28 answers

Seeking Advice on 12 Yr. Old Thats Pulling Away from "Mom Time"

Help ! My husband and I have two wonderful children and I am struggling as a mom with the fact that they are growing up.....My situation is this: I have a 12 yr old son that is going to be turning 13 soon. We have always been close but the last year or two he's beginning to pull away and not talk to me much any more. We have a very close family and are very involved in our childrens lives ( school, sports, friends, etc ). Just today, I was talking to my son on the way home and was trying to engage in a general conversation and to no surprise.... I got a few remarks here and there and that was it. What bothered me was afterwards he made a statement that if something was ever wrong- he wouldnt talk to me about it....and that broke my heart !!! Any advice ? I obviously told him that I would hope he would feel comfortable talking to me about anything but if he didnt, I would hope that he would talk to dad or an adult someone that could help him...or listen....he commented that if he ever needed to talk to someone- then maybe he'd talk to his friends. Anyway- this could be a typical teenager response- but nonetheless, it didnt sound like my son. I've bought him teenage books but he doesnt like to read them , I'm encouraging him to get involved with a youth group but he doesnt want to. He know he has excellent role models in his life and alot of people who love him so I know there are people around if he needed to talk...but I've just been trying to give him space. But how do I get him to open up to me again....and keep talking. How much space is too much ? I've always kept the lines of communication open in hopes that if he ever did need to talk to me about something serious- he would feel comfortable...but now my worst fears are happening. We all talk to him and just reassure him that we are here if he wants to open up...he has a few times- but for the most part- keeps things to himself. Any advice out there ?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

A huge thank you to all you wonderful moms out there ! I tried to reply to all but i received so many wonderful comments that i have yet to thank everyone individually.
I have soaked in all your advice and have decided to back off, give him his space and pray that he makes the right decisions....in hopes that some day he'll come to me or someone else when he really needs to talk. In the meantime, i've picked up some books and am re-educating myself on raising teens.....thank you again !!

Featured Answers

Alas, it is the teenager's job to pull away from us, but we don't have to like it. I found that taking my teen out of town on a road trip or a train trip helped when communication lines were down. Maybe a weekend here or there? Somehow, leaving the city limits for a few days helped.

Also, driving her and her friends places while I kept my mouth shut gave me insights into what was going on in their lives.

2 moms found this helpful

Im a single mom, and I have three boys. My youngest doesn't have much of a father in his life, so he tends to find a male role model to talk to. My conversations with him have changed. He tells me things when he wants to, or I hear it from his friends. Going into manhood, boys are growing up, and through changes. Don't give up, with new friends, they want to spend time with them. I know my son is into girls, and my son is popular with the girls.
My son started yelling at me if he doesn't agree with me. Sometimes boys think us mothers don't understand. I grew up with sisters, so boys are a handful.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Hi K.C.
BACK OFF! I know it doesn't seem right but it's really o.k. that he's claming up. I raised two sons, 11 1/2 months apart & remember it all very well. They are now 20 & 21 and this is just the first time in the next 6 years that he'll do this dance with you. I wish I had the books available that I read back then but here's the main message on boys. They want to know 3 things. Whose the boss, What are the rules, and Are there consequences? This gives them a very clear road map to how life works. Next thing to know is that "teenage" boys communicate much like grown men. If you have something to say to them keep it to 5 words or less! Anything more than that is seed that falls on rocks...wasted. The author of this book ---boys? spoke at the Regional Center for the Arts Theater in Walnut Creek about 10 years ago. Most of the moms I went with had boys and we were rolling in the aisles laughing at how well he knew our lives. The other aspect of your sons behavior is that he wants to have control. If you keep asking him questions, then you're in control. Try ignoring him...not in a mean way just try zipping up and turning up the music in the car. Without fail, when my boys were that age and I picked them up from school or was taking them to little league etc. they wouldn't say "boo" until one of my favorite songs came on the radio and I turned it up and started to sing along. All of a sudden, they had a whole story about somebody at school they had to tell me about right then.
Another thing about teenage boys that emulate grown men...when women/girls talk/communicate they can sit down across the table and just chat away. Men don't do that. They talk while "doing" something like, golf, basketball, woodworking, fishing, watching a ball game etc. So here's what I'd suggest to keep connected to Mr.Quiet: Do not ask questions unless it's an emergency; Stop telling him you're there for him (he knows you are); Tell him "find an activity you like" instead of making suggestions (he'll shoot them down just because you suggested it); Never tell him you know about something...always include a 3rd party as the source of information i.e. "I heard that...or I read somewhere that..." This gives him the information without it sounding like advice from you. As you cut back on your conversation & questions with him he'll naturaly start to feel the space HE NEEDS and eventually want to fill it up, a little. Give him a week or so and I'll guarantee he'll start offering conversation himself.
As for you, I'm sorry about your mom & mother-in-law. I'm sure you feel their loss very much and so does your son. He may be a little freaked about losing two key women in his life and be a little afraid about losing you as well.
Maybe he's starting to protect his heart from loss by pushing you away little by little. Just keep loving him and letting him know you're there (quietly, fix his favorite food, don't say anything). Maybe start a part time job doing something you really love while he's in school. My boys got excited for me when I started working and started showing more respect for my time. I think the name of the book was "all about boys" and the author was a comedian turned psychologist. Great logical insight.
Best of luck - chin up!

