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About Practical Parenting Strategies with Dr. Heller

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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When Your Teenager Doesn’t Want to Spend Time with You

Dr. Carey Heller: Clinical Psychologist and founding partner of The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Carey Heller: Clinical Psychologist and founding partner of The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

As children grow older, they usually develop greater independence and when they begin adolescence, often want to spend increased time with similar aged peers.

This is pretty common and normal developmentally for the most part. However, for parents that want to spend time with their adolescents, it can be frustrating when they always want to spend time with their friends instead of you or other family members.

Here are a few strategies to assist you in being able to spend more quality time with your teenager:

1) Talk to them about it. Some adolescents have no idea that their parents want to spend time with them or are unaware that their parents are bothered that they spend so much time with friends.  Opening the dialogue about feelings related to time together can be very useful.

2) Collaboratively determine times each week that will be spent together. Setting aside time together each week works best when you and your adolescent can collaboratively develop and agree to specific times. However, in cases where adolescents refuse to cooperate, you may need to dictate certain allotted times. Dinner on Sunday, dinner on two specific weeknights, family game night on Wednesday nights, and brunch with parents and grandparents on Sunday mornings are a few examples of activities/times that can be set aside for family time.

3) When determining times to reserve for family time, be cognizant of your own obligations/interests as well as your adolescent’s.  For example, if you often go out with your significant other with friends on Saturday nights, don’t reserve this time to spend with your adolescent since you often won’t be able to hold up your end of the bargain with being available then. If your adolescent usually wants to go out on Friday or Saturday nights with their friends, consider letting them spend one night with their friends and the other weekend night with you. Or, insist your adolescent has dinner with you one weekend night each week, but is then allowed to go out with their friends afterwards.

4) Find activities that your adolescent is interested in doing with you. If adolescents are forced to spend time with their parents and are engaged in activities that they dislike, it will be less helpful in continuing to foster the child-parent bond. If your adolescent likes golf, consider designating time every other Sunday to play golf with them. If they like sports, take them to a baseball game every other Sunday during baseball season or watch sports with them on television.

Spending time with adolescents is important because it helps maintain the parent-child relationship and eases the transition into an adult child-parent relationship. While quality time together is important, significantly restricting your adolescent’s ability to spend time with peers can also have a negative impact. Thus, finding a balance that works for you and your adolescent is important.

I hope these strategies are helpful!

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is the author of the blog Practical Parenting Strategies. He is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Heller specializes in the evaluation and treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), executive function challenges, learning disabilities, and co-occurring issues such as anxiety. With treatment, he often blends traditional psychotherapy with practical coaching to help individuals improve time management, organizational, and related study skills as relevant.


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