Being a parent is a flying by the seat of your pants kind of roller coaster, except no one’s there to ensure you’re tall enough to ride or strap you in safely. 

The teen years are notorious for presenting a challenge that’s felt by both parents and teens alike. There’s pressure: from society, peers, and academics. There are rapid physical and hormonal changes, and a shift in perspective as teens transition from the safety of childhood to the overwhelming world of adulthood. Grappling with things like identity and their place on this earth. Younger kids also feel the pressure, and may start withdrawing before officially becoming a teen.

If you’re feeling the bumps and bruises of raising a teenager, here are some ways you can remain connected to them, and help draw them back if they start to become too withdrawn. 

What Do You Do When Your Teen Starts to Withdraw?

Some withdrawing during teen years is expected. It’s normal (yet still painful) when you realize your teen would rather spend time with their friends than you.

However, if you’re not careful they can morph into mysterious strangers whom you’re obligated to feed and taxi around. Thus, it’s good to have things the two of you still connect over. These are great “excuses” you can use to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. 

Perhaps it’s a shared sense of humor – a TV show you watch and discuss after, a love for animals, hiking, or a shared appreciation for art and music. 

Take a moment to think about how you like to connect with your teen, what activities you both enjoy. If you have a younger child, start thinking about shared activities you can do together and continue into the teen years. If you don’t have something yet, it’s perfectly fine to start trying out different things with your child. Who knows, they may have some great activity suggestions.

If you’re worried about your teen becoming secretive, or it seems as though they’re shutting down, here are some questions you can ask to help draw them back. 

These questions will help you get a better idea of how they’re doing overall. 

Now it’s worth saying: It can be a somewhat delicate balance remaining connected to your teen without seeming too “desperate” or intrusive. Because of this, sometimes it’s best to start with lighter more inconsequential questions, then work into the deeper ones. Teens can get very touchy when they feel like their parents are intruding, and can be quick to withdraw or become irritable. 

What are Some Questions That Help Draw Out a Withdrawn Child or Teen?

You know your child. If humor helps them let down their guard, use it. Again, don’t be too pushy, but also don’t be afraid to show that you care and are there for them. 

Some of these questions are geared toward creating a shared experience, a time for you and your teen to organically connect. The others help get a picture of how your teen is doing. Think of the easier ones as a warmup, a way to engage them in conversation.

  • It’s been a while since we’ve gone out to dinner. Is there any place in particular you’d like to go?
  • How have you been sleeping?
  • What’s the most stressful thing about school?
  • Is there anything that’s been bothering you?
  • I’ve been thinking about volunteering at the animal shelter once a week. Would you like to join me? 
  • How’s it going with your friends?
  • We haven’t bowled (or another activity your family enjoys) in a while. How about you invite a friend, and we go next week?
  • If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
  • It’s been a while since I was a teenager. What does it feel like? What are the best and worst parts of being a teen?

Teens are pretty sensitive to “forced” interaction, so allow your interaction to be as organic and authentic as possible. Don’t push them too much.

Be aware that any answer that indicates depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bullying, excessive stress, etc. are big indications your child will benefit from speaking with a therapist. 

Teens who are severely withdrawn or are exhibiting signs of anxiety, depression, an eating disorder or other mental health struggles need expert help. It can be tough as a parent to acknowledge that this isn’t something that’s within your scope to address, and in cases like this, your teen will benefit from seeing a therapist. 

If they balk at the idea of therapy, remember you’re still the parent. Your rules apply, and it’s important to enforce boundaries – which your teen will naturally bump up against and test from time to time. Boundaries equal safety. As much as your teen may complain, enforcing rules – like limits on screen time or enforcing a curfew – shows them you care about them, their safety, and their overall wellbeing. 

It’s also worth noting that kids and teens don’t have to be severely withdrawn or depressed to benefit from therapy – therapy is an extremely helpful tool that can set them up for success in the future. 

A therapist can help with things like stress management, navigating social challenges, dealing with feelings of shame, insecurity, and worthiness. Therapists can help bolster all of the important self-care and self-esteem emotional related aspects of life that have such an impact on our overall well being, which they (unfortunately) don’t teach in school. 

Our clinicians provide teen counseling in Roseville and Fair Oaks. Through establishing a trusting relationship, they are able to help kids and teens navigate the challenges, equipping them with the necessary tools and perspective.

Want to learn more? Feel free to reach out. We’ll be happy to hear from you, hear what’s going on, and share how we can help.

Begin Teen Therapy in the Sacramento Area:

If you’ve been concerned about your child’s mental health and behavior, then getting help from a compassionate teen therapist may be the support you’ve been looking for. We will be an ally for your teen and help them navigate the challenges of adolescence. To begin counseling in Fair Oaks, CA, Roseville, CA or online, follow these steps

  • Contact the Relationship Therapy Center and schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation to learn more about in-person or online teen therapy
  • Make an appointment for your teen to meet with one of our compassionate teen therapists
  • Get the support your teen needs to navigate adolescent challenges with confidence!

Other Counseling Services offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:

In addition to teen therapy, Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.