Teen Not Talking to Parents

Parent Q&A

  • Hello friends -- my 14 year old boy has always been quiet but until a couple of years ago he showed a playful sense of humor and quirky interests in various things. Then middle school hit and he just wants to lie on the couch and interact as little as possible. I was a moody middle-schooler myself, and my husband is also very reserved, but I worry about how how little he wants to interact at all and whether he's losing out on developing communication skills. He plays music in a couple of string ensembles, plays on a school sports team, attends a church youth group, gets top grades without effort, so there are no obvious problems to fret about. His teachers see no red flags. He's grown about 6 inches in one year and seems to need more sleep than he did before. Maybe I'm just frustrated that my relationship with him feels so nonexistent these days and our conversation is so often about me asking him to put his phone away. I often feel sad and anxious around him.  So wise people, any books/articles to share? should I take him to therapy? am I the one that should go into therapy? am I going to get my kid back when he goes to high school this fall, or ever? Would appreciate your gentle responses. Many thanks.  

    I think it is important to do what you can to encourage your son's connection with your family. I encourage you to consider how much the addictive nature of phones is contributing to the problem, and this article may be helpful: https://medium.com/@richardnfreed/the-tech-industrys-psychological-war-o...

    Good luck to you,

    Richard, author of "Wired Child"

    I don't know if you need therapy, but you do need to make changes. If the only thing he hears from you is criticism, your relationship is going to suffer. So stop telling him to put his cell away. Instead, you could tell him you are turning off the internet for one hour a day, and then do it. Use a few minutes of this time to compliment him: his music, his sports, his grades. The main thing is you have to be nice instead of critical. It will take awhile for him to recover, but you may find that your relationship improves eventually. Don't give up!

    I'm guessing that he is dealing with something. To go out on a limb, maybe he is gay, and the church or his family sees that in a negative light, so he is down on himself.  Have you talked to him about sex, birth control, lbgtq issues and so on?  Have you told him that it is fine with you if he is gay? It could be something completely different, and maybe talking to a therapist would help him figure out whatever he is dealing with. Ask him if he wants to try it. Offer to find someone and take him there. 

    I feel your sadness for the loss of the more playful, affectionate relationship you had. I went through that with my son. Unfortunately, the measure of how he's feeling is more accurate with other people at this time. If a friend's parent says that he's a pleasure to have over or is helpful (when he is neither at your house), that's a great indication that he is doing well. Good grades and active social life are wonderful news. It's a heartbreaking time. I found that when I fretted and led with anxiety, our relationship felt strained. When I could approach the situation again and again with compassion and lead with my heart, that he would come around. And then not. It's a difficult time. Just because it feels awful sometimes doesn't mean it's not normal. Adolescence is really the hardest time human beings have. It's important to remember that he's not comfortable.either. My impulse to him being cold was sometimes to be cold myself, and that wasn't helpful. I had to tell myself again and again to not take it personally , to not feel sorry for myself, and to not feel like a martyr. It's really hard not to! Eventually the relationship will warm up again. It's important to maintain that warmth so that it can happen.
    Good luck!

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What to do about my alienated teen?

Nov 2013

My older daughter attends boarding school in New England, following a nasty divorce and her father's remarriage. She took sides with her dad during the divorce, and is hostile and occasionally violent toward me and her younger sister (who lives w me) as well. As a result, we never meet with her except in public places. Her dad has badmouthed me extensively, which I believe accounts for much of this. She's doing very well academically at prep school, but shows no interest in seeing me or her sister, and is almost impossible to talk w on the phone. She kills off the conversation and the last time I met w her I realized her main motivation was to get me to buy her a shirt she wanted.

Can anyone here suggest a way to reconnect w an alienated and angry teenager ? (I won't ask the judge to force visitation). Mom misses her kid

dear mom with alienated teen, i am sorry to hear about what you and your eldest daughter have been through. i think it sounds like time to make nice. your ex has put your daughter in a very tough situation. can you (and maybe your younger daughter) fly back east to take her out of school for the weekend? if you take your 2 girls out to a nice dinner i presume everyone will behave. if you take them out for a spa treatment it will be a bonding time. even a shopping trip, buying her another shirt, may help to repair the hurt. i know if may feel like you're the ATM, but it sounds like you need to do some repairing to turn things around. make the visit short and sweet and hopefully things can progress from there. being a loving mom, even when your daughter does nothing to appreciate it, will pay off in the end. we can never give up. (my oldest daughter was so challenging as a teen, but is becoming a very admirable young woman.) i sincerely believe it will get better for you. best, j judith

