M: Mary is a single mother of a teenager. They were very close before, but ever since he became 14, he became distant and aloof. The more she tries harder for them to be close, the more he becomes distant. He turns 16 this year. Will he ever “come back?” Indifference, they say, hurts more than hate. Distance doesn’t necessarily mean indifference but a need for space and time to sort things out. We were all teens once upon a time, a long time ago. I remember that my teenage angst led me to become a sullen and moody person. My parents also did not know how to handle my attitude, but their continued show of love and affection made me eventually change how I dealt with my emotions and interacted with them.
DJ: Testosterone causes mood swings in boys much in the same way that estrogen causes them in girls. I do remember being embarrassed by physical changes and my squeaking voice when I was about the same age as Mary’s son. A lot of us go through that awkward phase when there’s self-doubt, worry, when we really don’t know what’s going on. That’s why it’s quite common for teens to retreat to their rooms, refuse to discuss issues or share their feelings. They’re still developing their understanding about themselves and others, and they do not have yet that adult-sized maturity for things like impulse and decision-making. I suggest for Mary to do more research. It’s likely that she’ll realize that his change in behavior is not just about her being a parent but a stage he’s going through as he transitions to adulthood.
M: If there is one thing that is constant and true, it is my parents’ love. I am sure they were disappointed with me, but they did not disappoint me when I needed them the most. Their steadfast love, prayers and support made me realize that no matter how unlovable we think we are, there is always someone who loves us. Mary, your teenage son might not know how to express himself with all the things going on in his young life. Don’t think that what you are doing isn’t making any difference. Just continue to reach out to him and express your love and care the best way you know how. In time, there will be a breakthrough and all will be well. Keep the faith.
DJ: I have a teenage nephew who occasionally goes through this rabbit hole. I’m still learning the art of talking to him about something important only when he’s relaxed and receptive. It’s trial and error. He’s going through a transformative stage and I remind myself that I’m the adult in this set-up. I should understand instead of seeking to be understood. Tricky but doable. When he’s at his most talkative, seize the moment. Don’t interrupt. There’s actually a lot to listen and learn instead of just doling out wisdom. Open-ended questions also help. Instead of “Are you excited with Physics?” try “How do you feel about Physics?” If he gives short answers, it means it’s not a topic he wishes to discuss. I don’t take it personally. There is just a lot of stuff happening inside them which isn’t always visible to us. They feel like an adult one moment and then like a kid the next. They’re still trying to figure out how to balance standing out and fitting in.
M: Never give up is what we often hear others say to encourage us when things seem hopeless. But we can also let go of our desire to hold or control the people we love. When we are young, we need the guidance and discipline of our parents. Unfortunately, we think we know better and do not listen. However, when we get older, we realize that there are reasons why our parents acted the way they did. And mostly it is for our own good. Be patient with your son. Pray for him. Talk to him. Give him space, but never give up on him.
DJ: The teenage years are a period of intense growth, not only physically but emotionally and intellectually. Navigating the challenges of our modern world can be complex for teens. I know it’s easier said than done, but I hope Mary can find more patience, empathy and understanding to just let her son go through this stage. In time, they’ll both come out of this—together!