“My son is very closemouthed about his new girlfriend.”
Dear Annie,My 14 year old son son he's been like different kid since he fell in love -- and not in a good way! He won't talk to us about his girlfriend. His friends tell me that they are as much in the dark as we are. He doesn't hang out with them anymore and shows no interest in anything, except speaking to this girl on the phone. We are not against his dating, and we'd love to meet her, but he refuses, saying that her parents would freak out if they knew about him.
The other problem is that he's up 'til all hours talking on the phone to her. I'm talking middle of the night on a school night! We took his cell phone away at night but, he snuck it back and we caught him in the backyard, talking to her at 2 in the morning. So he's lost his cell phone totally. Then I got the bill for my cell and it was $500! (He snuck it out of my purse to call her.)
My husband and I know he needs some balance in his life (not to mention more sleep so he can function in school). I've told him if he can't figure out how to have this relationship and balance the rest of his life that we're going to call the girl's mother and talk about it with her. My son went nuts when I said that. He said "You'll f___ up everything."
We need a plan.
Dear Helpless Mom,
The fact that your son is going behind your back to have these phone conversations and refuses to tell you anything about this girlfriend is a huge red flag in my mind. He's obviously hiding something. Is there something about the girl that he assumes you will find objectionable? She appears to be hiding something from her parents too. And why might that be the case? Is she forbidden from having a boyfriend and therefore she can only talk to your son when everyone else is asleep?
You can only guess what's going on and you shouldn't have to continue guessing. The choices your son is making are not rational and he needs your help in getting his life back in balance. His well-being is your responsible.
A family meeting is absolutely in order -- as soon as possible.
Here are my guidelines for a family meeting:
- Don't try to talk when you are fuming. Set up a time to talk when everyone involved is relatively calm.
- Agree to listen to each other without interrupting, judging, or analyzing. (Lay out this ground rule first. Then make sure it is adhered to. When it is the speaker's turn, no interrupting means no interrupting).
- Use "I feel" statements when you talk rather than blaming each other. (Avoid those "You always..." and "You never...." statements. They are verbal attacks. When people hear them they get stressed and defensive. So, just stick with your feelings and concerns.)
- Don't assume anything. You don't know what he'll say and he doesn't know what you'll say. You both deserve respect when you speak.
You can also check out the Conflict Resolution Toolkit I've written up (for teens, though they work for parents too)
Bottom line, you need to get to the bottom of this now and to let your son know that there can't be any "secret" relationships in your family. Tell him also that you won't participate in keeping secrets from other parents (i.e., the girl's parents). Also, your son needs to understand that there are consequences for irresponsible choices (paying back the money he owes, breaking agreements, damaging trust, ignoring his need for sleep).
I hope this helps.
Write back any time. I'm here if you need me.