I am a single mother of a 15-year-old son. He never leaves the house to see friends or go places with me. He just wants to play video games all day on the computer. He does little chores seeing how my house is rarely messy. I want to reconnect with him but not to sure how anymore. Can you help?
From: Victoria, Garden Grove, CA
A 15-year-old boy who is so immersed in video games that he doesn't see friends or literally doesn't leave the house? Among the things to worry about, in no particular order: depression, addiction, obsession in or with an unhealthy or violent on-line world.
Your first job is to plot this out, literally, on a time line. How long has this been going on? Was there a precipitating event, like a separation, divorce, death? What happened in school last year? Was he engaged in it or just going through the motions? Did teachers report trouble, withdrawal? Did he have a summer job? Did he have friends once upon a time? What happened? What are they into? Talk to some of their parents. Did he never really have friends? Has he always been a loner?
Your second job is to find some way to get him to engage with you. Start with a conversation but be careful to make "I" statements, not "you" statements. Not, "You spend too much time in your room, you don't get exercise, you don't have friends." Instead: "I'm looking for a way for us to do something together. I miss talking to you. I miss......" Even: "I see you resisting me -- not even wanting to talk to me -- I'm worried."
Try to engage around the computer without making judgments: "I'd like to know more about what you do on the computer. Show me some of the sites you like. Show me what captivates you."
Make some new ground rules. Start with something simple like, "I want us to eat one meal together a day." "I want us to walk a mile together every night at 7 p.m."
Gather as much information as you can, but my hunch is that you want some professional help here. Check out the articles I linked to, above, for suggestions.
I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
The author is solely responsible for the content.