When Your Teen Feels So Far Away… Here’s How to Bring Them Closer

It can be heartbreaking when they pull away, but take comfort, it's so very normal

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: When Your Teen Feels So Far Away, HereI’s How to Bring Them Closer

My middle daughter was my clingy child from the get-go. From the time she was born, she wanted to be by my side every minute of the day.

As a toddler, she was always clinging to my leg when we were out and about. She didn’t want to leave my side when it was time to start kindergarten and even throughout early middle school, when she wasn’t hanging out with friends, she was hanging with me.

If I went to the grocery store, she wanted to come. If I had to run a quick errand, she begged to come, too. I loved it, but man… there were times I desperately needed a mom break.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to go back to those days now…

Without warning, she pulled away. The harder I tried to connect, the more she seemed to pull away. The more I asked her to go places with me, the more I got a “Nah…thanks. I’m gonna hang out with my friends,” or a “Thanks, but I’m gonna hang out in my room and listen to music” response.

There was no question that she loved me. That was a given. But something snapped inside of her and she suddenly decided it was time to become independent of me. She still came to me for advice on occasion and told me about her day (when I dragged it out of her), but it was nothing like before.

She was a teenager now… and I had to accept that things were different.

If your once, “I love hanging out with you” child has suddenly turned rather aloof, standoffish, and, well… seems like they “tolerate” you rather than truly “love” you… take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. When your teen feels so far away, give these tips a try to bring them closer to you. 

When Your Teen Feels So Far Away… Here’s How to Bring Them Closer


First, Recognize that Your Teen’s Desire to Pull Away is Normal

According to Empowering Teens, the teen years mark the true start of independence and identity outside the family. Your teen might want to spend more time in their rooms. They might gravitate to their friends and think their friends understand them far better than you do. They might even push you away.

Don’t take this change personally. It’s how your teen is learning to adult. Psychologists call it individuation and, although painful for us parents, it’s a totally normal and healthy process of growing up.

Redefine Your View of  “Hanging Out”

You have an independence-seeking, “I want to do things on my terms,” teenager on your hands now. Where they once didn’t have a problem in the world hanging out with you for hours at a stretch, your teen might only want to hang out for an hour while you run an errand together. They might want to dart out for thirty minutes to grab a Starbucks. Or, they might come to you late at night (when they suddenly get a burst of energy) and want to chat for thirty minutes or an hour while you desperately try to keep your eyes open. 

With teenagers, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Make the time that you DO have with them count. Even though you might walk away wishing you could’ve squeezed out more time with them, you’ll be filling their “love bucket” to the brim by giving them the one-on-one time they need at this time in their lives. (Make sure you tell them how much you LOVE them and hanging out with them… they need to hear it!)

Take Advantage of Downtime

When you’re in the car driving them to school or practice, when they’re in the kitchen making a grilled cheese sandwich, when you’re at the dinner table, or when your teen gets the munchies at midnight — take advantage of those golden moments to enjoy quality time with them. Strike up a conversation about school, their sport, how their friends are doing, or how their job is going. If you’re stumped on getting the conversation rolling, check out this list of conversation starters!

Not only do these brief moments hold the power to connect you, your teen might be far more likely to open up and share their life with you if there isn’t direct eye contact. (Just a heads up, if you use these casual “downtime” moments to pound them with questions or touch on heavy subjects, they’ll be far more likely to shut down, so try to keep these moments lighthearted and fun.)

Love What THEY Love

Does your son love Fortnite, Minecraft, or another video game? Talk about it with him. Is your daughter obsessing over a Netflix series she can’t get enough of? Watch it with her. Does your son or daughter love Mexican food more than life itself? Take them out to that local Mexican restaurant for chips and salsa.

You get the idea… just love what they love. Take interest in what interests them. Let them know you care enough to stop what you’re doing and really step into their world. Meet them where THEY’RE at.

Start a Ritual (or Two)

One of my daughter’s favorite things to do was go thrifting. To carve out quality time with her, we started a ritual where we tried to hit one or two stores every Saturday morning. (Not every Saturday, of course… there were times we couldn’t squeeze it into our schedule.) We’d grab a coffee on the way and we’d spend an hour or two just hanging out. Sometimes, we barely talked, but that was OKAY. We were together.

It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go, find something your teen loves to do and put it on the calendar every week {if possible). Make dinner together, go hiking or take a long walk on a Saturday morning, check out local festivals, train for a marathon together, visit animal shelters, go to an amusement park once a month – anything that gives you special time with them.

Find Little Ways to Say “I Love You” 

When our kids were young, they relished spending time with us, big hugs, and laying in bed at night while we read them a story until they fell asleep. Umm, yeah… things have changed just a bit! Now we’re lucky if we get a hug every now and then and grab 20 minutes with them before they dash out the door. We have to get creative about how we show them our love. 

Make your son or daughter their favorite snack, pick your daughter up a new nail polish at the drug store, buy your son a new hoodie he’s been wanting, or take some pressure off of them by helping them pick up their room or doing their laundry for them. Every single idea here shows your love in little ways without being too overbearing in their lives. Dive into your teen’s love language!

Check out this post, too! 51 Everyday Ways to Love Your Teen (Especially if They’re Not Big on Hugs)

Skip the “Serious” and Laugh a Little

It’s easy to find ourselves connecting with our kids in mostly negative ways – constantly reminding, nagging, correcting, and disciplining. In fact, all this “heavy” talk can actually push our kids away if we’re not careful.

Sure, we need to have those serious conversations with our kids. And yes, we’re all going to lecture or nag on occasion (we’re human). But if we can keep all that on the backburner occasionally and just BE with our kids, we’ll be doing them and ourselves a huge favor AND making it far easier to connect with them. 

Send them silly texts or memes, watch funny TikTok videos together, share a funny story you heard, take them to an amusement or waterpark, watch a funny movie together, or just find humor in everyday life – find ways to laugh with your teen! They have enough “serious” in their life.

When kids hit their teen years, they essentially re-negotiate their relationship with their parents. Don’t take your teen’s offishness personally. Don’t fret that you’re doing something wrong.

This is an important, necessary, and normal part of their development. Instead, sneak in ways to connect… no matter how brief, no matter what you do or where you go. Just grab those precious moments when and where you can. 

If you enjoyed reading, “When Your Teen Feels So Far Away.. Here’s How to Bring Them Closer,” check out these other posts!

Bond with Your Teenage Daughter: 50+ Ways to Connect

101 Fun Mother-Teen Son Bonding Ideas

The 5 Powerful Love Languages of Teenagers

Why Not Join Us?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
RAISING TEENS TODAY is a resource and safe zone for parents to share the joys, challenges, triumphs and frustrations of raising our oh, so imperfect (but totally awesome) teens. PLUS, sign up and you'll receive my FREE e-Book "Scoring Scholarships!"

You may also like


mr kidnapper July 13, 2023 - 5:40 am

very helpful guide

Helen August 9, 2023 - 9:30 pm

My daughter , 14, won’t let me hug her. I try to steal them but she shoulder-blocks me. She, at times, has plenty of hugs for Daddy, but I have to go without. I miss holding her so much.

Nancy Reynolds August 14, 2023 - 5:44 pm

Oh… that’s SO common… especially with 14-year-olds. Just slip in those hugs when and where you can and find other ways to stay close to your girl. Take her out to lunch, make a midnight snack together, watch a movie together or grab a few minutes when you’re driving her somewhere in the car. Just remember, this won’t last forever. She’ll come back around. Just give her time. In the meantime, take these normal shifts in her behavior in stride. Hang in there, mom. xo


Leave a Comment