29 answers

Is This Behavior Normal for a 13 Year Old Boy?

Hello,
My request is for my nephew whom I'm quite concerned about. He'll be 13 in a couple months and is going through puberty quite rapidly. He lives with my brother who is a single dad doing the best he can. He sees his mother every other weekend who is a terrible loser -hence why my brother has sole custody. Thankfully, he has my mom who helps him with homework & other day-to-day things every day after school. That being said, he's a nice kid, very handsome but he seems severely depressed to me. He is so withdrawn, joyless and will go out of his way to not have to talk or interact with anyone. He rarely talks & if he does it's usually a negative or cynical comment. If you try to hug him he doesn't respond. We took him to a concert to see his favorite band this weekend. Though he said he had a good time, he never cracked a smile, sang, or anything. He sat with his chin resting on his hand the entire 2 hours. My brother says he is like this all the time. He's almost catatonic. All he cares about is playing video games. My nephew says he has friends but we've never seen them nor do they call or come over & he doesn't go anywhere. My brother has to practically force him to bathe. He’s not doing well in school either. From my experience, it sounds like depression to me. Or is this just typical teenager behavior? I can’t help but be worried. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

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So What Happened?™

I can't thank everyone enough for the wonderful advice I received. I sent each & every response to my mom & brother to read. They both agree something isn't right with my nephew but just didn't know where to begin. Your advice helped and they have made an appointment with the school psychologist. I hope this is the first step in helping such a lost young boy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Featured Answers

No, this is not normal behavior for a boy this age. Sometimes kids this age go through a stage of not talking much to adults, but this kid sounds seriously depressed to me. Drugs could be involved or other mental illness. I would get him to a psychologist quickly. Good luck!

I'm jumping on the "not normal" bandwagon. I would STRONGLY suggest he gets into counseling ASAP. If medication is ultimately required, get a second opinion and if medicition is eventually given, WATCH HIM CAREFULLY!!! Although medication often works, it can also do harm and very quickly. Don't take his temperment lightly - get him help as soon as possible.

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This is not normal behavior for a 13yr old boy. I don't know anything about his mother, but I have to defend you calling her a horrible loser. I am the non-custodial mother of a soon to be 13yr old boy. I also have 2 younger, and am not a horrible mother. My ex was able to get custody from me by his parents paying for his overly-expensive lawyer and kidnapping my son. Because we were married, he was able to pick him up from daycare after I dropped him off one day, and hide him from me for 2 weeks until the first court hearing. Had we never been married, he couldn't have done that. That first 2 weeks was detrimental to where my son ended up. I'm not trying to reprimand or anything, but this history will make sense with what I am about to say. My son has started having some of these same issues this school year. His dad moved in with his girlfriend of 8 yrs, and he switched schools. My son had attended the same school district that his gr-grandparents and mine all the way down to us had attended. He then was moved to a small town, close knit school where he is an outsider. His grades have gone down. Dad doesn't do homework with him, but had the girlfriend helping. She has a son in the same grade that lives there as well. When she would help my son, who is not as academically advanced as hers, she would belittle him. Before my ex moved in with her, his mom was overly involved in my son's life and spoiled him trying to make up for our divorce. My son has not adjusted well to this. I live about 40 min away, but still drive to pick him up and do homework 3-5 days a week. His grades and happiness have improved. He still is considering staying with me now, because of the school. You, being the aunt, may not know everything that is going on because you only get what your brother and mom tell you. You may not get along with the ex of your brother, but she needs to be informed of what is going on. It is possible she doesn't even know. With how you seem to feel about her, I'm guessing that your mom and brother probably feel the same way. Alot of times, us adults talk about things that we think the kids can't hear, but they do. If the dad or grandma are saying ANYTHING about her lack of parenting skills, he has probably overheard. I have found the best approach with my son is being open and honest. No subject is off limits. He talks to me about everything, but is not like this with his dad. You have already opened up the door with the concert. See if you can reach out to him. A 13yr old boy at my son's school hung himself a couple of weeks ago, and it is beyond scary to me to think that kids so young have such depressing thoughts. He needs someone, and you may be his saving G.. Talk bluntly about some of your experiences, and if you can give him one on one time. Talk to your brother about it. My ex-inlaws and I have been working on this for months with my ex husband. (All has been forgiven and we have moved on!) It has taken him a while to get used to the idea that things have to change, but it is moving along slowly. Good luck, and I'm glad that you were able to pick these signs up. You may just be saving his life.