I have three daughters and my heart goes out to you. I would write to her. Email is convinient, but in addition, send her notecards. Don't try to speak to her on the phone just yet. I would call her when you know she is in class and leave messages on her phone a few times a week. Nothing too long, just letting her know you are thinking of her. I would tell her how much you love her and want to have her in your life when you write to her. Speak from the heart and I believe it will have an impact on her. Kids like to act all tough, but inside your comunication will touch her (especially handwritten notes). At times, you can get really sappy, don't patronize her, just tell her your feelings. Keep this up. It may take a long time. But eventually she will see that you are sincere. Don't ever say anything bad about her father. She will see the truth. Good luck

There is a local therapist, Joshua Coleman, who deals with these kind of situations. I don't know anything about how he is as a face to face therapist but he has written a book called, ''When Parents Hurt, Compassionate Strategies..'' and has a lot of great info, suggestions, forums on his website: http://www.drjoshuacoleman.com/ There are also webinars on the kind of estrangement you are experiencing and some videos on his web page. I think he has a fresh, honest and kind approach to estrangement and alienation and I found his suggestions to be helpful. chiliconmom

14-year-old daughter won't talk to us

Aug 2010

Our 14 year old girl loves to be alone in her room. She has always been shy, not outgoing, and quiet (in public). She loves to write, and spends loads of time in her room writing-- stories, poems, essays.... She also reads quite a bit. But, with school around the corner, I am worried that she has basically sat on her bed all summer, reading or writing. She did not want to do any camps this year, and does not like to go out alone (we work, and she sits at home. She will not go out walking or anything alone during the day). Her friends have been busy this summer traveling or visiting family, though she has seen several friends during the break (sleep overs, or movies).

I guess my concern is that she is so content to be alone. She does not want to talk to us at all (I have no idea of what she is feeling inside). She will not confide anything about things that happen at school, especially the behavior of her school mates (even when she is not involved. For example, drinking at school, cutting class, and so on. I find out about everything from other sources, not from her). I ask her why she does not tell me these things, and she either says, ''I don't know,'' or ''AHHH, you are so annoying!'' She does not seem unhappy, though she does not seem happy, either.

How do I tell if she is okay? How much of this is normal teen behavior? I know as she starts high school she will encounter things at school and such that she should process with us, or talk about, but she is so silent. I am not worried about her scholastically, but emotionally. Why don't teenagers talk??? confused mama

Well, do you talk? Do you tell her about your problems and successes? I think you are going to have to start first. Read what she is reading and comment on it in a positive way. Or ask if you can read her stuff and compliment her on it. Ask her for help or suggestions with something you have to write, then thank her profusely. Positive interactions will lead to more trust, and when she trusts you more she may be willing to reveal more. Or alternatively, you could pay for a therapist, who will take months building trust before they can actually make some progress.

14-year-old son is friendly to everyone but me

Jan 2009

Help! My soon-to-be 14-year-old son has major attitude with me. I am a single mom. His older sister is not living at home. He sees his dad on the weekends. Everything I say to him, he seems either irritated or indifferent about. He seems like he's always in a bad mood, but only when he's with me. When with friends, at school, etc... he's happy, talkative, etc. The second he gets in the car with me, his mood turns somber. Please tell me this is normal and that he will outgrow it soon. Any advice? My daughter was very different, verbally let me know how she was feeling and talked about her life with me. It hurts my feelings because he was always my sweet, affectionate boy. anonymous

You need to sit your son down for a heart-to-heart talk. Prepare yourself beforehand by vowing (and then sticking to it) to not bring up anything displeasing that he has done. It's not about his behavior, it's about breaking the spell of teen moodiness.

Tell him lovingly and frankly that the two of you have to make it through the next five or more years, and that you want to make those years a time that both of you can look back on and laugh about. Tell him that you need his cooperation to keep your home a happy place for you both to spend time. Tell him that you know the two of you will not always agree, but that even when there are conflicts, you should both remember that you love each other and that you'll be in each other's lives forever.

