What to do if your teenager starts pulling away

As a mother, I have always cherished the close bond I share with my daughter, Emma. Our relationship is built on trust, laughter and unwavering support. At first, her teenage years didn’t change our mother-daughter relationship but one day all of that changed.

We’ve always had an honest relationship. Emma often told me she felt lucky to have me as a mom and I felt the same way having her as a daughter. Of course, we had our share of disagreements but they weren’t big enough to drive a wedge between us.

Then, seemingly overnight, everything shifted. The daughter who used to confide in me about her friends, dreams and fears, became distant. Our once-heartfelt conversations turned into monosyllabic exchanges. I felt like a stranger in my own home. It wasn’t just the silence that hurt; it was the way she pushed me away. She used to seek my advice, but now she was dismissive of it. I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. Had I failed her as a mother?

One evening, after a particularly strained dinner, I decided it was time to confront the issue. I gently asked Emma if we could sit down and talk. We sat in the dimly lit living room, facing each other. My heart raced as I looked into her eyes, searching for any sign of the daughter I used to know. Then, in a trembling voice, I asked her what was going on.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she confessed that she was struggling with a lot of pressure from school, friends and her own expectations. She felt overwhelmed. Instead of turning to me, she shut me out because she didn’t want to burden me.

I realized then that my daughter was growing up, her way of coping with challenging times was changing and that meant that my parenting also had to change. I needed to adapt, to give her space when she needed it and to be there with open arms when she was ready to let me in.

We hugged, both of us crying, but it was a cathartic release of emotions we had been holding back. From that day on, I made a conscious effort to support Emma in her own way, not mine. We found new ways to connect, whether it was through shared hobbies, movie nights or just sitting quietly together. Our journey through the teenage years wasn’t easy but it taught me a valuable lesson about motherhood: even when our children pull away, our love and patience can help bridge the gap.

If you have a teenager acting out, here are some tips to help you through this stage of parenting. The lesson I learned with my daughter is that your mother-daughter bond can grow stronger and more resilient when you emerge from a challenging period together.

7 things to keep in mind when you have a teenager pulling away

Respect their space: Understand that teenagers often need space to grow and discover themselves. Give them room to breathe without feeling smothered. Encourage their growing independence and decision-making skills.

Listen actively: When your child opens up, listen attentively without judgment. Let her express her thoughts and feelings, even if you may not agree with them. Keep the lines of communication open.

Be patient: Recognize that pulling away is a normal part of adolescence. Be patient and understanding during this phase. Respect their boundaries but also look for new shared interests that can rebuild your bond.

Empathize and validate: Validate their emotions and experiences. Show empathy for theirr struggles, even if they seem trivial to you.

Offer support: Reassure your child that you’re there to support her no matter what. Remind her that she can turn to you for guidance and a shoulder to lean on. Send messages of affection and support to remind her of your bond.

Seek professional help if necessary: If you notice signs of severe emotional distress or harmful behavior, don’t hesitate to seek professional help or counseling for both of you.

Be a positive role model: Set a positive example through your own actions and communication. Model  healthy ways to navigate challenges.

Remember that every mother-daughter relationship is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor your actions to your child’s personality and needs, and stay patient and adapt as you navigate this phase of her life together.