not in par with other English speakers, so she does come off as awkward. She’s very social though, and loves to throw herself into groups- you can imagine what goes on there. I’ve heard other children tease her, tell her to go away, and whisper between themselves about her. Yes, kids. I think she’s catching on that not everyone is her friend, and not everyone will like her nor does she have to like everyone. It’s hard- but she’s unique, creative and heartbreakingly kind. I just hope the world was a gentler place for children like her.

  30. Great article! I teach high school special education and I know just how mean kids can be. Growing up, making and keeping friends always came easy to me. I now have a kindergartner who is extremely awkward! He is so sweet though! I just wish that more parents took the time to teach their children to embrace the children who are different. My son wants to hug his classmates, hold their hands, and give them compliments. Apparently, these actions are now awkward when it comes to kindergartners. I watched today as my sweet little five year old boy told a boy that he liked his shirt and the kid rolled his eyes.

  31. I’m a grandmother raising my 13 so to be 14 year old granddaughter. She just started high school and is having a very difficult time. We don’t homeschool, although that is what she wants. I’m almost 60 and not able to be much help with school work. She has always be backwards and very shy. Has never had close friends, nor participated in any extra curricular activities. She spends a lot of time by herself. That’s my concern, we live in a very rural area and I’m worried homeschooling her will make things worse. She spent all summer inside, with just my husband and I. I have to make her go with me even to the store which isn’t often. She doesn’t speak nor answer people when we go out. I have to order for her at restaurant’s, that’s how shy/backwards she is. If I don’t she won’t eat. I’m very concerned and at a lost of what to do.

  32. Thank you so much for sharing. We have a wonderful sweet son soon to be 13 years old. He has always struggled in social situations, but it has seemed to get worse as he has gotten older. He did attend public school for elementary then tried a Christian middle school. He was getting bullied in middle school and the teachers seemed to bully him as well because he was so shy. We chose to homeschool him and he is so much happier and less stressed for this. Although we are still figuring everything out with the homeschooling my husband and I know this is the right choice. Being a public school teacher, I have had many judgements and “looks” given to me, but I have had many wonderful
    people that truly know my son understand and have been very supportive. You have to do what is best for your child and love them for the amazing person they are! It was so wonderful reading your blog as well as all the comments and to know that we are not alone. Thank you !

  33. Nate's mommy says:

    I’m here struggling with that worry right now. My son is only 2 but I’m worried he doesn’t get enough interactions with other kids. I’ve always felt socially awkward, even to this day. But I’ve always felt it was just my personality. It’s just who I am. But I’m worried that in his case he’s only going to be that way because I made him that way. He has no because I have no friends. He’s not in daycare because he just started talking and I’m afraid that if something was to happen to him he wouldn’t know how to tell me. He only has one life and I don’t want to screw up his chances of have a better than average existence. But how can I give/teach him the traits I don’t possess?

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