Ask him if he needs you to change something in your own behavior. Forget tit-for-tat here and do not bring up something that you want HIM to change. The goal here is to make him feel that he can trust you and can talk to you freely without getting jumped on. Listen without reacting if possible, and see if you can come up with a creative compromise that will show him that you are willing to work with him.

Tell him that you love him and are proud of how he's growing up. Find a specific way that he is maturing that you can cite.

Wise advice I once got is that at this age, you are no longer your kids' manager, but should work hard to be ''hired'' by them as a consultant.

Good Luck -- Mom of 14-yr-old boy

I was reading exactly about what you are describing, in the book with humorous title ''Get Out of my Life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?'' by Anthony Wolf, PhD. He says it is ''normal'' for teens to act like this (a kind of regression) at home, but pull themselves together into a more acceptable responsible version with others. You might take a look at the book if you are interested. He describes this phenomenon in the first chapter. Yvonne

Don't despair!

Fourteen year-old boys are rotten and evil! (I think my parents wished that I had been ONLY rotten and evil at 14.)

Having once been a VERY troublesome 14 year-old, and having raised a stepson (with some pretty awful baggage that still persists) from 14 through 21, I can easily say that it is a tough time for parents - and for kids. He is discovering new things, new tastes and interests, some of which don't include parents (girls, for one); he wants his freedom; he wants to be in charge; he wants to be treated like an adult. He wants to expand his boundaries, so he is testing them and pushing them. Some of his friends don't have to do the dishes and others don't have to mow the lawn, others have parents who don't make them do homework - so he doesn't want to do ANY of that stuff either.

He has hit that age where he is beginning to realize that he knows everything and you don't. You stupid, ignorant, and cruel just as my parents were when I was 14 - hey, what kind of rotten parent would make their son do his homework or help clean up the kitchen!

His behavior is also an attempt to begin preparing you for his eventual departure from home. As he feels on the verge of manhood, he doesn't know how else to do that. Even though it is far off, the changes he is going through make it feel almost imminent to him. By creating tension, when he does move out, he won't feel as though he's hurting you.

My parents dragged me to counselors which just made me resent them more. As my behavior continued to deteriorate, my mother began to truly believe that she would be visiting me in prison for the rest of her life. Joining the Navy gave her some relief (maybe she thought a military prison would be better?), then becoming a engineer with advanced degrees relieved those fears and eventually filled her with pride.

Luckily, your son will eventually discover that you're not as dumb as he believed, not as mean and insensitive and irrational as he thought. Unfortunately, this often doesn't doesn't happen until he moves out for the first time - then he'll be amazed at how much YOU learn over those next few months. And eventually he'll come understand that what you do, you do for him.

What to do in the meantime? Well, I am not a psychologist, but I think that by giving him space and treating him like an adult, you'll gain some ground. He also wants to - needs to - respect you, so you also have to establish rules, make sure they are clear and achievable, and flexible where possible, and have consequences when they are broken - because they will be. Give him responsibilities - even though he might not want them he wants a sense of accomplishment. Give him praise, but don't patronize. Let him know you love him, but don't appear weak. Negotiate, be willing to trade; reward when things are done well or when he exceeds expectations - especially when he unexpectedly does something great on his own without being asked. He wants love and respect and a sense of belonging.

Don't despair, it will be fine! -Anon

I wish I could help you but I am in exactly the same boat as you. I hope someone can guide us! mom of a formerly sweet teen boy

This can be typical for a teenage son. It also needs to be fixed, because it's miserable. We've gone in and out of phases like this. There can be several issues and you may need to find several strategies. Firstly, it's likely he's angry/guilty/worried about something and may or may not be telling you what. You need to ask him. Preferably ask him at a good moment, when you're not in a hurry. Take him out for pizza if you have to, to get his attention. Don't let him fob you off. Secondly, he may just be angry with you for 'always nagging'. It may be true - and like me you need to find ways to have other conversations, for example, ask (and be interested) about what he's learning in school, rather than about the homework. Make sure you sit down for dinner together, or breakfast, or have some time in the day where you can talk every day. For some people, that's in the car. He's likely to resist, but you are the grownup and you need to be persistent and firm. It's not something to get upset about, just something that needs to be dealt with. Thirdly, make sure you get moments where you are doing things together - that can be chores or entertainment, or even his irritating video game. Go outdoors with him - grumpiness can be much reduced by fresh air. You'll both get through it sooner or later, but sooner is better than later. Fiona

Get Family Therapy, preferably a therapist with experience in family communication.

