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I share custody of my 14 year old and can go a few weeks without seeing him when he is staying with my ex. It is hard enough to get him to communicate when he is with me, but when he is staying at his other house, all I get is the odd ‘yes/no’ or grunted answer when I call. I am torn between wanting to give him his space and wanting to make sure that I am not missing anything in his life where he may need support. I know that in a few short years he will be an adult and I want to ensure that the lines of communication stay open. How do others handle this?


Posted anonymously, 1st March 2022


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  • This is a big teenage boy thing, I’m afraid. I think all you can do is keep calling, and eventually he may start talking. I’d also suggest the occasional text or email while he’s at his Dad’s. The different avenues might help him open up.


  • FaceTime him. Or text him.
    Or communicate via his favourite app.


  • Oh how it can be difficult to have a conversation with a teenager. I try, I ask different ways, I will throw in a few fun facts, or twist my words so it sounds, sort of funny, gets a laugh, and the chat sometimes than begins., but not always.


  • Keep asking till they get that annoyed they give you a good response, if not call them on phone.


  • My teenage daughter is not huge on actual phone conversations BUT she will text and text and text lol. I think she finds it easier to communicate that way and is much more open than if I try to force her to actually speak to someone. I guess so long as the communication line is open that’s the main thing so maybe try and be flexible and communicate in a way that works for him?


  • I can imagine it would be hard. It can be hard to communicate with teenage boys in any circumstance, but I have found that using channels they are using helps. I started getting more from my sons when I messaged on Snapchat for example rather than standard texts. Also I believe that continuing to show up and try makes a difference – they see you are there for them (even if they don’t always acknowledge it) and being open to listen to whatever they want to tell you, Show interest and be present. Its a long game but worth it – good luck


  • Have you tried video calls ? Not so long ago my 16yr old was stuck in the Netherlands with Covid, whilst the rest of us returned to Australia. We did a video call every night lasting over a hour and would have a meal or cook a meal during the video call, do a game of chess during the call etc. You could walk your dog whilst chatting about or even both be at the gym or doing exercises at home.


  • Is there something you can do to make the phone calls fun/silly? More often than not, teens may prefer to keep to themselves and mostly interact with their friends. Think back to when you were a young teen. What kind of things were you doing? Who did you engage with? Put yourself in their shoes. All the best ????


  • p.s. I also think with boys you want to make sure that you don’t come across as wanting to “support” in a way that would stifle independence. Your best support might be to let him go, stand and watch and accept he is finding his own way, and sometimes this will be without you as I’ve found with my girls. They don’t like any hint of being told what to do, or prying into what’s going on when it really doesn’t concern you! But I’m not sure what boys need.


  • It would be asking a lot to get a sensible conversation on demand in our house, over the phone or not. Those conversations tend to happen when they are happy, relaxed, have been indulged with whatever their psychological state needs (think time just hanging with them or lots of silliness/pranking/plain fun). Once they have ‘connected’ in their way they are much more likely to make an effort and connect in my way (ie talking sensibly, maybe over the phone). I’d suggest keep on going, and don’t underestimate the importance of ‘meaningless’ exchanges (think a stupid afternoon snap on Snapchat of your shoes or a pointless cat/dog video on instagram or forward something funny from tik tok). If nothing else it’s a conversation starter .. did you get my snap of the neighbours silly cat? And then they can say how stupid it was mum and have a go at what awful snaps (ro whatever) you send, and you will both laugh, and then over time, I think you will connect the way you want (and the way your son wants deep down).


  • I think there are two things going on.
    1. technology has changed the way we communicate so kids don’t necessarily know how to talk on the phone, because its not a skill that we as parents have taught them to do. When we were young we were taught how to use and answer a phone, shared by the whole family, however these days we all have our own phones and so these simply forms of etiquette are somewhat lost.
    2. Teens are teens and are hard to communicate with, instead of asking him to communicate in a way that best suits you, perhaps try the ways he might prefer to communicate. Send messages on snapchat (If he is allowed to use it) or SMS. Send funny tiktoks/meme’s/youtube clips to him that he might enjoy and that you can laugh about together.

    Don’t stop asking those important questions, how was your day? what have you been up to? etc etc. While the grunting can be hard to hear, teens still need to know that you care and are interested in their lives.

    When you are together, make time to spend with him eg dinner at McDonalds, playing a video game together, or doing some other activity that he may enjoy. Sometimes the process of doing things together encourages teens to open up because the conversation flows more freely through because the focus is on something else and not squarely on the conversation itself.

    Finally, boys are notorious for opening up, right on bedtime. So when you say goodnight, this is often a good time to ask how their day was, are they ok, how was school etc. It is amazing how much boys like to chat when they are in bed and feeling safe and secure.

    I bet you are doing a great job mumma bear.


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