WE WANTED TO KNOW HOW TO BEST DEAL WITH OUR TEENAGERS THAT WON’T LEAVE THEIR ROOMS OR TALK TO US. IF YOU HAVE BEEN LEFT FEELING LIKE YOU’RE DISCONNECTING FROM YOUR ANGEL THAT ONCE USED TO COME RUNNING TO YOU FOR HUGS, YOU MUST READ ON. NEIL MCNERNEY GAVE US HIS EXPERT ADVICE.
“One day, he is asking what game
we’re playing on family game
night, and the next day he can’t be
bothered to leave his room.”
Question: My teenage son is a very smart boy but since he turned 15, we can’t get him out of his room. He is either laying down in bed with his laptop on his chest, “reading” or is sitting on his computer table, gaming while chatting with his friends online. This goes on for hours. We can’t entice him to come down, even to eat. He takes his food up to his room. He is gaining weight and is totally disconnecting from our family. He is generally a very nice kid and has good grades. What do we do? Help!
Neil’s answer: Let me start by reassuring you that you are not alone! This is a common concern I hear from parents both in my practice and during parenting seminars. We have all read that teens spend more time alone and in their rooms, but the reality of it happening can be jarring.
Our first reaction tends to be: “Something’s wrong. Why is he isolating himself? I’ve heard that isolation is a sign of depression. Let me ask him what’s wrong.” If we follow up on that question, it doesn’t tend to go well!
Let me also reassure you that this is normal teenage behavior, and it usually comes along very suddenly. One day, he is asking what game we’re playing on family game night, and the next day he can’t be bothered to leave his room. My first suggestion in dealing with this issue is to remind yourself that this is normal behavior.
But it’s only normal if done in moderation. Too much isolation isn’t good for anyone. Even if your teen tells you he’s not alone (texting friends, etc.), it is still not good for his health. So, although I am asking you to expect this type of teen behavior, I’m suggesting that you don’t completely accept it.
Expect It, Don’t Accept It! This is a saying that will help us all get through the teen years. Should we expect that our teens will act up, make mistakes, be disrespectful? Absolutely. These are things that all teen deal with. Should we just accept all of it? No, I don’t think so. Our goal is to guide them during this tough time in their lives and set limits when appropriate.
So, here is what I would suggest concerning spending so much time in his room: Set limits on the time and activities that happen there. For instance, a simple limit to set is no eating in the bedroom. I like this limit for a few reasons. One, it keeps the bedroom from becoming a smelly disaster (or at least less of a smelly disaster). Two, it sets a tone that eating should be a social event. The research is clear: Children whose families eat meals together tend to be more well-adjusted and happier as adults. Three, we also know that eating in isolation increases the chances for over-eating.
I would also suggest having certain times of the day that are “family time,” or at least time out of the bedroom. It doesn’t have to be a large time period, but it will encourage more interaction.
Will your teen be open to these limits? Absolutely not! He is not going to say: “Thanks, Mom, for caring about my wellbeing. I’ll try my best.” He will resist, complain, and try to stretch the rules. Your goal is to stay strong. Remember that you are doing this for all the right reasons. Typically, when we implement a new limit, it takes at least 30 days of consistent enforcement before resistance begins to decrease. So, stay consistent and give it some time. Your efforts will be well rewarded with hopefully a happier teen and a happier family!