Communication is ''give and take''. There are ways to manage better communication almost instantly by making some specific changes in timing, approach and expectations. Find respectful neutral times and a place in the home when you are least stressed, not when you are most stressed.

To continue to make a change it takes persistence, commitment and willingness to be coached by a professional and make good use of what works. Changing yourself may be even harder than for changes to occur in your teen.

The one thing that is for certain, the way to continue to be the same, and get more of the same is to continue doing exactly what you've been doing.

Children grow out of clothes faster than habits. Children grow up and move out faster than adults change theirs. helped by Family Therapist

I sometimes think it's a good parent's job to make the child eager to move out at 18. I've got one high- maintenance boy in college now (tremendous relief all round) and a high school freshman who is so eager to establish her competence and independence that I get my head snapped off if I offer any help or comment, unless she asks first. And it's worse when she's hormonal, hungry or tired, which is most of the time.

So this is not likely to be a time of your lives when parent and child can be buddies. That said, here's what I think:

1. The parent have a right to demand civility. I will not tolerate being called names. I don't have to listen to swear words in my own house or car. I don't have to do favors for someone who's unpleasant.

2. I get to be the adult. I set reasonable expectations and allow natural consequences. I don't have to tolerate illegal activities or support life-changing bad decisions. I get to verify. I have to keep my own temper. I may need to examine my own prejudices. I should pick my fights.

3. The parent has a right to demand that the teen be a good roommate. In our case, that means keeping her own room and pet clean, doing her own laundry, and doing weekly & daily chores. If that were going better, I would also ask her to cook at least one night a week.

4. The parent should be available as a consultant. If your child comes into the room and wants to talk or tell you something, drop everything. Treat everything not dangerous as confidential. Affirm the emotion behind the statement (''That sounds really disappointing.'') If you have any suggestions, frame them as tactfully as possible (''What would happen if you....?''). Better still, ask questions that make the kid think: ''What do you want to happen?'' and ''What can you do about it?'' and ''Is that going to get you what you want?''

5. This too shall pass. Teens need to practice being independent in order to become grown ups. Good luck!

My 16 year old son has been in a mentoring program run by Casey McCarroll, who works with teen boys to help them transition into adulthood. My son started just this past fall and is already much less moody, happier, and kinder. I can see that he is developing positive life skills that I, as his parent, would have a much more difficult, if not impossible, time teaching him. I feel like my son is back on track. Our relationship, ability to communicate, and overall family dynamic has improved greatly. I feel so lucky to have found this wonderful resource. Casey's web site is: www.caseymccarroll.com happy mom

My 16-year-old daughter won't speak to me

May 2006

I'm having a horrible time with my 16 year old daughter. She has done nothing but glare, snarl and refuse to speak to me for over a month now.

This started with an increase number of unexcussed absences at school. I responded by cutting off her cell phone (I thought just until she started going back to classes regularly). She responded with even worse attendance (she's missed at least one class a day for almost six weeks now and is failing at least two classes as a result) and has refused to talk to me at all. I'm just gritting my teeth and trying to cope with living with a continuous stream of hatred.

There have been a number of substantial stresses at home, so this problem is not 100% out of the blue. I've suggested counseling, but she became enraged at that idea and took off. I ultimately called the police to help find her that night. Any suggestions? anonymous

Your daughter may be having more serious problems than just cutting school. My daughter was also cutting class a lot and it turned out that she was drinking, smoking and doing drugs. In our case it got so bad that she spent a week at Herrick and then 6 weeks in a wilderness program before things started to turn around. We now have her in a small private school that she loves (and that we can't afford) and she is attending NA meetings almost daily. She goes to therapy once a week as well. There are still issues, but things are better. Family therapy could be very helpful if she would go anon

That sounds hard! You might suggest going to family therapy. If you say that there are other things going on at home it might be a good thing all around. You might say to her ''it's not that SHE'S the problem, but that you ALL have some things to work out and need to find better ways of communicating with each other. Sounds like she's really unhappy about something and it would sure be great if she could get it off her chest to feel better.'' You could try someone who does art therapy also. It will take the spotlight off her. I can recommend Ava Charney-Danesh in El Cerrito ever-hopeful mom of teen

Family therapy would be a primary recommendation, both for the situation and because family therapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment. If you can find a good therapist he or she will take the pressure off your daughter by involving the whole family. You can talk with the therapist on the phone about any worries you might have in trying to get her to participate in therapy. And if - as you said - there are stresses at home those could (and should) be addressed as well. Robert

My heart goes out to you! Your daughter is definitely rebellious and pushing her/your boundaries.