1 mom found this helpful

No, its not normal to have all of that going on! I would tell his Dad to talk to the schol and see what they say (maybe he's totally different??) But I think Dad wil have to get the help of a professional. Yall don't know what's going on a Mom's house either, so someone needs o talk to this kid and get HIM talking! The best of luck. BTW, I'm an attorney in Ohio and deal with dlendent, neglected, abused children all the time.

No, this is not normal behavior for a boy this age. Sometimes kids this age go through a stage of not talking much to adults, but this kid sounds seriously depressed to me. Drugs could be involved or other mental illness. I would get him to a psychologist quickly. Good luck!

G.,
It doesn't sound to me like typical teenage behavior. Depression runs in my family and to me that's what it sounds like. He sounds like he is very depressed and things are hopeless. A possibility would be to get him into an extracurricular activity through school or outside of school. Everybody needs to have something they enjoy to do, children and adults. I also strongly suggest that his dad or someone in the family take him to a counselor. He may just need someone to talk to or it may be biological and may need medication. I also have a nephew that had a mother who abused him and ultimately rejected him and doesn't speak to her son as of age 6. My brother is his father and unfortunately, he wasn't the best father either as he was growing up. My brother had issues with drugs and so my parents, me and my other siblings were there to help my nephew and at the age of 13 went to live with my parents. My very loving and wonderful mother treats him like her child and considers him her son. He is now 21 and he lives down the street from my parents and is extremely close to my mother. That's great that you and your family help your brother and nephew out, try to continue you that, they need it! Good luck!

As the mother of two boys past 13, I have to say a lot of what you describe is normal. For some reason, it suddenly becomes SO uncool to enjoy the company of your family. Showing emotion is taboo, cynical comments the norm, and true excitement can be indicated by a semi-pleased nod. One responder said teenagers are emotional about everything. I've not witnessed this in my sons or their friends, just the neighbors' girls.

That said, I would be concerned about your nephew's immersion in video games, the invisibility of his friends, and his lack of personal hygiene. (Although our boys didn't become shower-hogs until around 14...)

I would recommend that your brother talk to the school counselor to see what his behavior is like compared to others at school, and to get him or her to keep a closer eye on your nephew for a while. Also, force the friends issue by arranging a party or outing with his friends. Laser tag and paintball are popular with most boys this age. It is really important to at least know who your kids friends are.

No this is NOT NORMAL!!! I have a 13 year old and while he withdraws from time to time and is definately going through the "sarcastic" stage he in interactive with the family. I would definately get him in to a counsler to see if you can uncover what is going on.

G.,

He could be depressed. Given his situation anyway, your brother would be wise to consult a board certified psychiatrist about treatment and see if he would also benefit from therapy.

M.

I think That He is calling out for help The signs are very apparent you must convince your brother to get him some help to see a therapist that can help him with his deep depression I know I lost my mother at a very young age because of depression. Only because no one reacted fast enough. If you love that child and your brother loves that child Please get him some help Fast!

B. A. LPN

Video games are dangerous for this very reason! If kids become too involved in the virtual world, they seem to withdraw from the real one. The very first thing I would do is take away the video games. Then make a chart for showering. Your brother need to make his son bathe at least once a day. Then I would call a counselor and get him in ASAP. I would say that it's normal for a 13 year old to sort of withdraw from his family, but NOT his friends. I have a 13 year old cousin, granted she's a girl, but her friends are her life. If she can't talk to them all day every day, she spazzes out! I work in the school system with kids this age and they are social creatures. Please encourage your brother to get your nephew some help FAST.

okay - you need to make sure he isn't on any type of drugs (inhalants, pills, etc.) Then you need to alert his guidance counselor that you think he might be depressed. Then find something he is passionate about and encourage him to pursue it. It can be ANYTHING as long as its legal and safe. Also, kids need friends...does he have some? If not, why not...and probably most importantly, pray for this boy to find some peace over what is troubling him. Pray for his friends, his relationship with his mom and for his future. He is lucky to have someone like you who cares about him. don't give up!

