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Q. We've always encouraged our 14-year-old to be himself, but he has unusual interests such as building a 4-foot-tall Star Wars Death Star out of Legos. How can I encourage his individuality without setting him up to be ostracized by his peers?
A. Who's more anxious here, you or your son? Because if you're sheepishly explaining to guests why there's a Lego empire in the living room, it's time to check your own emotional baggage and leave your child alone.
If he doesn't have at least one friend and he starts speaking like a Star Wars character, then you need to dig deeper—without making him feel like a freak. Start off positively by asking him to share something new about his interest and then describe how you're worried about his isolation. If he has a hard time finding friends, take him where he can meet people he has a common bond with—a Star Wars convention, for instance.
Originally published in the February 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.