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It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “How do I help my 20-year-old college student make friends?” Listen in to find out Dr. Leman’s response on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.



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Doug: Do you worry about your kids not having friends when they’re young? What about when they’re older? That’s the question Raymond asked, “How do I help my older kids make sure that they have friends?”
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: And I’m really glad that you’re my friend. Well, you’re my wife. You’re more than just my friend, aren’t you> but okay. Moving on.

Andrea: It’s good to be friends too.

Doug: It’s good to be friends too. We are so glad that you are with us today. If this happens to be your first time with us, I want to let you know this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.

Well, today we get a question from Raymond and he’s asking about how do I help my kids have friends. Let’s jump right in.

Raymond: Hey, Dr. Leman, this is Ray. My daughter, Mia is 20 years old. She’s in college. She goes to a local university. She lives at home. She’ll be a sophomore next year. She’s a wonderful daughter. My concern for her is her just lack of friends. She has ADD. She’s the firstborn, my wife and I are both firstborns. Is there anything that you would recommend that I do or not do to try to help my daughter make friends or be more socialized? Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

Dr. Leman: Well, I love the question, Ray, and I have to sell you this. I love the way you asked the question. You sound like a concerned dad, but most people who would call in a question about how do I get my adult child to get friends, how do I say this as politely as I can? Might sound a little wacky themselves, okay. You don’t sound anything like that. You sound like just straight up dad, you’re asking a question and I love the way you asked it. Can you tell me some things I could do or not do? Okay. That’s a great way to ask a question because chances are, your sophomore in college, firstborn, probably perfectionistic. She’s probably a pretty introspective person. Now you haven’t said that, but I’m guessing. But I’m guessing that’s how she has been basically all of her life. She’s cautious.

The word picture I’d like to give you is it’s not February. It’s the middle of July and she is in the lake and she’s stepping forward just a little bit at a time because she wants to know the drop-off is in that lake, where all of a sudden it gets deep. My guess is that that’s how she goes through life. She’s extra cautious. So she’s not one that reaches out. So since she’s not self-initiating when it comes to friendships, my guess is that you’re very correct. She doesn’t have friends. Very, very few friends. She doesn’t let people into her heart, soul and mind very easily. So if someone were going to be friends with her, they would have to approach her rather carefully because I’m sure she has the ability to cut off intimate conversations with people. That’s probably, Ray, who she is, okay.

Which means she’s probably studious. She’ll probably go into a profession where she works by herself. I’ll never forget the engineer that I worked with years ago behind closed doors in my private practice. And he said something I’ll never forget. He was a firstborn introverted, very capable guy, very capable engineer. And he said, “If they would just keep people away from me, I would be absolutely happy.” There are people like that. It’s just who they are. I was called into a staffing years ago for a little kid. They thought all kinds of things was wrong with the kid because everything the kid did, he did slowly. And I told my daughter, my youngest daughter, the other day at dinner, we’re all through dinner and she’s hardly got through, I would say an eighth of her dinner plate. She’s always been that way. She’s now 28 years old. Once in a while, I refer to her as Little Pokey.

And in that staffing, after all these people sat around and gave all these theoretical guesses about what’s wrong with this kid. I said, “I have a diagnosis for you. This kid is pokey.” They’re pokey in the morning. They’re pokey at noon, they’re pokey in the evening. And in fact that same daughter that I just referenced, 28 years old when she was four, five, six, seven years of age at Christmas time, it was just sort of in many ways, the highlight of entertainment for us because when she opened a package and you know how most kids open packages, she would do so by just very carefully separating the tape from the gift wrap. And it took her a minute just to open up the package. And we just all just of chuckle and laugh and watch her. She was demure as a kid. She was very particular how she did things.

Well today, what is she? She’s a toy designer. She deals with little minute parts and pieces and she creates them. And she’s very, very good at what she does. She just got a major promotion. She’s got three things in Disneyland, the three different Disneylands here in the States and one in Tokyo. So very creative person. So, Ray, I really think what you got is a lovely daughter who is sort of a loner. And sometimes we associate loners with people who are responsible for mass shootings or suicides or whatever. It’s got a lot of bad handles on it. Just from the way you asked your question, I’m guessing that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a kid who is just sort of a private person, one step at a time. And I guess what I’m saying, Ray, in summation is if that were my daughter, I would just enjoy my daughter for who she is. I wouldn’t worry about her friendships. They will come sooner or later. It’s probably going to be later.

