What You Can Do When Your Teen Refuses Family Time

Worried that your teen is not spending enough time with you? And confused as to why this is happening? Here’s what you can do to reconnect with your teen through this ever-changing phase in her life.

By Jasmine Kaur

What You Can Do When Your Teen Refuses Family Time
Is your teen in a world of his own, shutting you out?
How do I get my teenage daughter to spend time with me? Well, that’s the million-dollar question! My daughter really likes eating out and watching new movies. So, I often start a conversation with her on these topics, even if I have no interest in them myself. After I get the conversation going, I slowly shift to other topics I want to talk to her about. — Sudha from Chennai, mother of a 16-year-old.

We all know that adolescence can be a tumultuous period for both parent and child. This is because, children slowly begin to discover their own interests or what we call a teen's interests and create their own identity. They learn about their potential and who they can become in the future. So, it’s natural for them to pull away from their parents while on this journey of self-discovery.

After all, much of their identity up till now is a result of parental influence. For example, the choice of movies, food, religion, etc. is based on what they have experienced in their immediate environment. This is not to say that preteens do not have identities, but are more often than not, unable to take independent decisions.

So, teens explore more boundaries. However, it’s important that parents do not take this personally, as most teenagers go through this. Just think back to your time as a teenager and the conflicts you went through with your parents. Such differences between parent and teen is natural and might even do good, as it can help them grow closer together, in the future.

And just as teenagers need to adjust to the changes in their bodies and minds, parents also need to adjust their approach to parenting while raising a teen.

Why your teen may refuse family time

  • Your teen would rather spend more time with her friends. This is normal because she may relate more to peers who may be facing similar issues. These interactions help her gain a better understanding of herself.
  • Your teen wants to have novel experiences, which ‘family time’ doesn't provide.
  • Your teen is not interested in the activity you proposed. For example, you ask him to come trekking as a way of spending quality time together and he might hate trekking.
  • Your teen is avoiding you. This could be for various reasons. If you feel this is the case, then refusing family time is a symptom and it’s important that you deal with the reason for avoidance directly. 

You might feel hurt when your teen does this, but it’s important to not react in an impulsive manner. Instead work toward strengthening your relationship with her. Here is what you can do to re-connect with your teen: 

Learn about his interests

People feel good when others take a genuine interest in them. Teens are no exception. So, take the time out to learn about your teen’s interests. Actively listen to what he feels passionate about and ask open-ended questions.

Respect boundaries

It’s very important that you respect your teen’s boundaries. Because if you don’t, she is likely to feel that you have infringed on her space and consequently, spend less time with you. So, do not force family time on her. Remember, the point of spending time together as a family is to bond. And there’s not going to be much bonding if she is resentful at being forced into spending ‘family time together’.

Create your own traditions

Many families have their own personal traditions, whether it’s going to the beach every Sunday, movie dates every Saturday or, reading together before bed. So, try to figure out a ritual that everyone in the family will enjoy. This could involve eating out every Friday night or going to the park together on Sunday mornings. Be spontaneous rather than scheduling activities — this will ease the pressure of figuring out how to spend quality family time together.

Have meals together

In many communities, having meals together is a cherished custom and for good reason. Eating together allows us to take a break from the daily rush, reflect on our day and connect with loved ones. Even if there is not much conversation, a family meal is a wonderful tradition. Mealtimes can serve as a good way to bond.

Do chores together

Taking care of the house is not an easy job, so it helps when everyone chips in. Working together to achieve a goal, even a simple one like getting all the dishes done before a certain time, creates a sense of being on the same team. Not to mention that chores tend to be more bearable (or even fun) when you have someone to share them with.

Talk about your teen years

Teens sometimes forget that parents too were once teenagers. So, share some stories from your teenage years with them. Be as authentic as possible. You can even talk about the kinds of mistakes you made, what you learnt from those incidents and the adventures you had. This will show your teen a new way of relating to you.

But remember not to be preachy while talking about your past or imply that you were much better during the teenage years, than your child. Also remember that the world he faces, is not the same as the one you grew up in. Also, the most important thing is for you to realise that it’s okay for your teen to refuse family time; she is trying to figure out who she is. In fact, with the amount of academic pressure teens face today, they barely even have enough time for themselves.

As a parent, empathise with your teen and give him the space he needs. Suppose he wants to attend a party, but you refuse permission because of safety concerns. However, you could explain your stance thus: "I know that you must feel bad about not being able to go out with your friends and have fun, but here are my reasons." 

It’s important to be attuned to your teen attentively and read her body language. After all, working on the parent-child bond is a continuous process. And showing her your support and love through these difficult years will only help your bond grow stronger.

Also read: Are You Struggling To Bond With Your Teen? Here Are Some Simple Ways To Reconnect

About the expert:

Reviewed by Meghna Singhal, PhD on 21 February 2019

Dr Singhal is a clinical psychologist with a doctorate degree from NIMHANS (Bangalore) and holds a post-doctorate in parenting from the University of Queensland (Australia). She is Head of the Content Solutions Zone at ParentCircle.

About the author:

Written by Jasmine Kaur on 21 February 2019; updated on 22 October 2019

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