What to do when teenagers retreat from life

Pinky asks: Hi. I am a mother of a 13-year-old son. Of late I have realized he is losing his interest in studies and is becoming very inactive in his day-to-day life. My son is good in studies but now he is not doing his work on time and wants to postpone all his work. He is lacking in concentration too. He doesn’t like to go out much. He just wants to sit at home and watch TV or play PSP, etc. What should I do now?

Hi Pinky –


Thanks for your question about your son.


I wish I could tell you for sure what’s going on.  But the truth is, it could be any number of things.


MOST likely, it’s nothing to be terribly worried about.  Most teenagers go through a period (or a few periods) like this.  Their bodies and worlds are changing very fast, and they need a time when they sort of retreat, when they lose their usual energy and excitement, and need to pull inside themselves, and avoid the world.


There’s nothing wrong with this happening, but of course we want them to get through this process as quickly as they can!


One issue that’s very difficult at times like this is communication. The teenager really needs, more than anything else, to be able to talk with someone about what they’re experiencing.  But it’s the last thing they want – and often the person they least want to talk with is a parent.


However, I would still suggest that you try talking with your son. But NOT by walking into his room, turning off his TV while he’s in the middle of a game, and blurting out “I want to know what’s going on with you!”  Instead, how about taking him out to a place he loves to go, maybe a favorite restaurant?  Or making his favorite food for dinner?  And talking with him about fun stuff like his favorite movies, etc., and then saying “It’s great to see you being happy.  You’ve seemed down lately.  Is everything okay?”  And if he doesn’t give you a good answer, let it go.  He may not know what’s going on himself.


Now if he is able to talk with you about his feelings, that’s great, and he’ll probably be able to move through this time well.  If he’s not, and his behavior continues this same way for a long while (say over another month), you might think about getting him a therapist, which would basically be someone he could talk to who isn’t an authority figure or parent, so he could open up better.


Now on the other hand, he could be dealing with a specific issue, and this isn’t just about growing up.  Maybe he’s having trouble with his friends.  Maybe he’s falling in love for the first time.  Maybe it’s even some bad news like he’s starting to drink or smoke.  It could, again, be anything.


With those, it’s probably even less likely that he’d feel like talking to you about it, and even more important that he talk with someone. If you like, of course, he can always join my Pack and write to me, and maybe some of the other members can offer suggestions about what he’s going through.


No matter what, the best thing you can do is be encouraging and supportive through this time.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be telling him he needs to do his homework – he does! – but he also needs his family to help him through this turbulent and confusing time called Teenagehood, which he’s going to be dealing with for the next few years!


Good Luck, and let me know how it goes!


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Leave a Reply 2 comments

far3ah - December 6, 2011 Reply

It’s not only your son – It’s all the teens! We are all lazy, but you’re his mom and you should boss him around!!!!!

    Shirelle - December 10, 2011 Reply

    Hmmm…. do any of you get the idea that that comment, just maybe, wasn’t really written by a teenager?!!!

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