It’s more than often quite difficult for parents to understand why their children love spending time in their own room and do not like eating with their family. It is all the more baffling during adolescent years when the child begins to have a sense of her own space while most confused parents end up assuming that their children are just not interested at home or do not like their family.
To begin with, as parents, let us not delve into any kind of assumptions about our children. And let’s not take their behavior personally and turn it into an ego clash.
You child is growing up.
She’s meeting new people and making new friends. She is observing things around her, developing interests and preferences. She is beginning to grow a sense of an identity and individuality. Do not hamper that. Let her do what she likes by herself. This, on the other hand, doesn’t mean that you do not make an effort to involve yourself in her life.
Try a few things differently than you do every day.
Instead of asking her to come sit with the family for every meal, how about all of you have food with her in her room? Take a good care of her health by using right equipment like bottles for colic. Of course, this also includes asking her before you do so. But for a growing child, when put forth as a request, not only teaches her polite behavior and respect towards personal and individual space, it also means that you just took a small successful step into her life as a friend. To accommodate and adjust for her needs in different ways and communicating that to her would also be an expression of empathy, a quality that crucially needs to be taught to growing children.
Her disengagement from the family may not be a purposeful intent of rude behavior to come at you. Your child may be very different as a person than you are. While you may be active and extroverted, your child may be introverted. She may also have her differences with you about a lot of things. Her disengagement may also hint towards her effort to avoid arguments with her parents or just to keep to herself.
Make an attempt to interact with her, where you do not impose your views on her, but try and understand where she’s coming from. She could be conflicted about a lot of issues like her sexuality, her experiences, her opinions, ideological inclinations, choices she makes, or about her body, her self-image etc.
A growing child also passes through multiple stages of insecurity. As a parent, listening is the most important job here. What is essential here, is that you communicate to your child that she has a say in what happens in the house. That she is a member and that her opinion is also important.
Make space for discussions where you can teach your child to agree to disagree and debate. Let her know that it’s good to have an opinion that is rational and factually based and that she can have an opinion about what happens in the house.
Understanding why she chooses to isolate herself is primarily the most important task at hand. Growing children are prone to depression and anxiety, as much as adults are. There are too many stress triggers from peer pressure to exams to social media to building relationships, difficult friendships, the list is unending!
Observe her pattern of disengagement. When does she pull back? Is it during the meals or when people visit? Is she avoiding someone is particular or does she dislike close physical proximity with any particular person? Does she not like it when you as a parent land up being too interfering or interrogative in nature?
Become their friend
Often, more than we like to admit, our children may have experienced some sort of sexual abuse. Our mere physical presence is no good. Our presence alone does not ensure their safety. Sometimes the abuser is one within the family and friend circle and your child finds it extremely difficult to tell you that because you may likely not believe her. Teach your children that they can trust you and that you too trust them. Difficult experiences may often force children to pull back from socializing.
You need to become their friend even when they don’t want to come out of their nutshell. The fact that you’re willing to stand by them and that learn to understand that, is the secret to building a healthy parent-child relationship.