One day, my oldest came home from 6th grade and he was a different boy. Instead of anxiously telling me about his day, he was quiet. When I asked him what was new, he shrugged his shoulders. When he went up to his room I followed him.
I was overcome with worry that something was wrong with my son. Well, there was and there wasn’t.
That day marked the beginning of him changing into a different version of himself. One who didn’t need so much approval or attention from his mom. A child who needed space and time to be alone and think about things.
My son seemed to change overnight
Seemingly overnight, he became short-tempered, and seemed to struggle to do anything. He lost interest in all the sports he used to love. He no longer cared about going out for ice cream or taking the dog on a hike; two family activities where he always led the charge.
That was six years ago. Since then, I’ve watched my son come back around and be more like his old self. I’ve also watched my other two teenagers go through the same stages. I had no idea back then things would get easier. I felt like my world was collapsing and I didn’t think I knew how to be the kind of mom my kids needed me to be.
I wanted to be the mom my kids needed
I wanted to be a mom who was there for her kids but I didn’t want to hover so much that I ended up pushing them further away. I lost sleep, certain my children were suffering because they wouldn’t talk to me. I didn’t want to be a mom who became so hyper-focused on my kids’ every move that I wasn’t able to see what was really going on.
The hardest thing for me to admit was that I felt like my kids didn’t need me, or want me. I didn’t know what to do with those feelings.
After going through it (three times) I can tell you something. And it won’t be a lecture about how teens are teens, this behavior is normal, and just wait it out. A few people said that to me and it wasn’t helpful. Not even a little bit.
Instead, I will tell you this: At first I felt like I didn’t know what to do or how to get through to my teens but then I found ways to connect and bond with my teens while they were in this dark and moody stage.
4 ways that helped me to stay connected to my teens
1. Let them spend time in their room
I used to bother my kids about this. It never made them come out of their rooms. They wanted and needed that space. I did when I was a teenager and my parents never really noticed. Give this to them without bringing it up all the time.
It will give them a chance to miss you and the things you used to do a lot faster than if you hold it over their head.
2. Send them texts
If your teens are like mine, they aren’t really into talking. I know it hurts, especially if your kids used to talk your ear off.
One night with my daughter was really down, and wasn’t talking so I sent her a text. I got much more information out of her that way. I’d been wanting to do this with my kids but didn’t. I thought (and still think) that face to face conversation is best. However, kids these days communicate more through their devices. That’s what I had to work with and I took the opportunity.
The silver lining is we slowly began talking about the hard stuff, or what was happening in their life a lot more after we’d shared things over text. It’s just an easier way for them to communicate.
3. Surprise them with little gifts
We can remind our children with our words all day long, how much we love them. We can tell them over and over we are there for them. But, there is power in getting them a little something to let them know they are on your mind — especially if they are struggling with something.
It can be as small as their favorite coffee. You can surprise them by picking up the sneakers they’ve been saving for, or giving them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant so they can go with their friends. It doesn’t have to be often but, I’m telling you it will go a long way with them.
4. Go do fun things without them
I used to bribe my kids to go do things with me. It didn’t convince them to come, nor did it make me feel great. Instead, I tried going without them. Whether it was to the movies, the state fair, or out to breakfast on a Saturday morning.
I stopped making a big deal out of it if they told me they didn’t come with me. (I mean, I was dying inside but I hid it from them.) Instead, I just went without them. It made me happier than simply staying at home and not doing anything because my kids didn’t want to come, or they had other plans. Also, it didn’t take them long to start doing more things with me.
No one likes guilt trips, teens included.
If you are a mom who’s struggling with the fact your teen needs space, I feel for you. It’s not easy, and it’s hard to get used to. Doing these four things helped stay connected to my kids and I’m hoping it will help you too.
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