3 moms found this helpful

Alas, it is the teenager's job to pull away from us, but we don't have to like it. I found that taking my teen out of town on a road trip or a train trip helped when communication lines were down. Maybe a weekend here or there? Somehow, leaving the city limits for a few days helped.

Also, driving her and her friends places while I kept my mouth shut gave me insights into what was going on in their lives.

2 moms found this helpful

Your son is SO testing out his crappy little independent wings. And I say "crappy" because that's how it makes a mom feel when your kid acts like they don't need you WAY before either of you are truly emotionally ready for it. It's just an act.
As a mom who has been through this, my son is 12, the first thing to do is make sure that expressing feelings are okay. It's okay to be mad, scared, frustrated, tired, etc., but you don't get to take those feelings out on someone else. You NEVER get to be disrespectul because you are having a bad day or feeling a certain thing. ESPECIALLY not to mom. If you want to talk about it, fine.....If you want to say, "I am feeling upset and I want to yell for a second, but it's not the same as yelling at YOU Mom," then fine. Let's face it. It's hard enough to be an adult in this world and communicate effectively and properly. This age is very difficult, I think especially for boys. "Leave me alone! Wait....Don't leave me alone!" It's a confusing time. And the last thing we want is our sons to grow up and not talk. "If you don't feel like talking right now, that's fine, cool off, but you are obviously feeling something so when you settle down, let's talk about it. You talk.....I'll just listen." This has worked wonders with my son. I just tell him that I love him and I can tell something is wrong. If he says, "Leave me alone right now" I respect that. After just a little while, here he comes to me and tells me everything and we have such good talks.
My other prescription is laughter. People die and get sick and stuff happens, we have been through so much. But we always laugh. Every day we have a little laugh session together. My son melted me the other day when he said, "You know....I love you so much. No matter what happens, I can always count on you to make me laugh." Find what tickles your kid's funny bone. Just let him know that when he says GO AWAY.....you will. But only until he can compose himself and have a normal, decent human conversation with you. And you are willing to wait. You're not going anywhere and at 12 years old, neither is he. As long as he's not being disrespectul to you, you can slide a little with the space thing. But you have to know that what kids really need, especially then they fight against it, is the assurance that they are safe and their parents will reign them in when they can't do it for themselves.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi KC,

I can relate a little to your son; I'm the eldest of a large, tightly knit family and I wouldn't ever want to repeat my adolescence, ever.

My problem was that I craved air to breathe. With all of my sisters and my parents and relatives, everyone was always attentive and everything, it was so difficult just to get a sense of my own identity and figure out what I would do with my life.

I think you sound like a caring, loving parent. It seems like you're doing everything you know how to in order to maintain a positive relationship with your son.

My advice is this; from what I can tell of the story is that your son is readying himself for independence and self-sufficiency. A young man needs his space. Actually, everyone does.

What I hear him saying when he says he'd more likely confide in his friends than in his family, is that he wants to make a positive contribution to the family and he needs to figure out how he'll do that, on his own, as an independent person.

What I do in order to prepare for my eight-year olds eventual development, is to read books geared towards adolescents and young adults. When I do this I'm reminded of the challenges I faced; I can step back and allow the outcome of the small problems and the greater gains. After all, one day he'll be full grown. He'll be a man, hopefully a mature young man with good manners. Respecting the space of others is a critical skill.

