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Help! My teen doesn’t want to spend time with the family anymore


Shutterstock - Iakov Filimonov

Cecilia Zinicola - published on 03/02/20

It's natural for teenagers to want to spend time with their friends, but there are a few things parents can do to preserve family fun and harmony with young adults.

As parents, we can feel frustrated when it gets harder every day to make plans with our children. It can seem as if they prefer to spend more time with others since they reject every activity that we try to organize.

Before planning activities with our teens, it’s important to understand their needs, and take into account some practical matters. We need to understand them and improve the quality of the time we spend with them—time that becomes more valuable every day.

Teens want to be more independent

Many times problems arise because we as parents don’t consider our teens’ ideas when making plans. Throughout their childhood, we’ve been the ones who planned the family schedule, so that’s what we’re used to. But when our children reach adolescence, they also want to suggest plans and have a say in how to spend their free time.

We tend to make plans assuming they’ll want to participate, so when they respond negatively, the rejection hurts us. When they say “no,” it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to spend time with us or don’t want to do things as a family. It just means they already have things planned with their friends and don’t want to change their plans to go with us instead.

If we make plans for our teens without consulting them, especially if we only tell them a day ahead of time, they feel as if we’re treating them like children, when they’re in a developmental phase that has them already feeling like adults. We need to recognize that they have decision-making capacity, independence, and an identity of their own, so let’s discuss with them in advance what we plan to do, and perhaps work together to choose something that interesst them.

Having friends

It’s easy to misinterpret our children’s rejection of our plans. We might think they’re more interested in spending time with their friends than with their family. But it’s normal for adolescence to be a time when our children focus on building relationships outside the family. It’s not about rejecting us; it’s about making new connections and building lives for themselves.

Socializing with peers at that age gives them the opportunity to develop interpersonal relationships and social skills in a context where they are shaping their own identities. Having a group of friends is a very good thing: It helps adolescents in the transition to adulthood by providing social and emotional support and offering them criteria for judging their own behavior and experiences.

Going out with friends and staying in touch with them is something that naturally becomes more common during adolescence. Their group of friends helps to satisfy young adults’ need for companionship and fun, emotional support, understanding and intimacy. It’s not that their family doesn’t offer this as well, but it’s vital that they start to get it from friends.

Do things that interest them

Another reason why our teenagers are sometimes reluctant to join in the activities we propose is because we fail to take into consideration their interests and what kind of activities they’d like to share with us.

When we put too much pressure on them to do things we want, we cannot expect it to lead to positive quality time with them. This doesn’t mean we can only do things they agree with, or that we should never insist they participate in certain things they may not want to do. But if we want them to respond well, it is key that we try to focus on doing things with them that engage their interest.

We can work together with our teens to plan activities that both they and we will enjoy. With their help, and good discussion and communication, we can come up with an activity that will be of interest to them, or find a way to make a necessary activity more appealing. The more they feel listened to and taken into consideration, the more they will want to participate. Let’s be mindful of how we talk to them and how they perceive us as adults, so we can have meaningful and fun time together before they fly the nest.


Read more:
The surprising wisdom of teenagers


Read more:
What to do when your teenager says “I’m sick of this family!”

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