A Problem Shared: He Won’t Play With Other Children

A Problem Shared Parenting & Family Advice | by | 23rd Oct 2017

Won't play - Lonely boy for APS

A mother is worried that her young child is being left out by the other children. She is looking for ways to help him integrate. Do you have any advice to share in this week’s A Problem Shared?

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Hi FamilyPoint,

I’m worried because my little boy seems like he’s struggling to mix with other children. I wonder if there might be something wrong with him, or if the other children are leaving him out.

My son is five years old and goes to school full time. I know all the other boys in his class play a lot together, they play football and stuff all the time, but I don’t think my son joins in at all. When I ask him who he played with in school that day he says that he didn’t play with anyone. The thought that he might be on his own breaks my heart.

He’s plays really well on his own at home and uses his imagination a lot when he plays. I don’t know if it’s a fact that he can’t communicate with these other children or if he doesn’t want to. I really want to make sure that my children are happy and I want to help them achieve this. When I can, I meet up with the other mothers so that he has a chance to play with their kids, but at school I can’t be there for him and he has to fend for himself. If I’m not there to encourage him to play with others how can I make sure that he tries to integrate himself?

Am I making this out to be something more than it is? Or do you think that he might have some communication problems?

Our FamilyPoint advice

Hi, thanks for getting in touch with FamilyPoint. I am sorry to hear that you are feeling worried about the possibility that your son is being left out at school. It is natural to worry about our children’s happiness. Meeting up with other mums and their children so your son can integrate is a lovely way to encourage playing with others.

Everybody’s different

We are all wonderfully different in the way we grow as individuals. Some of us need company frequently, and others are happy to spend time alone with their imagination. It doesn’t have to mean that there is an issue with communication or making friends, it can be a preference. Some children need a little more time than others to develop their confidence to join in with others. However, if there is an issue with communication or being left out, it is great that you are questioning what you can do to support him.

Play dates

I wonder if you have asked your son about how he feels about school and making friends? If he indicates he feels left out at playtime, perhaps you could ask other children to join you after school to play or for tea? This may encourage friendships to develop on a one-to-one basis. It could reduce the fear of joining in group games without an “ally”.

Helpful activities

When you meet up with other children outside of school, how well is he playing with others?

If you feel that he isn’t mixing very well, could he join some clubs that require communicating with others?

Activities like martial arts, team sports and drama can all help to develop confidence and communication. The mums you know from school will empathise about your worries and won’t judge. You’ll probably find that they have concerns about their children too. This is a mutually beneficial support network for you, as you all navigate the trials of childhood and parenting.

Talk to the teachers

Another thing you could do is have a chat with his teacher about your worries. The teacher will be able to give you an insight into how your son gets on with others in class and at playtime. Perhaps they can monitor the situation and address any issues identified.

There are buddy systems in some schools to help children to feel included. The school will have a policy for dealing with bullying if it is identified as an issue. You can ask to see this or it may be published on their website. The first step you should take is talking to the class teacher.

If your son does have communication problems, or any other learning need, then the school can advise you. They can tell you how to support your son’s development and what help is available. His teacher will want all pupils to feel happy and to reach their potential. Open communication can help achieve this.


To nurture your child into a happy human being is important so that he can thrive in today’s society. It sounds to me like he has exactly the support he needs with you behind him to encourage and guide. Try not to worry too much, you are doing all the right things as a parent and your son may just need a little more time to settle into school.

All the best.

The FamilyPoint Team 🙂

FamilyPoint Helpline

If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

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