Teen son, girlfriend keep bedroom door closed
Q: Our son is 16. When his girlfriend comes over, they go straight to his room and close the door.
I don’t think this is appropriate. Can I ask them to leave the door open or come out of his room?
A: Certainly it is reasonable to set limits, boundaries and expectations for your teen and to discuss the whens and hows of privacy with a girlfriend.
However, when I am asked this question in the context of counseling parents, it often accompanies a long list of other concerns. These may include school attendance, grades, drug use, video games, lack of respect and conflict.
The bedroom is the refuge in which the teen can avoid all manner of parental interaction and personal accountability. When this happens, the parents’ concern about sexual activity may be heightened, too.
If there are multiple issues, parents may seek to use strategies of power, control and coercion to influence and manage the teen’s behaviour. But those strategies tend to escalate conflict, and secretive behaviour, and make a romantic relationship all the more attractive as a way to escape conflict with parents.
The real concern should be re-establishing a strong relationship with your son. Without this, you have no influence.
Teens are typically not equipped to take this on and will seek to avoid their parents and those expectations, admonitions and consequences. And when things are quiet, parents tend to avoid their teen in order to get a rest from the turmoil.
It is during these times of quiet that parents are urged to reconnect with their teen. That re-connection shouldn’t be about concerns and issues, though; it should be about how to be supportive.
The teen needs to experience the relationship as loving and caring again. As the bond is re-established, reasonable conversations about your concerns can take place. And this is when you may regain your influence.
If you are experiencing turmoil with your teen, consider counseling — for yourself. Teens in these situations don’t often attend counseling, or make good use of it. If you go, you can learn strategies to re-engage your teen, and regain your influence.
On the road to reconnecting, you can also ask the counselor about having “the talk” with your son. In additional to a healthy bond with his parents, he needs good information about managing sexual and intimate relationships.
Have a parenting or relationship question? Send it in a brief email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, not all questions will receive a reply.
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