I ask you this: 1) take a step back - what is your relationship with her, she is obviously in need of attention and help but does she have an outlet for that (if not you, an aunt or someone)?

2) are the only/most interactions between you two hostile and negative?

My suggestion is this - Discipline w/out ANGER. Give her consequences for her actions, set the expectations clearly (no missing class, or no new clothes or cell, allowance for a SET amount of time, take away again if she re- offends). Tell her when she is capable of making her own decisions she will be allowed to do so, but right now she is not showing that ability.

The part kids hate is the unexpectedness we often impose in our punishments and the LASHING out and BERATING we end up doing out of FEAR and WORRY - they don't see fear and worry as love, they just see/hear the ANGER and ''you don't understand me'' parts.

Then you have to grin and bear her negative behavior and show her you are not affected by it and her escalating that will not affect you either (so it's not beneficial to her to continue it). Your ''matter of fact'' attitude will yield shock and dividends in terms of her NOT knowing how to react. Even the title of your post shows us she is pushing your buttons well - Don't focus on her NOT talking to YOU, Focus on your child having a bad time at making the right decisions.

also, don't let your fear run you ragged - we can drive ourselves nuts sometimes and the kids always think we are overreacting.

Then at all possible times, give her encouragement, point out what she is doing well.

Good luck to you - try meditation, reading good books on meditation and some ''you'' time as well let your love shine thru

14 yo boy talks to dad, but not mom

June 2005

My 14 yo son has really pulled away from me in the past year. He doesn't tell me anything that's going on with him. From my view we have a good relationship. He's loving, we have conversations, he's somewhat helpful around the house etc. He and my husband talk. My thoughts were ''I'm glad he's talking to someone. It doesn't have to be me''. Well, last night I realized that what bothered me is not so much that he doesn't talk to me but that my husband doesn't tell me anything. When I asked he said ''It's between me and him''.

Is this right? OF course my son should have his right to privacy and should also know that he can trust his dad with confidentiality. On the other hand, I'm his mother and I feel like I should know what's up with him. This came up when an old teacher of my sons asked us if our son liked girls yet. My answer and my husbands answer were very different. Then my husband said ''He talks to me''. I felt so excluded and annoyed that no info was shared with me. So, what's the right thing? Do I have to just accept that my son chooses to talk to dad and be happy that he is talking to someone he trusts (and I trust)? I never talked to either of my parents so I don't really have any good examples to fall back on. Thanks for any advice on this. feeling left out mom

We have the same dynamic with my 14-year old stepson and it is made even worse by his living in two homes. He lives with us 1/2 time and with his mother the other 1/2. It goes back and forth who he's most comfortable talking with, but the short of it is that even if something is told in cofidence, we will sometimes make the judgement call to share it with each other. But it's with the strict understanding that under no circumstances are the other adults to let him know that we know. This has worked for several reasons - it helps to have someone to talk it over with and hash out what to do or how to handle a situation. Also, it helps to make sure that he's not manipulating an issue to pit one parent against the other for whatever reason. And finally, it helps to know what's going on in his life when dealing with the usual teenage mood swings (did he just break up with his girlfriend? Is a friend moving away?). There's so much going on at this age that I think it's important for both parents to what's going on.

So maybe it'll help your husband share if you put it in this light and promise not to mention anything to your son that was told in cofidence. anon

i think probably most of us experience this at some points along the adolescence journey. it's happened to me with both my daughter and my son. [she is 16, he is 18 now.] one interesting thing is that during the hard times, communication seems better with one parent or the other [as you said, at least they are talking to someone] -- but those allegiences can switch quickly, too. you might be the ''in'' parent one day, and the ''out'' parent the next.

the whole experience is somewhat disorienting, but know you are not alone, and that whatever is happening [or not happening] now is likely to change, probably without a lot of warning. it may be hurtful and disorienting to your husband, too, when he and your son go through some more conflicted times -- which will almost certainly happen at some point.

parenting a teen is definitely a team effort, and because of the rocky spots, it helps a lot to take a long view. [this, too, will pass!]