Thi is just my opinion but....I would say the boy is very depressed and seek medical help for him and perhaps counceling as well. Children that age should be go go go , not couch potatoes with a video game in hand.I would also have him drug tested as many kids these days are starting to use a variety of drugs to escape reality.It isn't hard for a child to find or obtain.Too many adults just hand thier kids money to get them to do things and go someplace but if the parents put it on a prepaid charge card the kids could not buy drugs.13 is a very dangerous age for boys maturing and many don't understand what is happening to their bodies or moods.Not speaking is one way of not facing any conflicts, he needs to express how he feels and why he think he feels that way.Get to the bottom of it and the less he will speak the more priviledges should be taken from him until he speaks about what is bothering him.I have helped raise several children this age and it gets worse in girls. Good Luck.

Hi G.!
You are right to be concerned. This is not typical behavior for a 13 yr old. I would talk to the dad and see if he (dad) can talk to a school counselor or a teacher that he(your nephew) like/trusts, share what is happening and maybe the counselor/teacher can talk with your nephew. There is a wonderful Childrens Center in Canton called Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health that could be worth a call. Good Luck!

Dear G.,

I'm so sorry to hear about your brother's son. While 13 year old boys can be sort of "enigmas wrapped in riddles," it sounds like your nephew's behavior goes beyond the sullen angst that so many young teens exhibit in the name of cool. It really does sound like he's depressed, and I hope your brother will be able to find help for him. The fact that he never cracks a smile is concerning, and very sad (to me). No one ~ child, adult, or in between ~ deserves to feel that way.

There are a lot of very good counselors for children here in town, and I can recommend a fantastic Integrative M.D. who began her career as a pediatrician, specializing in children with learning, behavioral, and developmental disorders. Her patients ranged anywhere from school children with A.D.D. to severely retarded or autistic group home kids, and everywhere in between. She prefers to treat her patients through diet and supplements before taking the step to prescription medications. If you think your brother might want to take his son to her, please send me a private message and I'll give you her contact information. she really can work wonders with children and adults alike.

Good luck!

This has suddenly begun to happen to my 12 and a half year old boy. I would love to hear the responses you are getting because I am so sad to see him change. My oldest and youngest are girls, so I guess I am prepared for my youngest when she starts to change. Other mom's tell me it's pretty "normal." However, I've tried to give him space, but I also continue to make him be part of the family unit.....my son, though, is very hygenic and conscious of his body and looks. He used to be into music (violin lessons since age 4, at his request, no kidding), now he wants nothing to do with that or any of the sports he used to play such as baseball, soccer, basketball. The only sports he likes now are skateboarding, boating activities, and snow skiing. That's better than nothing as I think he's got too much time on his hands. This year he's getting signed up for short stint sport camps as before and at least two sports. I had my old guitar restrung to pop his musical interests. Good luck to all of us in this boat. Just continue to be the parents, yet we have to acknowledge these kids are figuring themselves out.

Some are more quiet and withdrawn than others. The bathing issues are not out of the ordinary for a boy of this age. With all the changing hormones surging through his system, some emotinal changes would be expected. If you or your brother have concerns take him to his dr./pediatrician. If still concern take him to a counselor that specializes in adolescents. It won't hurt checking it out if it is nothing out of the ordinary. If your brother comes home to a suicide note, he will never forgive himself for not getting him help. I don't mean to be grotesque or a drama queen. I just know that suicide among teens is one of the top 3 causes of death in adolescents. The music lyrics of some songs talk about and glorify suicide. Depression is a serious issue. If you are concerned, please get help. God bless!

G.,

This is NOT typical behavior for anyone, let alone a 13 year old child, who should be happy and full of life. Think back to how he behaved when things seemed to be okay in his home. PLEASE, help your brother seek professional help for him asap! I don't want to scare you but, a friend of mine, her stepson commited suicide. He exhibited the same behavior. He was 16 years old. If it isn't depression then what will it hurt. You could even begin by seeing someone at school. If you have the help of the school it sometimes speeds up the process. I hope this helps! Good luck and God Bless!

C. in Ohio

A little about me: I am a 52 year old mother of five with eight super fantastic grandchildren. They range in age from 18 to 4 1/2 months.

