Is my 14 year old boy morose and remote -- or just quiet?

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.  

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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:

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!

I just had this exact conversation this morning with a friend about my almost 15-year old and her almost-14 year old, both of whom sound exactly like your son.  Welcome to the teen years.  I think it's pretty normal, especially for boys.  I get monosyllabic responses and worry that my son's previously chatty and humorous personality has dimmed considerably.  But I think for almost all teens, they eventually come out of it.  My brother was recently telling me that his son (senior in high school) is still "in it" while his daughter (senior at UCB) now talks to them and has a great relationship with them after several years of near-silence.  I'm sorry, I know exactly what you're going through.  Hang in there, don't take it personally (even though it can feel so directed at us), and just keep loving him unconditionally.  

Middle school is just such a sea change from the days when they looked to you with those bright eyes, asking you earnestly about all manner of things, listening to your answers.  The growth spurt you mention does sound like he is in that zone of discombobulation that I remember with my daughter who I thought, and still do think, is advanced socially and emotionally (you mentioned his grades remain good and other indicators are all good) -- but oh my goodness!  The chaos and worrying of those days! The wildness, the pushing back, even rage, at times, all seemed to me so jarring, it made me feel like a failure, and that I would never get back the hand-holding, sweet days of yesteryear.  But they do come back, both the kid himself, in his goodness, and more stable relating to him.  Of course, girls w/ mothers are different dynamic; however, they do move into another phase and then they do come back to you.  I would say read the recent book on the adolescent brain by Jensen and Nutt, but I'm afraid I was left with "tell me something I don't already know."  Of course, the science is calming, but really, it offers no strategies.  It doesn't say, be patient, and have faith.  because that is what you need.

I would go buy a book about teens and what they are doing developmentally.  I think stuff I have read says they are supposed to be differentiating/separating from their parents.  I think it is not uncommon to have younger teens hang out in their room a lot.  I have an older teen.  One thing I wish I had done differently is to do more fun stuff as budget allowed when he was in middle school, because now he mostly does stuff with his friends.