If I asked a group of parents of adolescents what scares them the most, you would think they would say the internet, drugs, poor school performance. But, actually, if I add “silence from their child” to the list, that fear would top the list.
These same parents just left an era where their younger child was incredibly honest with them and what they were thinking spilled out of their mouth without any coaxing. Now their adolescent has entered an era of silence. You pick them up from school and they want silence. They ignore your questions and stare out the window without even acknowledging that you are driving the car. You notice they seem a little sad at times and when you ask them if everything is okay, they are irritated with you for asking.
That feeling of losing connection with your child is disturbing for parents and the more they try to make the connection be there, the worse the situation becomes. If this scenario only describes your child, it would be concerning. However, this is the description most parents have of their middle school child, and especially if your child is a boy.
Changes Are Happening
A lot of new developments are happening inside your adolescent child’s brain and body. I want to share a few reasons contributing to this new silence.
- Their brain is pushing them to become a more independent thinker in preparation for young adulthood. The outcome is a child who pulls away from their parents and looks to friends for deeper relationships.
- Your child will be more introspective as they become aware of their place in the world and what they are going to do in the future. They begin to compare their accomplishments to others and this puts pressure on them to compete in ways they have not experienced as children.
- They are becoming aware of sexual desires they have not felt before.
To complicate the situation, their friends are all going through this same confusing transition at the same time they are. The result is lots of stress and confusion for them every day.
It’s Not You, It’s Them.
The most loving gift you can give them as you pick them up from school is a time of silence. Don’t take it personally. They might not say it, but they appreciate you and they will be even more pleased with your relationship if you give them a little space to decompress. The silence probably has nothing to do with you – unless you begin interrogating and then it will be all about you!
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