Doug: So the question that still I have is, if she has no friends that’s all right?

Dr. Leman: Well, who chooses to have friends? The obvious answer is she does. So for whatever reason, she doesn’t like closeness. Is there a reason for that in her life? Maybe. Maybe it’s something that Ray doesn’t know as her father, maybe it’s a deep, dark secret. But if the kid is doing well in school, isn’t a problem to mom and dad, you didn’t hear anything about, “Well, we can’t get her to do this or that. And she doesn’t [inaudible].” We didn’t hear any of that. We heard a very positive quite frankly, description of his daughter. So it’s one of those questions where, you’re tempted to come up with all kinds of conjectures over our podcast about what’s going on in this kid’s life. I’m just saying she’s one of those, like my daughter who’s pokey. She’s still pokey. She was pokey when she was little. And I think that’s how Rays daughter sees life. Very cautiously.

Doug: How do you know when it’s a problem that my kids don’t have any friends that they’ve isolated themselves too much or whatever? What’s the marker for that one?

Dr. Leman: You’re getting calls from school. You’re getting other people’s observations about your daughter that’s sending people red flags. Sometimes we don’t see our own kids very accurately. So if there’s a teacher, someone you respect, maybe that your daughter’s in the chorus group at college or in high school, and the music director calls you and he’s concerned about her for whatever reason, but you get two or three different people saying, “We’re concerned about your daughter.” Then I would look a little bit more closely. Then I might suggest to her, “Honey, you ever felt like it’d be profitable for you to sit down and talk with a counselor just about life in general?” I might go that way if I had other pieces of information that seemed to say, “Hey, there’s something going on here,” but we have no indication of that from Ray’s question.

Andrea: What if she was saying to her dad, and I know this isn’t in the question, so it probably isn’t the case, but what if she was saying to her dad, “I have no friends. I’m …” she was bemoaning the fact that she really wanted friends and didn’t have any friends.

Dr. Leman: Okay. That’s that’s fair game. Then we’d talk about how do you develop friendships? And then you would talk about initiating conversations with people. She’s at school, she’s in the student union, she sees another student sitting by herself or himself at a table. I say, “Honey, let me give you just a little clue. You go up to that table and say, ‘Would you mind if I sat here at the table?’ And you sit down and you introduce yourself, ‘Hi, my name’s Nancy.'” Well, my names … And the conversation is either going to take off or it’s going to die, but you have to be able to help a child see that there’s ways that you initiate. Friends just don’t fly in your door. They just don’t come out of the water faucet. You have to initiate. And then you have to show an interest about what that person’s all about.

“Hey, I’d love to know more about you. Where’d you grow up? Do you have a family, brother or sister?” And so you have to be an inquiring mind. Everybody, most people, I shouldn’t say everybody because some people really don’t like talking about themselves, but most people are interested in talking about what they’re interested in life. So you try to get a child to think about how do you develop friendships? And you’re right. A lot of kids really crave friendships, but they don’t know how to proceed. You’ll see a young kid sometimes who will be a pain in the butt to put it bluntly with other children and what he or she is really saying is, “I want to be in the group. I want to have fun. I want to be a friend. I want to be included, but I don’t know how to do that. So I’m going to get attention from you in a negative way.” You see that a lot with young children. So anyway, those are my thoughts on it.

A pediatrician told me something once I never forgot. He said, “Some people when they hear hoofbeats, they think zebras are coming.” The best guess is if you hear noises that resemble a horse coming your way, it’s probably a horse, isn’t it? What I’m saying is sometimes people stretch to find something wrong with a child’s personality, with their being. In this case I think if we search that way, we’re trying to fabricate something for our own satisfaction.

Andrea: The dad also asked, what should he not do in this case? What advice would you have for him in that scenario?

