Why Is My Child Avoiding Me?

Worried because your child no longer wants to spend time with you and tends to be curt and distant during conversations? Understanding why the relationship has changed will help you reach out.

By Suchitra Seethapathy

Why Is My Child Avoiding Me?

A middle-aged lady was stranded in the billing queue of a supermarket. She casually remarked that if she wished to be ignored, she could have as well have stayed at home, being a mother of three teenagers. This quip earned a round of laughter from the other customers as they were able to relate to what the lady said.

Jokes apart, is that what is happening to you at home? Does it seem like your preteen or teen has suddenly changed and no longer wishes to spend time with you? 

While young children are eager to spend time with their parents, it is not the case with preteens and teens. This is the stage when they are forming their own strong opinions, likes and dislikes and yes, they may often be at loggerheads with you, their parents. As a result, they gradually begin interacting less and less with you.

This sudden change in behaviour can come as a rude shock. However, many experts feel it is quite normal for growing children to have differences with their parents. According to them, It is also quite natural that your teen want to spend less time with you. So, let's look at why the relationship has changed 

Why children gradually begin avoiding you, their parents:

  • Lack of interest or dismissive attitude: As your children grow older, they develop better communication skills and look forward to interacting with others on various topics like sports or favorite things to do. However, while children feel they are competent enough to discuss things seriously, you, their parents, may disagree. At times, you may even adopt an unenthusiastic or dismissive attitude. This can push children away.
  • Friends are more fun: Children feel a sense of affinity for their friends as they learn to share and play together. Also, along with acquiring knowledge and new skills, children are eager to have fun. These factors make children want to be around peers and spend time with them, instead of you, their parents.
  • Overcontrolling/hyperparenting: We understand that all parents want their children to do well in life. To make this happen, most parents push children to perform well in academics and acquire other necessary skills. However, some do take it too far. They begin controlling every aspect of their children's lives to the extent that children feel ‘stifled’ or ‘controlled.’ This can cause children to limit their interaction with such parents. 
  • Strict and authoritarian parents: Instead of using positive discipline techniques, some parents punish or worse, shame their children in order to ‘teach’ them a lesson. In such families, children are usually wary of their parents and prefer to keep a distance.
  • Dysfunctional families: Some families may experience severe stress owing to marital crises or other relationship issues. Children in such conflict-ridden households tend to blame themselves or their parents, and withdraw into a shell, leading to a breakdown of the parent–child relationship.
  • Physical and emotional development: With the onset of puberty, children experience many physical and emotional changes. You may understand these changes but not know how to support your children during this phase. This can lead to teens spending more time with friends, peers or cousins, who understand them better and accept them as they are.
  • Taboo topics: Unfortunately, most Indian parents still consider sex education or relationship with the opposite gender as taboo topics and avoid talking about them with their children. However, in teen circles, interest in such issues is very high. When you are reluctant to discuss such matters even though they affect your children and matter to them, it can create  a gap between you.
  • Closed-ended conversations: Some parents tend to ask too many closed-ended questions or just can't stop advising their children. This leaves very little scope for growing children to contribute to or be an equal participant in such conversations. So, it should not come as a surprise when children of such parents prefer to seek out those who listen.

Overcoming the parent–child divide?

Of course, it is never easy parenting tweens and teens. Differences of opinion, flaring tempers, challenging behaviours and more can drive a wedge between you and your children. However, you can also be proactive in handling the situation. This helps you work towards re-establishing a close parent–child bond. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • According to Manjooshree, a mother and a certified International Life Transformation Coach at Lifeolicious, “It is important that kids be kids.” She also feels that it is her mission as a mother to help her child become her best self.
  • Allow your children to spend more time with their friends. Free play and playground tussles will help children develop self-confidence and boost their self-esteem. Research has shown that children who play more are able to better manage their problems and resolve conflicts later in their lives.
  • Listen to what your children have to say, no matter how trivial it may seem to you. A non-judgmental listener is what most children seek when they enthusiastically look forward to sharing something.
  • If you are an overcontrolling parent, consciously loosen your grip over your children, if you want to bridge the gap in the relationship. Remember, children don't like being commanded and pushed around.
  • It is important that you show your love through simple gestures or positive communication. Punishments and shaming never work.
  • All parents would like to believe that their ‘fights’ are private. However, know that children understand parental conflicts and get affected emotionally. Problems with other family members, such as grandparents, uncles or aunts, can also affect the children. So, try your utmost to resolve such conflicts and improve the situation at home. Seeking advice from a counsellor can also help.
  • Most teenagers have relationship problems with their friends. As parents, listen patiently instead of labelling such behaviour as ‘childish’. It is also important that you avoid interfering in these emotionally-charged situations — children need the space and time to figure out how to deal with these issues, on their own. 
  • When growing children want to talk about taboo topics such as sex, do not react harshly or reprimand them. In fact, you need to discuss these issues in a non-judgmental way.
  • It is important for teenagers that you accept and respect their friends. Unless a friend has questionable character traits or behaviours, encourage your children to invite their friends home. Children who bring friends home and spend time with them in the vicinity of their family are less likely to indulge in risky behaviours.

As parents, understand that your children require a stable home environment besides your love and acceptance. Moreover, as children mature physically and emotionally, their interests and attitudes also tend to evolve. Accept this as a part of the growing process and try to deal with these changes in a positive manner.

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