Help! Where did my child go? | Parenting

You may find yourself asking this question if you’re the parent of a 12- to 16-year-old. Suddenly, the sweet, loving kid you used to know has been replaced by this ... this being that grunts one-word answers, holes up in his room for hours, and spurns any show of affection from you.

  • Friday, August 1, 2008 6:16pm
  • Opinion

You may find yourself asking this question if you’re the parent of a 12- to 16-year-old.

Suddenly, the sweet, loving kid you used to know has been replaced by this … this being that grunts one-word answers, holes up in his room for hours, and spurns any show of affection from you.

No doubt about it. The ’tween and teen years can be tough on parents. I know. I went through it, and my step-daughter came back to me. Yours will too, given some patience and understanding … okay, a lot of patience and understanding.

“Communication is going to go one-way for a while,” advises Lori Marro Homes, a parent educator at Youth Eastside Services who specializes in adolescent issues. “Their developmental path is to pull away from us. It’s normal, healthy and temporary.”

Lori tells us that after kids get through some developmental milestones – first car, first job, first romantic relationship – that urge to pull away from parents eases up considerably. With that amount of freedom, they don’t have to try so hard to separate. They’re making their unique statement in the world.

Speaking of freedom, how much is too much? When are they old enough to go without a chaperone? Or date? Or stay out until midnight? Or get a cell phone, credit card, car? Every parent has heard the “everyone else is doing it” refrain.

Adolescents need to earn their freedom by showing responsibility, whether around chores at home, or doing their school work or being on time.

Then the parents can say, “You’ve shown me that you are able to handle this.”

In doling out freedoms, it’s best to be slow and incremental. If your teenage son or daughter is pressuring you for more liberties than you feel comfortable giving, that’s a subject for negotiation.

If you can’t reach a compromise, you can agree to disagree. The important thing is to keep the door to communication open, even in the heat of an argument: “We’re both angry. Let’s take a break and come back to this when we’re both calmer” versus “I don’t care what you do. You never listen to me anyway.”

Lori cautions parents against saying things that can sever a future relationship, because – surprise, surprise – your teen is listening.

“In my experience, most teens won’t give you that verbal acknowledgement, but they are hearing you,” she says. “They will act on your input or advice.”

So continue to be your child’s main cheerleader. Say “I love you.” Ask “How was your day?” And give them sincere compliments: “You really handled that situation well.”

And someday soon you’ll get more than a grunt in response.

I guarantee it.

Patti Skelton-McGougan is the executive director of Youth Eastside Services. For more information, call 425-747-4937 or go to www.youtheastsideservices.org.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading

9/11 Memorial in Cashmere, Washington. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
Twenty years after tragedy brought us together | Guest column

Recently, I was reflecting on where I was and what I was… Continue reading