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-   -   Balancing Social Life (http://www.mothering.com/forum/39-preteens-teens/1439218-balancing-social-life.html)

Melis 08-05-2014 01:05 PM

Balancing Social Life
 
Hello there :)

I am struggling with DS13's social life. He is on the go constantly. He will start making plans for the next thing before he's even home from the current thing. He's gone so much now. This is so hard for me and I know it's not just about me. I am grateful/glad that he has so many friends and offers to do things, but I'm afraid that it's just widening the gap in our family. He and his brother (11) used to be best friends and now all they do is fight. I feel like the fact that we all spend so much time apart is effecting the time that we do have together. DS13 says that all we do is fight when he is home. That makes me feel so sad and I know it's true. I'm usually mad because he hasn't even walked in the door and he wants to leave again. He's only 13 and I'm just so sad he's gone all the time. He's also my firstborn. The one that I home schooled because he couldn't bear to be away from me (the feeling was mutual). The one that didn't want to sleepover friends houses because he couldn't bear to be away from me. Didn't want to go anywhere without me (he wasn't shy or attached to my hip, but wanted me near, which I loved!). I know that this is natural and it's a GOOD THING that he is spreading his wings, but why to such an extreme? (big sigh) My question is… how do I find balance? What should I do? Do I just let him GO - GO - GO all the time? I question myself constantly and feel very unconfident. I don't want to FORCE him to spend time with us. I want him to want to. This was not what I had in mind for our family - constant separation. But I don't want to be selfish either. I just had NO IDEA that it would happen so soon… wanting to be with friends 24/7. Is anyone else going through this? Has anyone gone through this and found a happy medium? Thank you for listening and for anything you might be able to share with me :)

whatsnextmom 08-05-2014 03:59 PM

Like you recognize, it is a normal phase but I wouldn't see it as how things will be until he moves out. My eldest pulled away from the family around 13. Yes, she wanted to be with friends but she also would just hole up in her room as opposed to hang out in public rooms with us. By 15, that started to turn around and she was better at balancing family, friend and alone time. My current 13-year-old is starting to pull away a bit... spending more time with friends and alone. However, I have faith he'll work his way back too. Personally, I had/have no problem requiring some family time. The kids have dinner with us each night. I put family activities on the master schedule so they know not to schedule on top of it. Giving them fair warning makes the times together less frustrating for all. It's important to include some fun family activities... not just visits to elderly aunts and house cleaning. Keep to family traditions or even make some of your own.

I know it's hard but try not to take it personally.

Linda on the move 08-05-2014 05:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by whatsnextmom (Post 17893410)
Like you recognize, it is a normal phase but I wouldn't see it as how things will be until he moves out. My eldest pulled away from the family around 13. Yes, she wanted to be with friends but she also would just hole up in her room as opposed to hang out in public rooms with us. By 15, that started to turn around and she was better at balancing family, friend and alone time. My current 13-year-old is starting to pull away a bit... spending more time with friends and alone. However, I have faith he'll work his way back too. Personally, I had/have no problem requiring some family time. The kids have dinner with us each night. I put family activities on the master schedule so they know not to schedule on top of it. Giving them fair warning makes the times together less frustrating for all. It's important to include some fun family activities... not just visits to elderly aunts and house cleaning. Keep to family traditions or even make some of your own.

I know it's hard but try not to take it personally.

I agree with whatsnextmom -- it ebbs and flows depending on all sorts of things. When things are super busy for my very social child, I do make plans for required "family fun" and mark them on the calendar - never more than once a week. Last Saturday we ate together, went to see a movie, and then got ice cream. It was lovely. There's really nothing to be gained by requiring the teens are here Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday, etc. I think it is important to find ways to have fun with your kids with the stage they are currently in.

I also think that accepting that you are moving into a new stage of family life will help. You envisioned what it would be like to have children, you did not envision what it would be like to have teens. No one does. I think getting more clear on what this stage is and how to successful navigate it will. For me, this stage is all about independence and life skills. I feel like how well I help them navigate the separation stage will impact not only the relationship they have with me as an adult, but their over all adjustment.

Also, I suggest making your home teen friendly and letting him know that his friends are ALWAYS welcome. We were TV free when the kids were small, but now have a giant TV and a gaming system. We used to eat only whole foods, and while I still eat Paleo, I keep the my kids' friends favorite sodas on hand and have things set up so they can easily order pizza and have it delivered. What I get in exchange is that *some* of that time my super social child wants to spend with friends, she spends here.

One last thing, your sons are going through an adjustment that may work it self out naturally over the next couple of years as they both transition to being teens. In the meantime, you can require politeness from your older son and project to your younger son that he is responsible for his own social connections. Your feeling that big brother is in the wrong for being gone is most likely making the situation between them worse.

Melis 08-06-2014 07:36 AM

Thanks so much for your replies - I really appreciate it!

Can you recommend any good books for navigating this stage of parenting?

katelove 08-06-2014 03:38 PM

I haven't read it yet but I just ordered "Two Thousand Kisses a Day" LR Knost which talks about connecting with our children at every stage, including adulthood. You could have a look at that and see if it might suit your parenting style.

mamarhu 08-08-2014 09:05 AM

My teens and I enjoy time together when we have a true common interest. No longer a created kid-activity. For example, we like going to antique stores together. This is not shopping trip - no one expects to buy anything - more like a museum trip. Book stores are fun too, but get a bit expensive! Or we work on a craft project together - last week we covered some hideous book shelves with magazine collage. These are not projects created for the purpose of bonding or whatever, just whatever is going on in life that we can share. My kids would instantly reject any plan for enforced togetherness. Even with younger kids, I think they can see through false enthusiasm, and prefer activities that are genuinely enjoyed by all. Might take some searching...

IdentityCrisisMama 08-08-2014 09:20 PM

I have a near 13 year old and can relate. I have a toddler too though and feel often pulled by her in one direction and in the other direction my my 12 year old. Where we seem to find balance is in the practicalities. My DC can play with our neighbors when she wants but needs to include her sister a great deal (so sibling bonding). The neighbor kids are all mixed-aged but all younger so that tends to bring my older child back to earlier childhood. It's when my older child spends large chunks with her age peers that she tends to get really "teen like" and drift off. I don't limit her time with her friends but there are some natural limitations for us because she doesn't live walking distance and myself and the other parents are in agreement that we aren't going to go to heroic lengths to shuttle our kids around.

All that said, my DC also does that thing where she is planning the next thing as soon as we leave the previous thing. It drives me crazy because it feels ungrateful to me. But, ungratefulness is something I've observed at this time of year for many summers now. I think we just go on such relaxation/pleasure mode that we all need a reminder for how fortunate we are come August. ;-)


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