Teen son, girl­friend keep bed­room door closed

FAM­ILY LIFE

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD

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 ques­tion@your­so­cial­worker.com. Due to the vol­ume of mail, not all ques­tions will re­ceive a re­ply.

LORRAINE SOMMERFELD WILL RE­TURN

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