When your son enters his teen years, he might show a few pimples and begin to stink a little. His boyish frame you used to hold might grow a bit rigid as he starts to get uncomfortable in your arms. His sweet nature and lovable innocence will slowly start to fade. This son of yours is beginning his journey onto the treacherous road of puberty. Hold on, Mama. It’s going to be okay. If your teen son pushes away, I promise he still loves you.
Your young teen might start spending more time in his room, and you’ll often wonder what he’s doing and why he’s often isolating himself alone. He might seem irritable and sullen and not talk to you as much as he always did. You’ll sense him pulling away and closing himself in, and you’ll feel the distance create a gaping hole in your relationship. What your boy is doing will feel foreign to you. He’s trying to be strong and manly in a boyish body, and he is confused, unsure, and retreating to safety while he struggles to understand what’s happening to him.
Let him have his space and give him room to breathe. Love him in new ways and let him take the lead. Be there for him in the ways he wants, and pay close attention to the little signs he’s giving, the few words he’s speaking, and the random mood swings he’s having. He might be sweet and lovable one minute and grumpy and rude the next. He might argue with you about trivial things, and you might get frustrated with his new emerging defiant stage. He might act like your presence isn’t needed or even wanted. But dear Mama, your presence matters in ways he’ll never tell you.
You see, this boy of yours is going through so many changes. His body is transforming, his thoughts are racing, and he’s not quite sure who he is anymore. His hormones are surging, filling him with new emotions he can’t control. While experiencing all his inner turmoil and physical changes, he’s also trying to navigate the overwhelming and expanding territory of school, extracurricular activities, academics, fluctuating social circles, and the pressure to fit in.
So, he’ll retreat to his room or project his stress on you, and it will hit your heart hard and often leave a bruise. But it’s going to be okay, Mama. Just keep loving him through these really hard years. He needs your steady presence- if only at a distance. He needs your unconditional love along with your predictable limits. And most of all, he needs your grace and compassion while facing all these changes. Ask him what he needs from you regularly. He might say he doesn’t know, and that’s okay, so tell him so. Just remind him that you are there for him, always.
Hold on, Mama. It’s going to be okay. If your teen son pushes you away, I promise he still loves you.
Do all you can to show interest in what he’s doing and support him as he tries new things. These are the years he will explore various options for how he wants to spend his time and what skills he might want to learn. Empower him with your affirming words and help him with whatever new activities he pursues. He might need gentle nudges to push through his discomfort because it’s so hard for boys this age to do this. But those new experiences will help him grow in confidence and find new outlets that will be so good for him.
Be available for those unpredictable times he needs you. Out of nowhere, he’ll show up at your bedroom door, by the kitchen counter, or collapse on the couch, ready to talk. Lean in gently and ask him how he’s doing. Then listen, listen, listen… before you say a thing. Really tune into his words and hear what he’s saying or maybe what he’s not saying, then use your mama’s gut to respond with your empathy and guidance. These are the talks that will deepen your bond. Move through them thoughtfully and intentionally, and keep building that trust with your boy.
When your son starts driving, he’ll spend more time with his friends and be out of the house more often. This new freedom will come at your expense as you often wait for him to come home and worry about his safety. It’s going to be okay, Mama. You have to let him go. He’ll learn so much when he’s out there on his own. He might take risks, try new things, and get into trouble too. Sometimes, you’ll have to let him mess up and reap the consequences it brings. But hold on, Mama. It’s all a process that will teach him what it means to be a responsible young man. And as he continues to grow and learn what that means, keep trying to trust your kid again and again.
Your teen might push back on your rules and the limits you set as he wants to do more than you are willing to allow- but try to cultivate open conversations and always explain your reasoning behind them. He needs those boundaries, whether he knows it or not. Keep reminding him about his responsibilities and help him manage his time with all he needs to do. It will be hard for you to keep on your son about so many things. But you are teaching him the life skills he needs. It’s okay if he doesn’t like it. Someday, he’ll realize the valuable lessons you taught him that helped him grow to be responsible and productive.
Through these teen years, you and your beloved boy might have some fierce battles, and he might say some things that hurt your heart, and you might respond with your own impulsive, harmful words and feel immediate regret. It’s going to be okay, Mama. We all lose it now and then with our kids. And let’s be honest and confess that sometimes our boys can act like a FOOL, and we can’t help but respond. Whenever this happens, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk through all those hard feelings with your son once you both calm down. I’ve found that’s when the healing begins, and although it can be painful and hard, it’s through these honest conversations that your relationship grows, and you’ll learn so much more about your son.
Toward the late teen years, you’ll see this man start to appear in place of the boy you once knew. You’ll realize how much bigger he’s grown and wonder how it happened so fast. He’ll reach his arms out to you for real hugs, and you’ll feel his strong stature in your arms. He’ll be less prickly and more loving, less impatient and more forgiving, less impulsive and more thoughtful, less greedy and more grateful. He’ll still isolate himself in his room and do his own thing outside of the home because he’s building his own life as he grows up and becomes more independent.
But he will also start sharing more with you and engaging in long, honest, open, and richly rewarding conversations, and you’ll love every minute of it. You’ll laugh at all the pictures he shows you of him doing fun things with his friends and funny TikTok videos he finds, and you’ll love listening to the music he shares, the latest video games he’s playing, and the latest news about the girl he’s dating. Whatever ways he shares his life with you, soak in this precious time you have that is deepening your bond with your beloved almost grown son.
You’ll notice his emerging confidence and inner strength that wasn’t there before. As he prepares for his future with all his new skills, interests, and maturing perspective, you’ll shift your parenting role from instructor and rule-setter to supporter, guidance counselor, and encourager. You’ll be his greatest cheerleader in whatever he pursues and guide him through all the exciting opportunities and challenges that unfold. You will constantly be amazed at how your boy has transformed. You will grow more in love with this man-child of yours and look back and see just how far he has come.
So, hold on, Mama. Stay with your boy and love him through these crazy teen years.
At times, you’ll feel lost and afraid, frustrated and surprised. You are growing alongside your son, who’s also feeling the same. Keep persevering through all the profound changes, and you’ll come out on the other side with a deep and lasting bond with your son. It’s worth every exhausting, stressful, scary, and incredible minute of raising your boy into a mature young man. And remember that no matter how much things change and your teen son pushes you away, he’ll always be your baby boy, and he will always need his mom.