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Teens and the Cave

Joel a 14-year old has been spending more and more time in his room. He used to be with family a lot, but now he communicates less and less and seems to enjoy his room more than hanging out with his parents. On occasion he will come out and make a brief comment before again retreating to his room. When his parents ask him, “How was school”, he grunts and says, “Fine”. When asked, “What did you do today” he says “Nothing”. One night around 11:00, when mom and dad were just about to drop off to sleep, Joel came excitedly into their room. “Mom, Dad, guess what? I’ve been invited to hang out with Mandy and her family at the lake on Saturday. Can I go?” The parents were bewildered as they said, “Who’s Mandy and where’s her lake.” After a brief exchange Joel went back to his room and mom and dad tried to go to sleep.

Teenagers. What’s a parent to do? One might refer to adolescence as the “Caveman stage of development,” where they spend great amounts of time in their cave and periodically come out and grunt at parents. However communicative teenagers were as pre-teens, they are often less so during adolescence. Communication becomes controlled by them and they are likely to share only on their terms. Because teens are learning to make their own decisions, they aren’t always sure of themselves or willing to make their thoughts known for fear of parent criticism or disapproval. They may blurt out information at times when parents don’t have time to respond thoroughly. They protect their feelings and thoughts by keeping the time of exposure to their feelings brief.

The wise parent both invites sharing and makes themselves available at inappropriate times to hear what their child is thinking, feeling and dealing with as a difficulty in their life. Show your child that you can accept them beyond their feelings and they will, in time, share more and more of them with you.

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