My son is 24 and my heart aches sometimes.
I don’t get to see him pop his head into the kitchen in the morning. He lives out of state and has a girlfriend, a job, and his own apartment. He seems so far removed in some ways from the little boy I could cuddle up with and read stories to and kiss goodnight. He’s even taller than me now. He’s an adult. He’s no longer my baby boy.
When my son began to inch towards high school I became increasingly aware that our relationship was changing as he was beginning to morph into a young man.
He didn’t follow me around the house like he did when he was young. He was no longer the chatterbox who went on and on about the various facets of his day. It was like overnight he was suddenly a miniature grown-up who needed to decompress alone after school and tried to mask his emotions when I sensed he was upset.
I didn’t know how to connect with him. If I gave him space, I felt like I was neglecting him or failing to meet his needs as his mother. If I asked what was wrong I felt like I was instantaneously overbearing. It took a concerted effort to hide my overwhelming sense of relief and happiness when he opened up about himself or needed me in some way. I felt giddy when he’d tell me about his day, and feel scared he’d smell my glee and retreat back into his teenage solitude.
If you have an adolescent son, you know what I’m talking about. I needed to honor his growth process and learn new ways to connect with him.
Other moms ask me the same question, “How do I connect with my son now that our relationship is changing?” or “How do I get my teen boy to talk to me?”
I asked my twenty-four year old son to reflect on what he wanted and needed when he was a teenager.
Here are his answers.
16 Things an Adolescent Son Wants His Mom to Know:
Understand that I’m entering a new chapter of my life.
Give me space. Try not to take it personally when I don’t want to talk or hang out. I still love you.
Listen to me without judging or giving me suggestions (at least initially) .
Ask me first if I want your advice before you give it.
Show me random acts of kindness.
Especially when I don’t ask. (food in the refrigerator, make my favorite meal; the little things that show you care and are thinking of me).
Don’t try to control me by hovering or getting into my business.
I want more freedom and independence. It’s important that you let me make decisions on my own and let that be okay.
Don’t force me to do what I don’t want to do unless it really matters.
Give me choices and allow me to have a say in what I want to do or not do.
If you think something’s wrong, you’re probably right, but…
Don’t press the issue or pelt me with questions. I’ll come to you when I’m ready.
Listen and show interest in the stuff I talk about.
Even if it’s not up your alley, (e.g. sports, hobbies, music, my favorite video game) understand what’s really important to me even if it isn’t to you.
Give me the freedom to voice my own thoughts on things, even if you disagree.
Don’t judge, interrupt or add your interjections except when necessary.
Don’t tell me not to feel a certain way.
Don’t tell me “you shouldn’t feel stressed,” rather “it’s okay to be stressed.” Allow me to feel disappointed or upset.
Let me make mistakes and learn from them.
Don’t step in to rescue me or treat me like I’m not capable of solving my own problems.
Be on my team.
If I’m down, empathize with me, even if you know something isn’t a big deal; it’s a big deal to me. If I’m happy about something, really be happy with me. I don’t want to feel like you’re out to get me; I want to feel like you’re my number one fan.
Establishing boundaries is fine with me.
You can be firm in what they are, but be gentle in how you enforce them. Being overbearing will have the opposite effect.
Stop worrying so much. Enough said.
Have fun with me.
Laugh at my jokes. Talk to me about sports, my friends, guy stuff. It makes me feel ‘cool’ to share this stuff with you.
Be an example of a woman who respects herself, has integrity, and is living her own life by trying new things and stepping outside of her comfort zone.
Tell the truth.
Don’t tell me I played great when I didn’t. Give me honest and constructive feedback if I ask. Let me know how my negative behavior impacts you without shaming me so I will have insights into myself.
Learning how to navigate our sons growing up is not an exact science, just like any other part of motherhood. We’re not going to do it perfectly. Even though I was worried I would blow it every step of my son’s tween and teenage years, my son assures me I did better than okay. I think both of us would attest to the closeness of our relationship today.