If you’re the mother of a teenaged son, it probably seems he spends most of his waking life doing everything humanly possible to distance himself from you.
Defiance and self-reliance are more than just social rites of passage—they’re important developmental milestones. After all, adolescence is the bridge between childhood and adulthood, which means leaving the boundaries of kid-dom behind. Teenage brains strive for independence and the freedom to control their own lives and explore the world around them. It’s all a natural part of your son’s growth as he crafts the identity he’ll carry with him into adulthood.
This act of pushing away from the more constrained environment of childhood—including from the mother who has nurtured and supported him so ardently—can be a hard pill for a mom to swallow. But it’s important not to take it personally.
While this evolution is as normal as potty training, it can mean big changes in the mother-son relationship. According to experts, the best solution is not to resist the change but let it happen—and find new ways to love and support your son within this new framework. As loath as he might be to admit it, teenage boys still need their moms as much as ever, just in a different way.
Looking for ways to rekindle or reconnect with a son who seems to be growing apart from you? The first step is reminding yourself that your son still needs you. Here are a few tips and tactics that experts suggest a son still wants to hear from his mother. Knowing when to let go and when to pull him close will help lay a foundation for better cooperation and communication in the future.
- I love you. As simple, powerful, and self-explanatory as this is, it can sometimes fall by the wayside, especially if there is tension in the equation. But it’s a crucial thing for a teenage boy to hear, even if he doesn’t show it.
- Compliments. Think of this as a way not only to make him feel proud of his actions but to say, “I see you.” It could be a school project, or it could be something as simple as musical taste. Let him know you’ve noticed his efforts and his unique style—and that goes for things that are important to him as well as to you.
- Show respect. A little recognition goes a long way. Teenagers crave respect and to be viewed as having what it takes to succeed out in the world. It also shows you are willing to listen and value their contributions.
- I’ve got your back. It can sometimes be hard for teens to let their guard down in front of their peer groups—and to admit they can’t solve every problem that comes their way, even when they know they need extra help. Your teenaged boy will feel better knowing you’re there as a non-judgmental, safe space where he can talk and figure things out.
- It’s OK to cry. This one can be difficult to bring up, especially around prideful teenage boys. But high school can be a cold world, with day-to-day developments in academics or relationships sometimes feeling like life or death. Crying can be cathartic, but it also sees us at our most vulnerable. Let your son know that not only is crying OK, but that he can use your shoulder any time.
- Maintain boundaries. All kids secretly need routine and boundaries to bring structure to their lives. Even as you improve your communication with them, help them remember that there are rules and that those rules exist for a good reason. Keep in mind that this can be done without conflict—and without waiting for a problem to arise. Gentle reminders are all it takes when communication channels are open and healthy.
- A sense of humor. They say laughter is the best medicine, and your conversations with your son do not always need to be serious or heavy. Keep things light and fun, and share jokes. It will help to keep you connected and bring you closer together.
From light-hearted banter to heart-to-heart talks, there are plenty of ways to let your teenaged son know that he’ll always have a place in your heart. Even when all the outward signs say otherwise, you can still let him know he has a friend, an ally, and an advocate in you. Nothing can replace the mother-son relationship—he may just need a little reminder once in a while.
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