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ASK MERRILY/Relationship with Teenage Son

Merrily Preston
By Merrily Preston
Posted on Mar 22,2010
Filed Under Personal Development , Opinions,

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - My teenage son thinks that I am an ogre, an enemy.  No matter what I say to him or how I say it, I antagonize him.  I know I have made lots of mistakes as a mother, but I try.  He is doing poorly in high school, and behavior is becoming a problem.  My mother died recently at a relatively young age.  As I grieve for her, I realize there is only so much time to heal my relationship with my son.  Everyone says it will get better in a few years, but I want a relationship with him now.  I don’t know what to do.  

Dear Now,

Estrangement in relationship takes time to create, and it takes time to heal.  Both persons must want to resolve the issues between them.  The loss of your mother has made it clear to you how important the relationship with your son really is.  But, he may not have had this epiphany yet.

Have you stayed at a safe distance as you extended your hand to befriend a strange cat or dog, letting the animal come to you?  Or moved toward it too quickly so that it withdrew?  With your son, your approach will need to be just as non-threatening and as accepting until he is ready to respond.  

All mothers make lots of mistakes, just as you have.  And all mothers do many things right, just as you have.  

Consider these options:
You might share your honest feelings of sadness in losing your mother.  Mention to him that you really miss her, and ask if he misses her too.  After all, he has lost a grandmother.  

Begin to listen to him as you would to an interesting, new friend.  You will have to become an excellent listener to create a space where he feels safe to let his guard down and to share honestly with you.  Read my column, “How Do I Talk to My Teenager?” which addresses listening skills.

Enlist a professional to teach you and your son how to communicate with each other.  You will see the relationship begin to turn a corner when you can listen to him with your heart. 

Merrily Preston is an Intentional Life Facilitator, who lives in Woodbridge. Her column is exclusive to Local Kicks. Email questions to, or use online form at

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