trust and confidentiality are huge issues for teens -- but they are also important for parents. it helps for parents to let each other in on the kinds of things their kids are facing, even if they are not necessarily relating every last detail of what the kids say.

i wish there was some magic roadmap for all of this. i think the truth is that most families struggle with their teens separating, and that finding decent coping strategies as a parent is hard. we had so much responsibility when they were smaller, but also so much control -- those teen years require us to change, sometimes in ways we would rather not.

i loved being the center of my kids' universe, when they were littler! i don't like being left out, and i hate being ''cop-mom,'' even when i know that's necessary. i felt VERY supported as the mom of young kids, and feel far less connected as they are growing into whoever they will be as adults. but it seems important to stay steady when they are going through so much. thankless job, but somebody's got to do it. kathy

My 15-year-old son barely talks to me

Feb 2002

I'm a mother of an almost 15 yo son. We've always been close and been able to talk. Now he barely talks to me at home; he's usually elsewhere in the house and I have little sense of what's really going on at school. He does talk to me when we go out together, just the 2 of us.. In the car, we have wonderful conversations, but getting him there is difficult/infrequent. He's a kinesthetic kind of guy and wants to go out when I suggest that we do.Then, we struggle to come up with what to do or where to go. I make suggestions. He doesn't want to do them, though the suggestions are things he likes. He never comes up with something he'd like to do. We're stuck, ready and eager but without a destination. I know his separation and not wanting to hang out with mom is normal, but I also get the feeling that he's feels abandoned or ignored. Suggestions, comments, experience?

To the Mom of a 15 year old: I have a 16 year old son and truly empathize with the feelings of loss when they begin to distance themselves. I am assuming that your son is just going through normal adolescence and does not have some underlying problem. With this assumption, here are my coping strategies: First, I did some reading on the subject and I keep going back when the gap becomes wider as new issues emerge. One book I have found very helpful is Mike Riera's Uncommon Sense for Parent of Teens. This gave me an intellectual understanding of the adolescent process thus depersonalizing it to some degree. Also, I talk with other parents who are experiencing the same stuff. Second, there are things that I still do with my son that are just for fun and that we enjoy: Clothes shopping, food shopping, movies, and going out to a restaurant or coffee place for breakfast, lunch, or after school snack. At these times we do have some talking time but it is lightened up by the activities we are engaged in so it doesn't feel like a talk. Three, I have had to really adjust my expectations and realize that right now, I am in the role of consultant and supportive staff person. I still ask him questions about his day, etc., but only occasionally get complete sentences back. I do insist on knowing about issues that affect his health and safety. Also, if there is a major issue, we will sit down and talk it out. Fourth, I have made an effort to begin expanding my own life with interests and activities that do not involve him. It is painful to let go, but when my son sees that I am taking care of myself and moving ahead with my life, I believe he feels that he can do so also. And in a paradoxical way, it brings us closer because he doesn't have to do all the work of creating distance. M! or! eover, it is the other side of the coin: as my son becomes more independent, he doesn't need me in the same ways and that means I can do more things that I want to do without worrying about constantly being available. I believe that this is a natural progression. Also, I am realizing that is it pretty much fun to pursue my own interests again. I hope this helps with this difficult time. Signed anonymous to protect son's privacy.

In response to mom who has 15-year old son who doesn't speak to her these days: I have received a great deal of help from Parents Leadership Institute 650-322-5323. Also, my daughter and I, who have been very close, started doing the same thing as your son. She started seeing a therapist, Michele Ku, who has been wonderful and has helped us all connect better. Michele is very very respectful and honoring of my daughter and of us. Our daughter agreed to TRY Michele. She said she did not want to talk about it afterwards. She really wanted to make up her own mind by herself--without input from either of us parents. Our daughter's description of Michele is, She rocks! Michele has a wonderful way of both offering tools and encouraging emotional stuff to surface. She is familiar with the techniques from Parents Leadership Insitute (made the difference between day and night in my relationship with my daughter) as well as having the professional knowledge. If you are interested, I'll be happy to give you her phone number. Even if your son doesn't want to see her, you might get some help from her yourself in dealing with him. Take care. Clearly you are a great mom--and just need some support and some help. I hope you get what you need easily and soon. Meg

Does your 16 year old son talk?


