Question:My 14-year old son is a great kid. As he is entering high school, I am noticing he is very hesitant to talk to me about his friends and girls. Suddenly these topics are "personal." Even the simplest question such as "What is the name of the girl you are texting/calling?" is too "personal" for him to answer. He has confided that kids in Jr. High were kicked out for having drugs at school but won't tell me who. I'll push him to give me more info, but he still won't answer, and if I keep at him, he just gets upset with me that I am bothering him. I am just not sure how far I should push or what space I should give him. He hasn't displayed any odd behavior, loves youth group, spends time with his family, and isn't reclusive, but I really fear him feeling like he can't come to me for the important stuff if he is so avoidable on the smaller stuff. Am I overreacting? Is this just a stage in growing independence and privacy for a teen? I don't want to push so much I totally push him away, but I also don't want to be ignorant - I want to know what is going on and who he is spending time with. Do you have any simple guidelines that would help me create my own boundaries? Thank you and God bless!
Thanks for contacting us. It seems to me that much of the behavior your son is exhibiting is just part of the normal process of adolescent development. As kids mature, they go through this process of "individuation" which allows them to become independent, functioning adults. Part of this process is the desire for more privacy. This, of course, is the tension you are experiencing. On the one hand, you want to know and be aware of who your son is choosing as friends. This is both reasonable and appropriate. On the other hand, you'll need to start giving your son some space for privacy, allowing him to keep some things to himself.
Regarding what you wrote, for example, you might let the issue of which students were kicked out of school pass without pressing the issue. But, you might want to insist that he tell you the names of kids he is connecting with on his phone. This is a reasonable boundary and you can explain to him why this is important... that you need to know who his friends are at this stage of his life.
Of course, your desire that he be able to talk with you about the "big stuff" of life is a good one. Still, in the end, he'll make the decision of who to confide in when those things come along. It's great that he's involved in youth group, because this surrounds him with other caring adults who he can talk with.
The key is to keep ongoing lines of communication open. So, work toward this end. This means more than just knowing who your son is talking to online or on the phone. This means being able to communicate on a wide variety of topics and includes being a good listener. The more you improve your overall communication, the more likely that your son will come to you when he encounters the "big stuff."
Parenting during adolescence is often challenging. So, make it your goal to come alongside your son and begin the process of transitioning your parenting style from what you've been used to when your son was a child, to becoming more of a mentor-coach of a young adult. It's a fine line, but you'll do well to help equip your son to become an independent and functioning adult, allowing him to grow appropriately in the areas of privacy, decision making, and responsibility.
Finally, a few books I recommend to you are Jim Burns' "Teenology: The Art of Raising Great Teenagers," and Kevin Leman's "Running the Rapids: Guiding Teenagers Through the Turbulent Waters of Adolescence."
We also have a number of free, online articles on adolescent development on our HomeWord website. Don't hesitate to check these out, as well!
Blessings to you,
The HomeWord Team