Dadvice Weekly: What do I do when I feel my teen pulling away?

As our kids get older and move into their teen years, it seems as though more and more social events pop up, they’re spending more time with their friends, and as every day goes by, seems like they’re pushing us away and engaging with us less.

As a Dad, this can be quite a confusing experience and feel unusual. Although you knew this day might be coming, now that it’s here, it’s often difficult to deal with.

  1. Don’t take it personally. Your teen is going through a lot of changes and it’s normal for them to emotionally pull away. They are doing what they need to do developmentally, to grow into the adults they need to be. It’s tough, but they come back!
  2. Don’t over-step boundaries or try to control them. Even though you are still their Dad, it’s important to not become overbearing – this could cause them to pull away even more. Implement rules and boundaries where appropriate and determine what the non-negotiables are for your family whilst still allowing their independence.
  3. Be open-minded. As your child moves into their teen years, they will be going through many different changes. Be open-minded if they start experimenting with new looks or trends, engaging with different friendship circles and going to parties and gatherings. Remember, you probably did the same thing when you were their age.
  4. Make time to create a shared experience. At The Fathering Project we encourage dads and father figures to take their child on dad dates, which provides you with one on one quality time. As your child gets older, these dates become especially important. You could try scheduling one in once a month. Have your teen choose the date, so it’s something they’re interested in.
  5. Be there. It may seem like they don’t need you, but during this time is when they need you most! Even if they are pulling away, always let them know you are there for whenever they need you.
  6. Take time out and care for yourself. Amongst the ups and downs of raising teens, you need to remember to take time for yourself. Go and do something you enjoy – swimming, playing some golf, kicking the footy.
  7. Get support. Confide in your partner, or talk it out with your mates. Swap notes with other dads who have got kids the same age. We also encourage dads to join a dads group.
  8. Remember, it’s an important developmental goal. Teens need to discover things without us and who they want to be in this world. They might make mistakes along the way but it’s all part of the process.

Our job during these key years is to guide our teens, whilst also giving them room to grow and become independent and be there for them when they come back. And believe us, dads – they’ll come back! As they enter their 20’s, adulthood arrives and they’ll need dad’s advice on many different issues…

To hear more on this topic, listen to our podcast with Karen Young. 

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