We have not had a meaningful conversation with our 16 year old son (only child) in at least a year. Most of his replies to attempts to converse are annoyed grunts. The words that come out loud and clear are the ones asking for something. And I know that he is capable of talking and laughing out loud because he has extensive rowdy conversations with his friends over the phone. We took him and a friend on a short trip recently and it was the same thing, but from both of them, except between themselves!! He used to be a goofy clown who made us laugh hysterically. Now, at least with us, there's not a sign of that goofiness. I'm not looking for advice here, more just wondering whether this is that typical teen behavior and if and when he's going to get over it!! It's draining trying to be loving and supportive when that's the response you get. Responses from parents of boys close to 16 (or those who have been through this and seen it end) would be greatly appreciated.

Nope, mine doesn't, and I don't think that our sons are abnormal. In talking with other parents of teen sons, we are lucky if we get a sentence of more than 5 words. I heard my son is the life of the party (and party he likes to do!). Don't feel alone. I hear it gets better but we have to wait for about 5 more years!

Been there, done that! 16 is the classical age for boys to separate particularly from their mothers and you will survive it! My son (now 21) and I had several knock down drag out fights about boundaries and rules and many, many lesser squabbles about everything from chores to cheerios. He wanted freedom with a capital F and I insisted on letting him know that it only comes with responsibility. Luckily he was dating a girl at the time who was a bigger control freak than me, so that lightened the burden but it truly was a hard, hard time and I missed him horribly. He started coming back around his senior year and we have a new relationship now based on respect, trust and talking things over. A great book which allowed me to see things from his point of view is Positive Discipline for Teenagers (available from Amazon etc.) It's actually less about disciplinng in the usual sense and more about calming down and realizing that the mistakes and problems kids have at this age are just as important for their growth as the shaky steps of a one-year old and the tantrums and nos of a two-year old. They are navigating their way into adulthood and it is a full-time job for both of you. I think it's important to keep communicating with your son and letting him know you love him and care what's happening in his life even if it seems like you're talking to a blank wall. They do know you're there! It's also a good time to relive your own teen years and try to see how it relates. Good luck and remember this too shall pass. Alicia

Just a quick response to the mother writing about her l6 year old son who no longer talks...My l6 year old, good student, good boy, family-oriented son also no longer talks much to us, which is a huge change from even just six months ago. His response to questions is - if we're lucky - a sort of grunt, or else nothing at all so that I wonder if he is even hearing. And, in a way, I think often he is not hearing (not not listening, just not hearing) - not necessarily because he's being rude or because he thinks we're not worth hearing - but because he is over-run by hormones and just can't help it. In fact, I think that is what this about - a combination of hormones and a very intense, compelling inner life and interior monologue, because every once in a while the old, talkative boy emerges as though days of silence never happened. Anyway, I certainly don't KNOW that this is the case, but I just wanted to sympathize (because it IS distressing and depressing and worrisome) and to let you know that there is at least one other one out there.

My 15 year old son and his friends also grunt a lot. Strategies that have worked for me include: noticing which friends actually talk to adults and making conversation with the group when some of the talkers are present; having dinner with slightly older teens (18, 19) who are old family friends and who have resumed talking to adults and who are still young enough to be cool to the younger teens. I often find out about incidents or concerns my son has at these events. The older teen will ask him direct questions about school, etc, which he'll willingingly answer. My son also is interested in the older teen's stories about college etc. Finally, I try to ask about movies and other safe topics that he's interested in. Parent of BHS sophomore

To the Parents with the Uncommunicative Son, Read Get Out of My Life! But First Can You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony Wolfe. According to this author and psychologist, your son sounds right on target for teenage boy behavior. Plus, the book is a great read! Sue

Just hang in there. My son is 16 yrs. 8 months and recently has become very sweet. I'm not saying he doesn't relapse and still have the need to put me down so he can distance himself from me. But it is much more positive than negative. This change seemed to come about as he gained more independence. I'm not saying he confides in me much, I think most teenagers really need their peers for confidants. But he talks and engages with us about ideas, like poliitcs, sports, colleges stuff like that. And once in a great while might produce one sentence about his personal life. He does not yet have an active social dating life, so we don't talk much about sex but more about drugs. Also I find as a parent providiing guidelines but not being extremely strict works better. So for me the best advice is hang in there, keep being supportive like you are and he will mature and change. Good luck! Definitely don't print my e-mail address as my kids would me very angry with me. -- Anonymous