It Really Is OK To Leave Teens Alone And Give Them Some Space

It Really Is OK To Leave Your Teens Alone And Give Them Some Space

November 16, 2020 Updated November 17, 2020

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Julia M Cameron/Pexels

I live with my three teenagers who all decided they wanted to do 100% of their learning online this year. So, I guess you can say we are together all the time since I work from home.

Thing is, we aren’t. It’s going on 11 a.m. right now, and I saw my oldest son today for five minutes. He was getting breakfast while I was hunting for my running clothes out of the dryer.

After my shower, I peeked in on my daughter who was sitting at her desk staring at her math teacher’s face on her computer. My youngest is nowhere to be found, but I’ve heard him use the bathroom and a few rattles from his room, so I’m pretty sure he’s doing fine.

When they all started these retreats to their rooms, I was heartsick. They’d come home from school, grab a snack while giving me a few shrugs as I tried to ask about their days and many times, stay up there until I called them for dinner.

I used to knock on their doors and try to get them to come out.

I used to bribe them with ice cream and dinners at their favorite restaurants in order to get them to spend time with me.

I used to feel lonely, and like nothing was right in the world. 

I mean, one day I had three lively kids who liked to talk to me and got excited over a Starbucks and Target run. Then the next, they wanted nothing to do with me and always in their damn rooms.

You sit there and wish for quieter days ahead when they are younger. Then when you get them it feels so foreign and odd you think, Wait, this isn’t what I meant.

According to other moms of teens (and I’ve talked to quite a few), this is just how it works. It’s not personal. And while they may tell you how humiliating and embarrassing you are, it has nothing to do with you.

Teenagers are thinking about themselves and their lives. This is the time when they want to be with friends (even virtually), build their social circle, and figure out who they are outside of their parents.

So, normal? Yes.

But brutal? Also yes.

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered that’s worked with all three of my teens (who are close in age, but very different in how they deal with things) is this: It’s okay, and actually better, to leave them the hell alone.

If they are in their room for days on end, it’s because they need it. I’m not saying you completely write them off and ignore them. You still check in, you still ask questions, you still show you support them, care about them, and love them (they will probably ignore you, but they hear you).

However, it’s important to remember — whether they are struggling with something or simply want to be alone — it really is okay to let them be. It’s okay to let them figure it out for themselves. It’s okay to be concerned, but not act on it every ten minutes because you somehow think there’s a magical way you can fix things and make them become the more talkative version of themselves they used to be. 

My youngest is 14 and he literally lives in his room. He has special lighting and a mini fridge. He started growing plants and I’m pretty sure there’s about ten queen ants in there he’s taking care of.

When his brother and sister were his age, they wanted to live in their rooms, too, and I had a problem with it.

What did it mean?

Were they okay?

What did this say about me and the kind of parent I was?

Would they ever go back to their former personality when they actually wanted to spend time with me?

So, I pushed it with them. I bothered them. I smothered them and didn’t let them have their space because it made me uncomfortable. This helped no one. 

I finally caught on and could tell that just leaving them the hell alone for a minute made all the difference.

My two oldest are 17 and 15. They come out of their room a lot more. They talk to me more.

And no, they are nothing like they were when they were ten — but that’s okay, because they are exactly who they are supposed to be. 

We all change, we all need space, and we all (ahem, parents of the world) need to realize our teens are spending time alone because that’s what they need. 

They know they are welcome to come down at any point in time and sit on the sofa, ask about a family movie night, or say yes to any of our one-thousand requests. They just don’t always want to. And that is okay.

Let them be, and I promise they will come around a lot faster than if you are constantly hounding them. I learned this the hard way, so you don’t have to.