Dr. Leman: Well, I think we sort of answered that in that he shouldn’t do anything. He should just respect his daughter for who she is. See, dad probably has a lot of friends. Ray probably has a lot of friends and he values friendships and he sees his daughter not having friends. So he’s saying, “Wait, what’s going on here?” I was doing a professional development yesterday at one of our schools. And I made the point that to have to have a relationship, you don’t have to be clones of each other. In fact, good relationships are usually spawned with people who are very different. And I cited my wife and I. We’re very different people. And yet we’ve had a great relationship for years.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, I don’t usually disagree with you on stuff, but on this one, I think I do have to disagree with you on. If you sat down next to somebody and wanted to get to know them and said, “Hi, I’m Nancy.” I don’t think that they would find that appealing. I think they would say, “Aren’t you Kevin Leman?” And they would say, “I think this guy is being duplicitous.” I’m just giving you a hint the next time you want to try and make friends. I think I’d go with your name, Kevin Leman and not Nancy. Okay. Just take that for what it’s worth.

Dr. Leman: So, friends, this is Doug Terpening’s attempt for humor. You got me laughing, Doug. Oh gosh. He’s so funny. Doug is the one that keeps us on track if you’ve noticed, okay. When I go too far, one way or another, he has this wonderful way of bringing us back to where we need to be. Oh, he’s the best.

Doug: And this is when you and Andrea get to do your little fist pump. Yeah, we’re the smartest ones in the group we tolerate Doug. Okay. Okay. Moving on. So the ebook promotion is the great one. It’s Planet Middle School for a buck 99, between now and the end of February of 2021, wherever eBooks are sold. And Andrea, you have Amazon thing?

Andrea: Yeah, Sarah says “Fantastic way to parent adolescents with love and humor without losing boundaries and your mind. Love this book.”

Doug: So wherever you buy eBooks, and if you’re worried about your kid’s friends, this is a great book. And now a no nonsense moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: I get asked all kinds of questions about what age do you do this? At what age do you do that? Hey, parents, it’s not a matter of anos, for our Spanish speakers you know what that means. It means years. It’s really about maturity. Now my question is, do you give your son or daughter opportunity to grow, to make decisions, to learn? Is failure acceptable in your home? If that’s true, I got news for you. Your kids are going to mature. They’re going to realize that life is not built around them and that other people count in life. So parents take it easy. Take a big breath. Life is going to be perfect. In our seven Leman schools, I have a sign, Leman Academy of Excellence where learning is fun. Keep a fun, positive environment in your home, and everybody’s going to feel better about themselves and other people.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, a question for you. If I have an adolescent who was not super energetic, not super outgoing, but kind of medium, and then gets a little bit more pokey or feels more isolated, how do I know when it’s just adolescents trying to figure out life and how do I know when it’s something that I need to jump in and ask about?

Dr. Leman: Well, you don’t know, unless there’s a lot of … Let’s start with physical changes. All of a sudden your kid’s way of dress is drastically different. All of a sudden your kid who did relatively well in school, the grades have dropped right off the shelf, okay. The friends that your son or daughter had have disappeared. You get three or four of those things going on and you probably got something going on in that kid’s head that probably needs some attention from a professional. So again, usually Doug and Andrea, it’s not just one thing that should get a parent concern. But when you see a bunch of things coming together, that’s when you have some concern as a parent and should follow through. Now trying to get a kid help, trying to get a kid to see a professional. That’s not easy either. So you got to be careful how you walk that line. But again, I’m looking for three or four things the fall in line that say, “Hey, there’s a problem here in River City.”

Doug: And the other thing I’ve heard you say that actually has been proven up pretty well, is that we have that uh-oh meter inside our gut or chest or somewhere in there and that when it goes off, that’s what you want to just ask the kid, right?

Dr. Leman: Exactly.

Doug: Look at that. I could do this. We don’t even need Dr. Leman anymore, Andrea. I’ll just take over. What do we?

Dr. Leman: Andrea, from the beginning of this podcast, I’ve been dying to ask this question.

Andrea: Uh oh.

Dr. Leman: What is the dumbest thing Mr. Terpening, Mr. Doug himself, has done in all your years of marriage? The dumbest thing he’s ever done.

Andrea: I don’t think I should answer that question.

Dr. Leman: Would that get you in trouble?

Andrea: No-

Doug: I want to hear.

Dr. Leman: Would you prefer another question?

Andrea: If Doug actually wants to hear and he wants all of his listeners to hear.

