Ask the Experts

Q: Why Is My Loving Son So Distant and Cold in Public?

Drop me at the corner. Walk behind me at the mall. Don’t talk to my friends! Most parents of teens know the pain of a child exerting his independence in not-always-kind ways. But why does it happen in public with a child who is ususally connected at home?

Reviewed on May 10, 2019

Q: “In public, my kid seems embarrassed to be with me. At home, he is affectionate beyond measure. It’s quite hurtful. Any thoughts?” — Alolo


Dear Alolo:

Your question really resonated with me. It was not too long ago my son was your son’s age and he wanted nothing to do with me in public. He’s in college now and trust me when I tell you he has done a complete 180!

I have one clarifying question for you to think about before I dive in: Is he mean or nasty or exhibiting inappropriate behavior toward you? If the answer is no and he just wants to put some “distance” between you and him, then… let him.

Your son’s behavior toward you is completely normal and appropriate and healthy! On one hand, he wants to exert his independence — break his ties from you so he can learn to stand on his own in the outside world. But at home, where he feels safe and secure, it sounds like he needs to feel in touch and tethered. If you really think about it, don’t we all act that way? Even as adults?

So my short answer is: Give him space wherever and whenever he needs it. And pat yourself on the back for raising a young man who feels comfortable to test his wings and fly on his own, but come back to the nest when needed.

[The ADHD Library for Parents]


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