Posted: Friday, September 5, 2008 9:17 pm
Dear Annie: Please help me understand my 15-year-old child. We’ve always had a great mother-son relationship, and my husband and I did everything possible to give him a good education, spend time with him, read to him, play with him and love him to no end.
Now he hardly speaks to us. He’s still a good boy, pleasant, fun, incredibly smart and dedicated to all his activities and school. But I feel terribly sad suddenly knowing nothing about his life. I know he is having problems with his girlfriend. I could really help him understand women, but he wants nothing from us.
I know this is normal at his age, but will he ever again feel his parents have something to offer other than feeding him and putting him through college? I know things will never be the same, but is this something I just have to live with? Is there something I can do so he will value my opinions and listen to what I have to say? — Sad Mom in Kansas
Dear Kansas: Don’t panic. Your son is going through a perfectly natural and healthy stage of separating from his parents so he can become independent. As much as it hurts you, this is a good sign. Will he ever value your opinions again? You bet.
Don’t lecture or badger him with questions, but make sure he knows you’re always available to listen. Just before bed is often a good time. Your comments should be matter-of-fact, honest and not overly emotional. (“I miss that you don’t confide in me anymore, but if you ever want to, I’ll listen.”) Use your sense of humor a lot. (“Blow up anything in chemistry today?”) Don’t be afraid to discipline him. He needs to know you care enough to set limits. Watch for changes in behavior, grades and friends (these years can include risky activities such as drugs and alcohol). And remind him often that you love him, no matter what.
Dear Annie: When is the right time to give my granddaughter a piece of jewelry that I had made for her? I took precious stones that belonged to her great-grandmother, her great-great-grandmother and me, and put them into a special piece as a remembrance.
She is now 16 years old, and I am hesitant to give it to her. When do you think she’ll be responsible enough? — Grandma Kate
Dear Kate: Some 16-year-old girls would take good care of such a piece. Others would lose it in a day. If you don’t think your granddaughter is responsible yet, you can present it to her for her 18th birthday or as a graduation gift, or if you think that’s too soon, save it for when she is 21 or finishes college. You could leave it to her in your will, but if she’s going to get the piece sooner or later, it would be nice for you to enjoy her reaction.
Dear Annie: “Shell Shocked” was reeling from his wife leaving him abruptly after 25 years and he didn’t know why.
Here’s a possibility: Men and women mature differently. In their 20s, women don’t have a lot of self-confidence and are conditioned to crave security. Young men are at their most “risk-taking,” and that makes them appear confident and exciting.
By our mid-30s, we have flipped positions. Women have developed the self-confidence that comes with raising children and handling emergencies. When the kids are teens, we want to explore what we’ve missed out on. We want to travel, take dance lessons, go back to school or start a new career. Men, however, have had a drop in testosterone and settled into a comfortable routine. A husband often resists efforts to do anything new or different. He may be a good man, but he doesn’t want to get out of the recliner.
Couples that don’t grow together simply die together. — Armchair Psychologist in Orlando, Fla.
Dear Orlando: We still think this is basically a communication problem, but you’ve made some excellent points. Thanks for weighing in.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 9.5.08