Doug: Yeah, I don’t mind. We already know I’m the dumbest one in the podcast so it’s like [inaudible]

Andrea: This actually happened just a few weeks ago.

Dr. Leman: Now, is this something that ended up with a fight?

Andrea: No, no. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and to … Mr. Terpening is always right.

Doug: That’s not-

Dr. Leman: So wait a minute. So you follow my advice. When I say ladies, “When your husband says something really stupid and dumb, you can just look at him and you can be thinking you’re an idiot, but don’t say you’re an idiot. Just sort of button it up.” Is that what you’re telling me?

Andrea: I realized after the fact what had happened, so there was nothing I could do to change it, right? So Doug’s asking if this is the dumbest thing, it’s the dumbest thing that comes to mind right now. We’ll say it that way. Okay. So the neighbor has a nice Kubota with a sprayer on the back. So you can spray your weeds. When you have more than just a little yard and you’ve got fields and barns and stuff, and you have lots of blackberries popping up, it’s really handy. So we borrowed this Kubota with, he had some leftover spray for the blackberries.
So we were running around, shooting the blackberries and we ran out and we thought, “Well, let’s get ours out.” So I was the driver of the little Kubota and he was the sprayer. So he ran in to the shed and he grabbed a jug of spray, of chemical to kill blackberries and put it in, loaded it up. We went around for like 45 minutes. A couple of weeks later, we started to notice all the grass on our play field is dying. It wasn’t blackberry spray. It was Roundup. So we killed, basically killed our lawn. And yeah, I’ve kept my mouth shut on that one, but since you invited it. [crosstalk].

If you wonder why we have stripes going up and down our play field where all the teenagers of the area would come and play Frisbee all summer, that’s why.

Dr. Leman: I got to ask you a question about that number, why would you kill an innocent blackberry?

Andrea: Oh, my word. You don’t even … you got to come to the Northwest. These are not innocent plants. We keep one, we call it the wall of blackberries where we can go pick our blackberries to make pie and jam.

Dr. Leman: Okay.

Andrea: But these things pop up everywhere and their thorns are horrible. And then they go, once they get going, they are out of control.

Dr. Leman: And you mentioned that machine. I’m sure I’m not the only one that was thinking, what were you riding? A what?

Andrea: It’s like a four wheel drive golf cart by Kubota.

Doug: It’s got a 500 gallon sprayer on the back. So you mix up 200 gallons of chemicals and go spray.

Dr. Leman: So if you went to Plano, Texas and use that term with someone, would they know what that was? Or was it just me?

Andrea: It’s a brand. It’s like Ford. It’s called Kubota. They build tractors.

Dr. Leman: Oh, I see. Okay. So if you live in the farm land, you would know that.

Doug: Probably.

Dr. Leman: If you’re a city person, you probably wouldn’t.

Doug: Yeah. You’re not lugging many 500 gallon sprayers around in the city.

Andrea: I don’t think it’s 500. 50.

Dr. Leman: Well, listen, I’ll tell you, Doug. I think you came out good on that, because if that’s the dumbest thing that came to mind, I think you’re in pretty good shape my friend.

Doug: Thank you.

Andrea: I’ll protect him on some others.

Doug: Yeah, I was like, “Oh man, which one is she going to bring up?” Because in our relationship, one of us is the planner and one of us is the screw-upper. So you can guess which one that is.

Dr. Leman: Listen for the record, I know Doug Terpening. He’s a wonderful human being.

Doug: He’s just not very bright. Go ahead and say it Leman. I could hear it coming next. Go for it.

Dr. Leman: No, no, no. You’re a good one.

Andrea: He’s a good one. That’s right.

Doug: All right. Well, Ray, thanks for asking your really great question. You’re a super thoughtful guy. You’re great. It sounds like you’re a great dad. And I appreciate the questions. I appreciate also that you took the risk as a dad to leave us a question. And for those of you that do want to ask your question, you can go to And if you want to hear what the dumbest thing Andrea’s done, maybe you can go there to ask the question and then we’ll just have to answer it.

Andrea: I’d be curious to hear what you say, honey.


Dr. Leman: I married you.

Doug: [inaudible] Alrighty.

Andrea: Have a great week. Thanks for being with us. And thanks, Ray, for your question.

Doug: Bye-bye.