As children reach puberty and move into their teenage years, it’s common for them to start spending more time with their friends and less time with their family. But what does it mean when teens refuse to participate in family activities altogether?
Sometimes, all they need is more encouragement and structure around their family involvement to understand what’s expected of them. Other times, their seclusion can be a sign of other underlying issues or disorders.
Children who suddenly stop participating in activities they used to love may struggle with mental health issues beyond their control. While some parents are tempted to send their son to a military school or boot camp to teach him to comply with family expectations, those schools rarely produce the desired results. They often exacerbate the symptoms of depression in teens and can drive the family further apart.
If you suspect that your teen son might be struggling with depression or anxiety, get help from a trained therapist. Some teens benefit from the structured and supportive environment at therapeutic boarding schools. Having regular access to therapists can help teens overcome their mental health problems to lead a happy and healthy life.
However, most teens who refuse to participate in family activities need guidance at home from their parents. The teenage years are known to be difficult for both teens and their parents. So, you can expect your teen to go through a withdrawal phase as they re-learn family expectations. This can be a very frustrating process, but it’s essential for your teen’s development.
Encouraging your son to participate in family activities
When addressing your son about his withdrawal from the family, remember not to take his reactions personally. Teenagers are at a point in life where they need to start doing more on their own to prepare for adulthood, but they still really want and need their parents’ approval and support.
Sometimes, they don’t know how to ask for it. Remember that your son needs to know that you’re there for him if he needs you, even if he doesn’t act like it.
Talk to him
Find a non-threatening time to talk to your son to find out how he’s doing. It can be more comfortable for teenage boys to open up while riding in a car or participating in an activity. It feels less threatening to have difficult conversations when they don’t have to maintain eye contact, and they know there’s a time limit to the conversation.
Listen to what he has to say without judgment and without lecturing. Your son needs to know that you value his feelings even if you don’t fully understand them.
Set clear expectations
If your son spends most of his time in his room rather than spending time with the family, try setting some clear expectations around family time. While he needs to have free time to choose what he wants to do, you might need to set mandatory family time. This could include family dinner time without electronics, a weekly movie night, or specific family outings.
Make it clear that he can still have his own space to be alone or hang out with his friends, but he is also expected to be present during specific family events.
Change up the events
As your son gets older, his interests will likely change. He probably doesn’t still love all of the same things that he did when he was little, and he’s branching out to try new activities. Rather than forcing him to do all of the same activities that he liked when he was younger, try out some new activities with him. This will show him that you care about him as he’s growing up and don’t expect him to stay the same forever.
It may help to allow him to choose the activities from time to time as well. Find out what he’s interested in and create some family time that your teenage son will enjoy.
By having more conversations with your son and creating space for growth, he might feel safe enough to start spending time with the family again. However, if you’re working together as a family to keep everyone involved, and your son still refuses to participate in family activities, he might have a bigger problem.
If your son continues to withdraw and doesn’t have fun anymore, he may suffer from mental health problems. Contact us today to learn more about our therapeutic approach for teens.