It is normal for a teenager to want to spend more time with friends and less time with family. It may be painful and aggravating as a parent, but you should not take it personally.
It is important to balance your desire for control and closeness with your teen’s desire for autonomy and growth. Too much control and manipulation will cause the child to rebel and resent you and become secretive. Allow your teen to make decisions and grow, while you maintain reasonable boundaries and expectations. As long as teenagers are accountable for their actions and responsible for contributing to the family by doing some chores and spending some time with the family, it is best to allow them to develop increased independence as they grow.
When situations arise in the future where your daughter wants to spend her time with friends instead of with you and the family, try to be understanding, remain self-composed and by all means, avoid acting hurt. Be relaxed and self-assured and say something like the following:
“I’m happy that you want to spend time with your friends. But we love seeing you too. Why don’t you pick a night this weekend to have a family dinner with us / a day to join me to visit your grandparents.” Or
“I know you’d really like to see your friends this weekend. And it’s also important for me that we have some family time together. Let’s figure out what day would work best for everyone.”
When children grow to be teenagers, then young adults, and finally independent adults, the parent will suffer an unavoidable loss. But think of the alternative — a fearful and emotionally-fused child. You must embrace the loss of your adoring child to gain a capable and responsible family member whom you like and respect.
In the meantime, you may want to focus on your interests, friendships, and making your own life more fulfilling. After putting so many years into parenting, it takes time and effort to re-focus your life away from parenting. If you focus more on your own life and expand it in new directions, you will feel vital and fulfilled. Your teenager is likely to notice and respect you more for it too.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD