How can I interact more with my teenage son? My wife tells me to give him time to grow up, but he seems to have turned from a little boy to a moody teenager overnight.
He barely speaks to us — he’s 15 — and spends a lot of time in his room, even more so because of lockdowns. My wife says things are more difficult for teens now because they hadn’t been able to meet up as much and I understand that. But I want to be his dad, I want him to feel comfortable talking to us and being with us.
I remember being a teen and I was also moody at times, but how can I communicate with him?
Joe, Co Down
You sound like a very caring, loving and thoughtful dad.
When a baby is born a father is also born. When the child starts to become a young adult there are further significant changes for the father also. Each stage of the child’s development is a bittersweet experience for the parent.
When your son was a little boy you were the centre of his world, his hero, his role model, his playmate. He wanted to be just like you and he wanted to be with you.
Now it might feel as though he never wants to spend time with you.
As he grows up it feels as though he grows away from you but what he is doing is an entirely normal part of establishing himself as a separate individual with his own interests and sense of self.
Part of this transition from childhood to adulthood includes some role reversal.
To keep a connection between you, to develop, maintain and sustain communication it is time for him to teach you and for you to become the student — to learn about him and from him, about his interests (no don’t worry you don’t have to take up skateboarding, just be interested in hearing about it from him for example). Communicating your love for your son comes in many forms and it will change as your son grows.
Your role might be the Bank of Dad combined with the continuously on call taxi service —while this may feel as though you are on the wrong end of a raw deal what you are communicating to your son is that you are there for him, you are stable, reliable in his emotionally turbulent world.
As you say lockdown has been a challenging and difficult experience for many. It has interrupted the usual opportunities for young people to spend time with their friends as well as putting pressure on family life.
One thing to keep in mind — your son’s behaviour is not something to take personally.
He’s going through huge biological and neurological changes, which are out of his control and very confusing for him.
His brain is developing rapidly and this is exhausting for him.
Knowing and experiencing that you have his back, that you support him even if you don’t always agree with him, that you accept him as the person he is will make a huge difference to him navigating this stage of his life and in the relationship that you will have together.