Do you ever wonder what happened to your sweet, affectionate, “glad to be part of this family” younger child? Did your child enter adolescence and suddenly became distant? Would they rather be in their room than go out?
This happens to all children when they hit the age of puberty, but there are some ways that you as a parent can prepare them for these stages as well as guide them into becoming more mature adults.
As a parent, our questions, tone and actions are all being watched and over time our actions are the ones that set the mood in the household. This is where parents need to think before they act, and know that it isn’t us, but a stage in their life where we need to set the boundaries but give them autonomy.
Emotional distance can be healthy for your child
The teen years is a stage where your child discovers their personality, interests and independence outside of the family influence. You have already shaped them the best way that you can, but now this time is about helping them transition into the adult world.
At the moment, your child will find comfort and would rather spend time with friends, so this is where you set boundaries with their independence.
Here is what you can do to help this:
- Give them space and don’t ask a million and one questions when you see them. It’s always best to ask each question at a time, just ask all at once and avoid questions like ‘what’s wrong’ and ‘what happened’.
- Their room or space is sacred – treat it like one. Remember to knock on their room door or say ‘excuse me’ when you need to interrupt. The same principles that you have taught them as a child, you need to do the same to them now
- Invite not push. Sometimes they don’t want to do something straight away, which is all normal. You need to invite them for help or ask them to do something without saying ‘now’ or ‘today’. Just remind them in a soft tone of the timeframe that you want, and again offer them appreciation and thank them.
- Let them pick out their own clothes and outfits
- Let them hang out with friends more often. Although hanging out with family is important, just give them the extra time with friends. Also, it is ok to remind them about curfews and boundaries, just don’t use an aggressive tone, more of a tone of trust.
- See who their friends are, and get to know them. In most cases, teenagers’ actions are heavily motivated by who they hang around. So, as a parent, it is your job to know who your friends are.
But note, if you are seeing signs that are also not normal behaviour, it is best to contact a professional to seek advice
Depression, bullying, substance abuse, and other factors can also lead to sudden behaviour changes, so as a parent, if you apply these methods and their behaviour is not normal, then seek advice.
Emotional distance is not an excuse for anger or abuse.
Although you need to give them the independence they need, it doesn’t mean that they are allowed to be disrespectful or break the rules of the household.
Boundaries are still important for this stage in their life. Because let’s face it, there will be boundaries for the rest of their life, and they need to know now that everything has a price and consequence.
A healthy emotional distance means allowing and even encouraging independence while at the same time holding your child accountable for the rules and expectations of your home.
Just keep going back to the previous tips.
Take Care of Yourself
This will be an emotional rollercoaster for you, and as a parent, we are going to grieve the loss of losing their emotional attachment to their child. But, know that you are not alone and this is a normal process of transition to adulthood.
I am sure you did it. You just don’t remember.
If you still need some advice want to talk to someone who can help WAYS Youth & Family offer free counselling and case management for youth and their families.
Visit the WAYS website to learn more about our community-based organisation, including our resources for parents and our programmes for children and teens.