Q: My 14-year-old son just entered high school, and for the first time, I feel like our communication has changed. We just don’t seem to talk anymore. He comes home, does his homework and in general seems happy enough, but he no longer shares with me. When I ask him how things are going, he just answers “everything’s fine.” Should I just accept this, or is there something I can do?
A: Parents typically feel out of the loop as their children become teenagers. One of your challenges will be accepting this and letting him have some independence. The good news is that he is doing what is asked of him and does not seem outwardly unhappy. (Even with well-adjusted children, parents do need to watch for warning signs like withdrawal accompanied by a sullen attitude, shutting down computer screens or hiding information, joining a whole new peer group, or dropping out of prior activities.) Your communication and involvement with your teenager will take on a different flavor as he grows up. Find creative ways to connect with him — yes, it’s more work on your part, but it’s worth it. Activities where you share common interests are a good place to build a new way of relating, where the connection is around the activity, instead of focusing on him and how he is doing and feeling.
Teenagers want their privacy, and finding a good balance of sharing can be challenging for parent and teen alike. Generally, teens will share openly with parents in their own good time. Preadolescents and adolescents desperately need time with the adults who are their caretakers, but they do not always recognize this. By building a connection around a shared interest, you can give your teen this time while keeping the communication channels open.