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Uncommunicative Teen Is in a ‘Too Serious’ Relationship with a Girl

Question:

I'm a divorced dad with a son whom I don't get to see very often. Unfortunately, when I do see him, I find it hard to communicate with him, getting one-word answers. He has a girlfriend he is with all the time. His mom is okay with the relationship, but for 16-year-olds, I think they are way too close. Is there anything I can do?

Answer:

Parenting is tough enough as it is, and when you only do it part-time, it can be that much more difficult.

As for getting only one-word answers from your son, it may help to re-phrase your questions so he has to use more than one word to answer.  Also, try to identify some topics he is interested in; this may help him to open up and be an active participant in your conversations.

The girlfriend thing may present more of a challenge. Perhaps you could plan activities for just you and your son, maybe something that requires tickets, so if you buy only two, the girlfriend wouldn’t be able to go. The other option might be to get to know this girl and include her in your plans. Observe how she and your son interact with one another. Perhaps she brings out the best in him. A girlfriend can be a great positive motivator to get a 16-year-old boy to complete his homework right away, take care of his personal hygiene and show off his social skills in front of her.

And before things get too involved, you should have or revisit “the talk” with your son so he understands the negative consequences — including pregnancy — of being sexually active.

If you get more comfortable with your son’s relationship with his girlfriend, you could use this as a way to improve the communication between you and him. Start by asking about his girl — where he met her, what her family is like, what her parents do for a living or whether she is into sports or other activities. You know she is on his mind already, so get him to talk about her. Think back to when you were 16 and share a story about a girl you liked or about fun things you did with your friends. Kids learn a lot about their parents through the stories their parents share. Better yet, if you learned a worthwhile lesson from one of your teenage experiences, share that with your son, too.

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