Question: An 8-year-old boy cannot seem to make any friends and is obsessed with dinosaurs. What can a parent do to encourage friendships? How can they understand this behavior?
Answer: When I think about an 8-year-old boy who has trouble making friends and is obsessed with dinosaurs, I think about a couple of different issues -- the most important issue for me as an 8-year-old who really struggles to make friends. There are variety of issues in terms of pure relationships that 8-year-olds experience. There are some 8-year-olds who can make friends but can't keep them. So I'd want to know whether this boy can make friends but over time can't keep them.
Kids who make friends but can't keep them oftentimes have problems in social interactions -- oftentimes aggression that gets in the way of them retaining pure relationships over time. Then there's a group of kids who can't start friendships. Those kids usually have some more primary deficit in social interaction. So it's important to understand exactly what that is.
As most 8-year-olds are oftentimes very interested in dinosaurs. Being interested or obsessed with dinosaurs alone isn't something that would get in the way of making a friend, as there's oftentimes many kids in this age group who will be interested in dinosaurs and friendships can certainly form around that interest.
On the other hand, children who are over-involved and over-invested in their interest of play may actually be inhibiting others from playing with them simply because of the intensity of their interest. Those youngsters I sometimes get concerned about -- they may have a more pervasive problem with the development and social interactions. And again if that's the case I would talk to your pediatrician about this pattern of social interaction and seek your pediatrician's guidance.