A mom was lamenting to me about her 13 year old son. He used to be such a nice kid – totally respectable and responsible, and extremely trustworthy. But things changed in the last year. His parents got divorced, surely a huge shock to his world. And with the divorce came a lot of changes. Both of his parents moved into new relationships, and suddenly he was spending his time at both houses, breaking up his own free time into two equal parts. He won’t talk about what he’s feeling, and seems to be acting like he’s fine with all of it. But my friend is confused now by what seems to be either teenage angst, or results from her and her husband’s divorce.
This kid, we’ll call him Steven, has suddenly become more withdrawn. He answers his mom in a series of grunts, or even blatantly ignores her. He doesn’t want to spend as much time with her. And he has become more secretive. She doesn’t suspect drugs or anything like that, but she has noticed addicting behavior with his game system and his computer. Steven will stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning playing his video games, chatting it up with people all around the world. She had no idea this was going on until she caught him. She ended up taking the game system away for a week and removing the power cord to the computer from his room. Steven retaliated by sneaking the laptop out of his mom’s room at night while she was sleeping. When he was caught, the games were taken away until the end of summer. After a weekend away at his dad’s house, she tucked him into bed and then turned the modem off in her room to curb any internet temptations from him. But at 1 in the morning, she caught him once again sneaking in her room to turn the internet back on. Apparently he had already found a power cord to replace the one she took, and admitted without remorse that this had been going on for awhile.
Frankly, she’s at a loss. She could keep punishing him for his sneakiness, but it’s obviously not working. And she’s hesitant to overly punish him for this when a)there might be a bigger issue at hand and b)this is hardly about the electronics but more about trust. She’s frustrated because he’s not listening at all and has made it pretty clear that he is going to do whatever he wants. And he just doesn’t seem to care. She is afraid that the behavior is only going to get worse, and fearful that it might result into bigger issues if it can’t be curbed now.
Is this just a case of being a teenager, or does it seem that his behavior is a result of the rocky year he’s just experienced? What should Steven’s mother (and father) do? How should they handle this? What is your take on the situation, and how can one help a teenager understand the importance of trust?
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