In the last year, my 16-year-old son has become more and more distant from me. He’s not a bad lad, but keeps getting into silly scraps at school with teachers and seems to have lost interest in a lot of things
I find that no matter what I do, I just can’t seem to get through to him. After we lost his dad in a farm accident in 2013, I’ve tried to be both parents to him. We’ve always been close until this year. My concern is, how can I stay the safe person in his life if I can’t get through to him?
It can be very hurtful when your son becomes distant from you. However, as he continues his journey to manhood, your son is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing: pushing you away.
Sometimes, this can create a lot of conflict between you, as you struggle between keeping him on a correct path and your own emotions of having to let him go. As a result, we can give the issue a lot more oxygen than we need to.
Your son needs to know what a good man looks like and all it takes is for one good man to become your son’s role model
We need to start by identifying our goal. Staying the safe person in his life whilst allowing him to carve his own path and learn from his own mistakes. Your son needs to know what a good man looks like and all it takes is for one good man to become your son’s role model. Find one who understands your son – coaches, teachers, granddads, uncles.
Mums love to chat when they get an idea, but boys don’t unless you get them into the right space
Boys are a lot more impulsive than girls and don’t think things through. When you can’t understand why he did something or reacted the way he did, then just treat the grazed knee and let it go. Teach him to follow a thought through without shaming him for being a boy by telling him about mistakes you made.
Mums love to chat when they get an idea, but boys don’t unless you get them into the right space. If they are distracted by something else, they can’t hear what you are saying. This may be whilst they are playing a game, but it can be as simple as they trying to decide what they will eat in the fridge.
Open the door with your heart, not your head
Use your mum taxi as a valuable tool. Boys can listen better after physical activity especially when they are in the car with you. Lecturing or interrogating just frustrates him more, so let him lead the conversation. This allows you into his world and find the time when he is open to talking. Open the door with your heart, not your head. Your instinct knows when it’s a good time to talk.
Prioritise. Ask yourself what’s the thing that most worries you about your boy. Share what you have to say in a quiet way.
Make your home a warm welcoming place for him, his friends and you. Being light, ridiculous, creates an atmosphere that is full of the endorphins that boys love. If you need to remind him to do his homework, do it light-heartedly and gently rather than blowing off.
Enda Murphy is a cognitive behavioural therapist who focuses on supporting adults to support young people. For more details go to www.seeme.ie. Please email your own queries for Enda to email@example.com