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Ask Dr. Zoe – My Teen Boy is Distant

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‘Mom of Three Boys’ Asked:

Hi there!

As a mom with three boys (12-year-old twins, 9-year-old), how do I deal with the tween separation that boys do without taking it personally? And allow them their space after being super close with them. They used to be so chatty and fun and now they are withdrawn, ‘hanging out with friends’ – which I know is normal but I take it personally…also looking for some advice on how to get them to do their chores without asking 100 times! Thanks for any help!! Xoxo

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Mom of Three Boys,

From one boy mom to another, I get you! It is so hard when your son starts distancing from you—especially a child that was previously very close. Our knee-jerk reaction is to take it personally. How can we not?

To all moms out there, listen up: our children are supposed to distance from us. This is a healthy development! One of the main tasks of motherhood is learning to let go constantly. The very second they are born, the cord is clamped, and they need us less. Our children become more and more autonomous until they are fully capable of living on their own, without us.

Just a little encouragement: they will always need you, just differently.

Recognize that they are not pushing away from you, but they are pushing their way into the world. You are doing a great job, and they are going to need you desperately in the coming teen years, even when they are convinced that they don’t. Imagine yourself as the lighthouse that anchors them and always gives them a point of reference as they try out their new independence. They will circle back, don’t worry.

Allow them their space by being curious and interested, but not pushing them to respond in a certain way. This is a great time to set up regular date nights individually with each child. This can be a gamechanger, especially when you have multiple kids. Date nights are for just enjoying each other’s company, connecting, and doing something your son enjoys. Don’t talk about serious issues unless he randomly brings them up.

Bonus: the best way to get them to do their chores without asking 100 times is to not asking more than once. Have a family meeting, make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the expectations of the chores, and then set immediate consequences for chores not being completed in the specified time frame. Don’t remind him. If the time period passes and the chores are not done, dole out the consequence, with no exception and no further discussion. They will get the point. If they know they can wait 99 times before you get serious, they’ll wait you out.

Raising pre-teens and teens is tough. Focus on the longevity of your relationship. This is just a season. Your relationship is for life. You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace!

Dr. Zoe


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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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