G., I do not have a teenage son but I do have a 15-1/2yr old daughter. A lot of her friends spend time on the computer playing games but they also interact and spend time with their friends. Teenagers today get so emotional and serious about every little thing. I live in Marysville and back in June two days before school got out a sophomore girl killed herself. It may be that your nephew is just going through typical teenage angst but if he were my child I would get him in to see a counselor. Many kids aren't open about their feelings with their parents or other family members but may open up to a professional because whatever they tell the counselor stays with the counselor. My oldest (the 15 yr old) saw a counselor for two years when she was 8-10 because I was going through a divorce. She would never talk to me about what was going on but she did talk to the counselor. I would recommend that you tell your brother he should get him to see someone.
Hope I was of help to you.
L. (mom to 2 girls, 15 and 7 (almost 8)

Hi G.
I do not have a teenage son but I might have some advice to help! I agree with everyone that he is most likely depressed. This may require some conseling and additional family support. I also thnk that some of these behaviors are somewhat typical. I have a younger cousin and was along side him through all of these changes. I wanted to write you because I realized after hearing your story and the advice you were given that the most important thing is to find out why he is depreesed. Not just trying to recieve help. I thought of being bullied. I watched a Dr. Phil about it and this sounded like a classic case. No friends, being shut off, not talkative. You may want to find out more information on this subject before confronting him. If you make him see a school counselor and he is being bullied at school this may make it worse. I would suggest that his dad meet with teachers and see how is behavior is at school. He might just have a problem with the family situation. Or, this could be a school problem affecting him after hours. I also think maybe it is because he has hit puberty a little later than people his own age and could be getting picked on because of that. Some male advice(my husband) thinks that a cause could be that he showed interest in a girl that he highly regarded that has turned him down or that makes fun of him. You can be bullied in different ways ya know. I think that before any counseling just a good ol guy outing or doing something with him he enjoys. Men say you wouldnt imagine the things that get solved by sitting on a water bank:)

G. - It sounds like your nephew is suffering from depression. It might be a good idea to recommend to your brother that he see a child psychologist that can help this young man manage his emotions and find outlets that bring him joy. He seems to have some tough things going on his life. He may need to have someone help him understand what he's feeling, find ways to manage his emotions and pursue happiness. Good luck to you and your family.

I do not have a teenage son.. but.. I grew up closely with 3 brothers. My youngest brother was exactly like that when he was that age. He just needed time to himself. His friends rarely came around and he seemed really depressed. My parents made him talk to doctors about it. Come to find out, he was embarrassed of our home situation. Both of our parents were disabled and so we were rather poor. He just chose to spend time with himself to deal with the changes he was going through.

My advice :
Get your brother to seek out help for your nephew anyway. Talking to someone usually helps, no matter what the situation. I'm guessing he is just feeling a little torn between parents. Regardless if you think he hears things or not, he probably does. Hearing anything ill said about his mom could be making him with drawl from everyone else.

Get your brother to move the video games into an open family area, like the living room. Limit the time he spends playing the games as well.
Have them do family sit down type meals together as well.

I hope everything turns out well for him. Be sure to update us.

Yes it does sounds like depression. Your brother should find him a good child psychologist, and maybe he should have a full physical with blood work as well just in case. Good luck!

I have to say, although it is not the popular opionion here, it can be normal. I have a teenage son, now 16, and this was him too. He doesn't like to hang out with us and is not very social at all. He does participate in sports, but individual sports are more his thing. Marching Band, Swimming, golf. He comes home and goes straight to his room to play games. We monitor games closely - nothing violent and we limited play time. However, if we took that away he would just hang out in his room and read. It is his personality to be alone more. He doesn't like crowds at all and he is not very confident in his social skills. He went thru puberty sooner than a lot of the kids in his class, he is one of the older ones. We did do the counseling thing and there was nothing going on other than he wasn't what we wanted him to be.

He has told us that he likes his time alone and he needs it because he feels school is stressful (he only does what he has to, to get by) and he needs his downtime.

As he has gotten older it has gotten better, he is required to leave his room and we all eat dinner together. He keeps busy with school activities and a part time job that he really doesn't have much down time to play the games. We did remove the games from his room and that made a bit of a difference. We also bought a WII and the entire family plays that from time to time and he will join us.

It could be something more serious, but it could be nothing at all but a boy who is not quite sure of all the chnages taking place and needing time to process it all.

I am a retired school Principal. I do know that young men at this age are trying to find themselves. His behavior is not that abnormal. If I were you I would talk with him and share your feelings. The most important thing is don't lecture him but listen to him. The greatest gift we can give anyone is our time because it is a part of our life. When a young man is questioning himself and has low self-esteem , he does not need to hear how different he is. Find something you admire about him and let him know it.