All the best,

1 mom found this helpful

Dear KC,
I went through this with my son who is now 16 and I am going through it with my 14 year old. Buckle your seat belt and pray, because this is a hard time for a "hands on mom". This is totally normal and they do come out of this phase. I know that with my older son I was so unprepared when this happened that I took things personally and he saw my distress and sometimes hurt. This caused him even more discomfort and more pulling away. Sometimes we as parents at this age feel the separating they are doing and our attempts to find out what is going on in their lives feels more like interogation to them. The best advice I got was to just back off, be kind and loving no matter how cold and distant they are and just spend a little bit of time "being" with them, even in silence, if that is what happens. Find something he likes to do and go have some fun (short times once a week or so). Play a video game with him, take him for a Jamba Juice or ice cream, whatever it is and don't ask a lot of questions just be with him. This is also a time where he needs his dad to step up in his life and really connect with him at a new level. In the next year or two his dad will need to set boundaries with him about how he treats you. You represent childhood to him and he is becoming a man and the conflict in him about YOU is huge. He may be very mean, disrespectful ect . . and your husband as well as yourself have to set boundaries. A good "You don't treat my wife like that!" talk is a really good thing for a young teen boy to hear. He does need you and he knows it and that is what the conflict is all about. Look at how you are parenting him, at this age you have to move to the coach or mentor style as much as possible and let him try out his decision making process and experience his own failures as much as possible in the areas that are safe. Stop micromanaging his life (which we all do for younger kids) and start letting him make as many decisions as possible, of course he still needs lots of boundaries from you. I know I made this mistake with my oldest. Hang in there, I heard all kinds of hurtful things I was told "I don't want friends over here to be around you!" " I am moving out of here as soon as I can!" "You are ruining my life" "Everyone else can do X and I am the only one who can't!" The good news is that they actually do grow out of this stage and my sixteen year old, more secure in the young man he is becoming, comforts me when his little brother starts acting like the young teen that he is. He even said to me, "Did I act like that??" and when I said "yes, and you were worse" we both laughed! He comes to me for advice now and hugs me for no reason, but I had to work hard to get here and it took time. Telling him you love him no matter what and anything you are doing to ruin his life is actually because you want him to have a good life helps too. He will act like he is not listening to a word we say, but he is. I am proud of my son and the decisions he is making in his life and person he is becoming. He was just hidden under a thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen year old fog for a while. I read as much about teens as I could about teens and asked advice of experienced parents and even sought family counseling when he was really getting seriously involved with a young lady at his youth group. The relationship with us and this young lady is much healthier and balanced now. This will be one of your hardest parenting times, but you can do it and remember he loves you and needs you. The image I leave you with is one my friend gave me. Your teen is just a larger version of a 2 year old trying to dress themselves for the first time and tantruming because they can't do it, but refusing any help from you! They want to do it themselves and are angry when they can't!!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi KC,
I think you should just see this as a teenager remark, back off, this ais a very vulnerable time in their life, do you remember your own teenagerhood or maybe your husband can share his, since he is a boy, I think being to pushy will only close him up more, just be happy with what you have right now, he is still talking right? He is becoming his own person and there is nothing that you can do to not have that happen, I wish you the best in teenger kland, it is wonderfull if you let them have the feeling it is theirs. C.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.C. I am a family therapist specialized in helping teens and their families get from 13 to 18, so your story isn't new to me. Giving your son space is exactly what he needs-- he needs a chance to 'be his own man' separate from you and his rather-- whether you all realize it or not, he's closer to being an adult than a child now, and he needs to start figuring out who else he can lean on besides his parents. If you haven't read 'How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk' by A. Faber, I highly recommend it. It's got lots of ideas on how to get kids to open up. For the most part, though, you should hold your tongue, avoid questions, which will just sound like 'getting grilled' no matter how general and well meant they are, and stay neutral as best you can. And keep your hopes up-- this stage does not last forever!

1 mom found this helpful

Dear Mom, I'm a mother of 4 sons. THey are all all adults now. When my youngest son was 10 I almost died . My older son sent him to school before I came home from the hospital. He was worried that I might die and leave him alone. At 1st he didn't want to go to school in fear I wouldn't be home when he got home from school. As he got older he stared pulling away which is normal in the teen years. Inside he still felt like he might loose me so he acted like he didn't care but that wasn't true. You just lost 2 ladies in your life maybe he is affected by this and you don't know. When my son got older he shared with me that would was to painful to think he might loose me and he didn't to get hurt so he tried not to care. This might not be your case at all. It might just be that your holding on to tight. Give him a little freedom at a time. Also watch out for the 1st signs of possible drug use. If he is getting good grades and he is involved in sports thats great. I pray many blessing on your family.

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