Maybe it was when his voice began changing and getting deeper or the summer when he grew taller than me.
Or perhaps it was the night when he closed the book and kindly broke the news that he no longer wanted to read The Hobbit with me beside his bed.
Or could it have been when he began to come home from school and grab his snack and go up to his room?
Somewhere along the way, he stopped following 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.
He was no longer my little boy. Before my very eyes, he was beginning to morph into a young man. It seemed to happen so gradually and suddenly all at the same time.
When my son entered high school it hit me that our relationship was changing and I wasn’t prepared for it.
Many moms email me asking 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?”
If you have an adolescent son, you know what I’m talking about. You understand how your heart can ache, how much you miss the cuddles, reading books together, and the kisses good night. And maybe you wonder if you savored those days when your little boy looked in your eyes with adoration like you were the most important person in the world.
Well, I’m here to reassure you that your son still loves and needs you just as much as he did when he was little, BUT differently.
And, I’m here to share with you the things that he won’t tell you, that you need to know.
Here are 9 Things Moms Need To Know To Connect With Their Teen Son
He still needs you just differently.
Even if it appears that your presence no longer matters as much, your son still needs you just as much as he did when he was younger, you just need to learn to connect with him differently.
It’s not you.
It hurts when our sons begin to pull away and no longer want to talk as much or hang out. It can feel like we’re doing something wrong, our breath is bad, or we’re like a discarded shoe and they’re no longer even thinking about us.
I’m here to reassure you that it’s not personal. This is all part of his growth process and the need to become more independent.
The next time you’re feeling like chopped liver, remind yourself not to take it personally.
Trust me, you still matter more than you could know and he still does love you.
Give him space.
Your son is entering a new chapter of his life and trying to figure out what it means to become a young man (which is really hard for us to relate to!).
Take a step back (but not too far) and give him a little more space.
Be there but don’t talk so much.
When your son begins to pull away, the first thing you may want to do (if you’re like me) is to follow him around and ask questions,
“How are you doing?”
“What’s going on?”
“How are your friends?”
“Have you done your homework?”
“What did you do? Where did you go?”
“You still need to do your chores.”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
No wonder they don’t want to talk to us!
Pelting our sons with questions never works.
When my son finally came around to talk to me 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.
Boys are like cats and turtles – if you follow them around, talk too much, or chase them down they will go hide somewhere or retreat into their shell.
Treat them like birds.
Hang around. Sit down. Be there.
Occasionally throw out a little “birdseed,” and let them know that you’re there.
Don’t pelt them with questions. They will come to you when they’re ready.
Listen without judging or criticizing.
Oftentimes we don’t realize that our tone or comments can sound critical or judgmental.
Notice if you are focusing more on the negative – those things that he’s not doing or what he is doing that you find irritating.
Give them the freedom to voice their own thoughts on things, even if you disagree. Instead of telling them, they’re wrong (at this age they will tend to say black when it’s white), or getting in a power struggle, you could say some version of, “Hmm that’s interesting. I never thought of it that way. How did you come to that conclusion?”
And, remember the 5 to 1 Rule: For every one negative comment, you need 5 positives.
Don’t give him unsolicited suggestions unless you ask first.
Stop yourself when you notice yourself lecturing, nagging, or telling him what he should do. This will shut down the conversation and he won’t want to share with you.
Instead, ask him first if he wants your advice before you give it.
It’s important to understand that he will make mistakes and it’s important to allow him to learn from them.
Instead of jumping in to rescue, offer advice, fix or rescue ask questions such as,
“What do you think?”
“What might help you?”
“Is there anything that I can do to support you?”
This will show you believe in them that they are capable of figuring things out.
Show him random acts of kindness.
It’s amazing how much random acts of kindness can build connections and show our boys we care and are thinking of them.
Let him make decisions on his own and let that be okay.
Forcing boys to talk or to do something they don’t want to do rarely if ever works.
Provide choices and allow him to have a say and give his input in what he thinks, wants to do or not do (This doesn’t mean that you don’t have decisions that you need to be a part of, only that you pick the ones that really matter).
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.
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.