I didn’t deal with my teen son’s rejection very well at first, but here are five tips to help you cope.
Something happens in middle school, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later.
But it’s often a sudden shift, where kids go from wanting to hang out with their parents to rejecting us at every turn.
For me, it hit especially hard when my son turned 16.
When your teen starts seeking independence, it can feel like rejection
Once he started driving and working, his rejections came nonstop. Before that, he at least needed me as an uber, and he even enjoyed going shopping and eating out with me (I was footing the bill!)
Now that he has money and wheels, the sting of his rebuffs is nearly constant. He even vetoes his favorite after-school fast-food runs or trips to the outlet mall or greasy breakfast place he loves.
He might still go, but with a buddy or a cute girl. Certainly not with his mom.
I’ll be honest, it hurts. And at first, I didn’t handle it so well.
But I’m getting better. Or at least trying.
If you’re struggling with feeling rejected by the same person you potty trained, maybe these tips can help you, too.
Here are five ways I’ve learned to cope with teen rejection:
1. When I’m feeling rejected by my teen, I let myself feel the emotion, but I let it pass before I respond.
Anger. Sadness. Disappointment. My emotions come hard and fast when I’m upset.
One night, my teen had plans to get dinner with friends. I cherish our family meals together, but I usually relent if my kids have a genuine conflict.
Later that night, I found out my son’s dinner plans fell apart, but instead of returning home to sit around the table with his family and a home-cooked meal, he opted for a gas station hot dog by himself. He told me this casually, an offhanded remark, but it felt like a kick to the gut.
How could he pick a gas station hot dog over me?
While my ears were ringing with emotion, I knew there would be no benefit in yelling or crying or purposely trying to guilt him. So I took a few breaths, hid in the bathroom a little longer than necessary, and let the moment pass.
2. I try (very hard!) not to take my teen’s behavior personally
After the emotion passed, my rational self knew my son didn’t pick a gas station hot dog over his family, or me specifically. It was a convenient stop-over before hanging out with another set of friends after his dinner plans fizzled.
Rationally, I know this.
I also know when my teen scoffs at my suggestions, especially when the alternative involves his friends or (potential) love interests, he’s not doing it because he doesn’t want to hang with mom and dad.
It’s not me. And it’s probably not you, either.
They’re not rejecting us, they’re finding themselves.
Their peers are an important part of their life. They just want to hang out with their friends. And that’s normal.
3. I think about being a teenager myself.
When I’m feeling the sting of my teen’s rejections, I think back to my teen years.
I was a social kid, too, who was always palling around with a friend or two.
Did that mean I didn’t like my parents?
Of course not. When I was cruising around town or playing cards in our favorite hangout spot, my parents were the farthest thing from my mind.
Distancing from our parents is just part of being an adolescent. It means we’re growing up and spreading our wings and figuring out who we are as individuals.
They need a chance to learn and grow and figure out who they want to be.
At least now I have the advantage of getting an occasional text about where he is and who he’s with. I might even get a snap or a photo, which is a ton more insight than my parents ever got about my teenage life.
The best, however, is when my son usually comes home, plops down, and chats with us about his evening, It’s something I’ve come to cherish.
4. Negotiate some bonus time.
Our teens still need us.
Yes, even if they have a job, driver’s license, and a car. If it’s for gas money or auto insurance or your sign-off for a school trip or to go with them to the dentist or the bank, you can use that to your advantage.
Tell them you’ll sign that paper after you have dinner as a family tonight. Stop for coffee or an ice cream before your bank appointment. When they need you for a favor, use it to your advantage and sandwich it in with some bonus time together (if that’s what you’re craving).
They’ll be much less likely to complain if they’re getting something out of the deal, just like my son used to love shopping with me when he was broke and needed new shoes.
5. Ask for some time together. Then keep asking. But accept it will be on their terms.
Whenever we take a walk around the neighborhood or jump in our backyard pool, my husband and I ask our teen to join us. Every time.
He says “no” about 99 percent of the time. But we keep asking. Because every now and then he’ll say “yes.”
I will always try to connect with my teen.
And sometimes, I will flat-out tell him I miss him and want to spend some time together.
I try not to whine or guilt him for being busy or having other priorities. Instead, I’ll suggest things he enjoys doing like golfing, going to movies, or playing a round of foosball.
And when it’s my birthday or Mother’s Day, I tell my family all I want is time together, sharing a meal, going for a hike, or taking in a concert or play.
That’s when I try to savor every moment.
Teen rejection hurts, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your relationship.
But it’s still hard sometimes. One moment, you have a child who won’t let go of your leg in public and follows you into the bathroom.
Then, it’s a tween who jumps at the chance to go with you to Starbucks or to get a new outfit.
And suddenly, your teenager leaves for school at 6:45 in the morning and doesn’t come home until after 9 p.m., He is too busy with school, activities, work, and friends even to meet you for a meal at his favorite restaurant.
These teenage years are hard. Period.
But it’s just a little bit easier if you let the emotion pass, don’t take it personally, reflect on your teenage self, negotiate and simply ask for time in their schedule.
It doesn’t always work. But when it does, and you score some precious time with your almost-adult child, it’s always worth the effort.
If you are looking for ways to have fun and connect with your teen, check out The Best Connections – How To Have Fun Together With Your Teen
P.S. Are you looking to have a better relationship with your teen? We love this book, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood, by Jim Fay.
Are you in the thick of raising your tweens and teens? You may like this book by Whitney Fleming, the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens: Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love: Essays about Raising Teens in Today’s Complex, Chaotic World.
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