Throughout your child’s developmental years, you have had no problem with communicating with your son. It feels like just yesterday when you would pick him up from school and he would excitedly tell you all the colorful details of the ins and outs of his day. If you were willing to give him a listening ear, he’d talk for hours. He would tell you about his interests, the way he thinks, what he likes and doesn’t like, and he would ask questions about every little thing.
Sometimes the constant questions could get frustrating, even, but now you wish you could go back to that time. There will come a time when your 17-year-old son becomes very distant and you have no idea why.
When you ask about his day, you don’t get many details, and he often gets frustrated and shuts down when you pry for more.
It feels like you’re trying to gain access to this secret world that they’re carefully hiding away from you, but the more you push the matter, the further away they stray.
What are you supposed to do?
It starts to feel like you’re fighting a hopeless battle when your teenager becomes distant. You just want to know what’s going on or if something is wrong, but you also don’t want to push them further away from you than they already are.
If you were to push hard enough, they could become unreachable. So why are they doing this?
1. Kids will be kids.
While there are a lot of different reasons why your teenage son could be becoming distant from you, the answer could be really simple: he’s just behaving like a normal teenage boy.
When kids begin experiencing puberty, family dynamics may change. They are dealing with a cocktail of hormones that are, let’s be honest, making them miserable. As they grow into teenagers, they become more and more independent.
At seventeen years old, you can hold a job, drive a car, and you’re not too far off from being able to do practically everything else adults can do, too. It is not unheard of for boys at this stage to grow distant from their families as they become adults and develop their own “personal lives.”
2. Our teenagers don’t tell us everything, but they tell us when they need us.
As teens grow independent, they make choices that we may not agree with. They are experimenting with their world, which has increasingly fewer restrictions than it has their entire lives.
Think about it this way: your son has relied on you his entire life, and he is only now beginning to be able to be in the driver’s seat of his own life.
They may not get into our car after school and excitedly tell us about the geometry test that they took that day, and their lighthearted curiosities may have gone dark.
They’re seeing more of the adult world and their questions aren’t so positive or innocent anymore- leaving them unsure how to ask.
If we leave communication open and give our kids a loving, supportive, judgment-free environment, they will come to us when they need us. In the moments where our teens come to us, we see vulnerability and trust, and we should appreciate these moments.
There is a possibility that there is something else going on that you may need to know about, so it is encouraged to investigate as necessary.
You want to avoid becoming a drill sergeant for the sake of piecing together information about your child becoming aloof. However, if you believe you have reason to be concerned, your instincts could be correct.
3. They may be experimenting with alcohol or drugs.
If your 17-year-old son is very distant, they may be consuming drugs or alcohol.
At this age, it is common for teens to begin to experiment with these substances as it becomes more accessible to them at that age.
They could have a fake ID, an older friend, or a designated store that doesn’t card customers. It’s common for teens to get together to smoke a little pot or drink a couple of mixed drinks, but it could also become a more pressing issue.
If you believe your child is drinking regularly or may be struggling with substance abuse, you may want to seek professional counseling for your child. While some teens may experiment socially with friends, for teens with mental health issues such as depression, this could easily become an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Check-in with your teen and have open conversations with them about these topics. While you may not approve, keeping a non-judgmental tone can give you a better shot at your child opening up to you. They will be less likely to share if doing so comes with negative consequences.
4. About 20% of teens aged 12 to 18 struggle with mental health issues.
Your 17-year -old son becoming very distant might have to d with mental health issues.
Teenagers, believe it or not, are going through a lot. Between puberty, the stress of school, the stress of deciding between college or the workforce, and potentially bullying and issues at home, it can build up a ton of pressure.
Some teens are recovering from childhood trauma on top of these things. That can make for a lot of suffering. Society often teaches our young boys to be “men,” or at least the idea of a “man” that society has upheld.
This standard is simple: be tough, don’t cry, and when you feel an emotion, bury it deep. The worst thing you can do is let anyone know that you’re struggling.
Our boys are taught to “toughen up” to the point that they might not know how to properly communicate or manage their emotions. Your son putting a wall up could very well be their attempt at keeping the emotions blocked in.
Be on the lookout for the warning signs of depression or suicidal behavior. You never want to think that your child could be struggling so deeply, but it’s better to investigate and be wrong than to brush it off and find out later that they were crying out for help.
What should I do if my child is struggling?
If your child is suffering from mental health issues or struggling with substance abuse, you should get them help immediately!
Taking your child to a psychiatrist can help you determine any issues they may have if you aren’t already aware of them.
Something as simple as a diagnosis can help your teen recognize their symptoms and the way their mental disorder affects them, give them new ways to cope, and potentially medication that can make life easier for your teen.
Therapy can help your teen grow from their struggles and If necessary, there are centers that assist in recovering from substance abuse, such as well as hotlines and support groups.
There is even online therapy and other tools to help your teen understand what they are going through. Many teens need the help of a professional to make it through this difficult time.
If you have not bonded with your son in a while, try to come up with things you two can do that will be enjoyed together.
Watching a movie, going to a sporting event, or even going on a hike can be a great bonding activity both of you will have fun doing.
Exploring different activities will always spark an interest in both of you which will help you develop an unbreakable bond. This will lead him to not stay distant.
You need to do whatever it takes (without using force) to turn your 17-year-old son who is very distant into someone that can be open.
For more information about teen mental health, click here.
Final Thoughts – 17-year-old son is very distant
As parents, we want to protect our babies from every little thing. Watching them grow into teens and eventually, adults can be scary because this is the part where you just have to pray that you did your job as best as you could.
You put their diapers on, helped them with homework, and taught them how to drive. You’ve also made mistakes along the way. No parent is ever perfect, especially if it is their first go around.
At the end of the day, your teen being distant is not a sign of failure. Show your unwavering emotional support to your child, and they will always know that you will be there for them when they’re ready to open that line of communication.