Dear G.,
I am so glad he has an Aunt such as you to care about him. It is not typical. I believe he is depressed and needs to go to a Christian counselor before it becomes worse. He needs to surround himself with people who care about him. If you could take him to church with you. It needs to be a church where he will be acceted and loved. He needs to know that none of what is going on is his fault. I would be in fear for your nephew. I think he needs to get help as soon as possible. I doubt if he will want to go, but something must be done. L. J

I teach 7th grade and, in my opinion, this is NOT normal.

Hi G., you are right to be concerned and I'm glad he has an aunt like you who has noticed. I had almost the same situation. I was this little boy at one time and I took two of my sisters children and I got them to a therapist right away because they too had all the signs of depression. I think kids take it very hard when their parents separate to begin with, but especially when they are not with their mother anymore no matter how bad of a mother she may be. I don't know what the story is with his mother, but he is probably not only sad about the situation, he may also be worried about her and feel abandoned. Even if he wasn't abandoned by her, in his mind, she did because she should love him enough to be able to get herself together for him. I would also be very careful in talking about his mother even if he is in the house, he doesn't need to hear that. No matter what, he's going to want to defend his mother and he doesn't need to feel worse and he will. He probably has alot of anger that he doesn't know how to express. You know how you sometimes feel when your in a bad or down mood, but you don't know why you feel that way and you don't know how to explain it or get out of it? Well, if you can only imagine how a kid must feel. They haven't had the thoughts and experience as adults have had, so many times they can't express their feelings because they don't know how. Not only that, but a child basically has no power, their life is in control of adults and when you feel you have no power to do anything, you can get anxious and depressed.
So, this little boy sounds like he is very sad to the point of depression. As well as being angry and needs to be able to learn how to express it, get it off his chest and have his feelings validated, get help with worrying about his mother and help with abandonment issues.
Good luck with all of this, I hope your brother gets him to a child therapist as soon as possible for his sake. You know, if this child doesn't get the help he needs, it's possible he will turn to drugs or alcohol to self medicate, I know I did. You will all be in my prayers.
L.

I'm jumping on the "not normal" bandwagon. I would STRONGLY suggest he gets into counseling ASAP. If medication is ultimately required, get a second opinion and if medicition is eventually given, WATCH HIM CAREFULLY!!! Although medication often works, it can also do harm and very quickly. Don't take his temperment lightly - get him help as soon as possible.

This sounds a lot like my own nephew.. Divorced parents, one parent being a total loser while the other one is afraid for him. He's WAY different from my own son. They are only two months apart. aged 13 yrs., and polar opposites. My son dresses in polos and keeps a clean room , does all his assignments and a high & tight haircut ( military style).
HOWEVER, he doesn't come from divorced parents and his friends consist of his friends from church and the YMCA, where he's a part of the "young leaders" there. As well, he's homeschooled..( thats a huge dfference.)Whilst my nephew dyes his hair jet black, wears all black clothes, black nail polish and my sister is SO concerned he's emo. ( they cut themselves and such) b/c all his friends from school are emo as well... He liked the young leaders meeting he and my son attended while he was visiting us, and he loved having a set of rules ( aunt A.'s house rules). He was away from those kids and actually cracked a smile here & there. Coming from a single parent family is TOUGH. esp. when the outside influences are so great now a days. But he also sounds to me like he may be being picked on at school. My nephew was so closed in for a while till he met these weird kids, and he had to sprint home every day after school to keep from coming in contact with billy. ( the bully at his school ) he was afraid to tell his mom b/c he thought she had enough on her plate, etc... but he started emailing me.. I found out what was happening to him and I called the school.. ( from about 200 mi. away, haha ) but the bully situation got resolved, etc.. Maybe he needs to get into a group that has nothing to do with school. Maybe at the Y.. The young leaders are a GREAT group of kids and they usually transform those who aren't so good. They all make friends with one another and there are various ages of teeners there.. It's worth having a look at.
I hope I helped,
A.

I have a 13 yo stepson who doesn't act that way at all (nor do his friends), so in my experience, I would have to say it's not typical teenage boy behavior. I think it would be worthwhile to have him evaluated by a professional.

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