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My son is 13 years old. His dad and I divorced when he was 3. Before that, I was a full time mom. After his dad left, I had to return to work and his dad moved away. When my son was 7, we moved close to his dad (where I grew up), then his dad moved to another state less than 2 years later and remarried. For the past 2 years, my son has been living with his dad and stepmom. While his dad and I can get along and talk when we have to, we do not see eye to eye on many things so it is difficult to discuss what is happening in my son's life on a meaningful level. My challenge is to get my son to open up to me about school and his friends so I can maintain a connection to what is going on in his life. He and I have a strong bond. I want to keep it strong, but he often gives me one word answers. If I ask "what did you do in school today?" he will say "I don't remember" or something equally vague. What suggestions do you have for maintaining a tight relationship with my son over a long distance?


Marsha Temlock Replied: I know it is difficult to keep things in perspective when you consider that you and your son have been separated because of your divorce. Adolescents, in general, tend to be very closed about school and friends. Parents are those "others" so try not to be too hard on yourself. Think about your son in terms of his developmental stage when teenagers are forming their own identity and are not that open to sharing. Eventually he will be more forthcoming -- especially when he gets to college. Keep the lines of communication open and show him you care for him. Marsha Temlock, M.A. Author: Your Child's Divorce ... What to Expect, What to Do (Impact Publishers, Inc.)
Posted On 2007-11-27 14:39:35
Joan MacMullen Replied: A survey of my eighth graders confirmed what my experience has shown - one word responses are a common method of communication of many teens, and not necessarily a sign that there is anything wrong with your relationship. There are, however, a few strategies that might help your son to open up and share more about his life with you. First, try to time your calls so that you don't catch him when he is rushing off to soccer practice, heading out to meet a friend, or immersed in a movie on TV. Ask if this is a good time to talk, or if he would like you to call back. Second, consider rephrasing some of your questions to encourage more elaborate responses. For example, "How was school today?" will most certainly be met with, "Fine." Instead, start by sharing something interesting that happened to you that day, and follow with "What is the most interesting( funniest, strangest, best, etc.) think that happened to you today? Third, make it a point to learn all about the things that interest your son. If he is reading the latest Harry Potter book, be sure to read it too. If he loves football, learn all about his favorite team, and follow the games. Your son is more likely to open up about subjects that interest him, and that's a good beginning. You might also try a long-distance board game. Each of you sets up a game board, and make moves during your phone times. My granddaughter in Florida loves to play Monopoly with me via phone. Our games last for weeks, and she is always ready to play when I call her. Long distance relationships require some patience and creativity, but they can lead to strong and loving bonds that overcome the challenge of too many miles.
Posted On 2007-09-08 11:23:04
Mark Viator Replied: The first step is to remain consistent with your attempts to discuss what is going on his life. Do not be discouraged by the "one word answers." Most adolescents seem to communicate like this, including my own 14 year old daughter. The key is keep it up. In my book, "The Power of the Parent", I tell parents to set up a time each day, or at least every other day, where you and your child simply have time to talk. This does not have to be a long time. It can be as little as 15 minutes, but the key is letting the child know that you are there. At first, it may seem awkard. There just may not be enough to talk about, but give it some time. Remember, you don't always have to be the one to ask questions. Give him a chance, if he wants to, to ask about your day or what you have been doing. Also, just give him an opportunity to talk what is important to him. It may not be school or even his friends. It may very different topics, like music or his hobbies. The main thing is to be there. Let him know that you want very much to remain one of the most important people in his life, and just because you are a long distance from each other, does not mean that you are not close. Set up a daily, or however possible, time to either talk on the phone, e-mail, or text message. Let him know that while he can always contact you whenever he needs, you also want this daily time. Trust me, over time he will truly learn to appreciate having you there for him. Good Luck.
Posted On 2007-09-06 16:54:49
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