Q: I know it is to be
expected that a teenager will spend more time with friends than family. However, it seems our daughter is not
interested in being with us at all. She
is 18, and up until last year we all seemed to enjoy each other’s company and
always found time for each other. Now
the little time we do have together is spent on chore assignments, money
exchanges and brief conversations. Is
this the way it is? Am I just expecting
too much? The fact is we are all very busy
people and there are not enough hours in the day.
The last part
of your question, when you described the way you are spending time with your
daughter, may be a key here. It is human
nature to be drawn toward pleasure and pull away from pain.
You might reflect back over the events of this past year
and identify when you and your daughter started to enjoy each other’s company
What was happening at the time?
Was there an increase in conflicts and
arguments when you two got together? If
so, who was arguing or complaining?
What was going on between you and your
husband at that time? Sometimes if
parents are in conflict, children hear it or sense it and want to avoid the
You mentioned that the time you are
spending together now is brief and fairly unsatisfying. This may be the place to start. Consider planning pleasurable time with your
daughter and put the chore assignments and money exchange issues aside.
What kind of activities have the two of
you enjoyed in the past? Draw on those
past positive experiences and suggest getting together for these
activities. Ask for her preference. This can be a way to reverse the downward
spiral. (If you and your daughter have not had much positive contact for
several years then this approach probably would not work.)
You may find after renewing the fun and
pleasure in being with each other for shared activities that finding time with
each other becomes easier. This same
approach may be equally successful between your husband and daughter, depending
on the history of their relationship.
It is easy to fall into the habit of
getting busy and shortening exchanges with our children to brief questions,
answers, and assignments. Unfortunately,
if these brief “custodial contracts” are not balanced with relaxed time to
enjoy each other’s company, relationships tend to get fairly distant, boring,
Any good relationship requires an
investment of time and energy. Often,
there is an expectation that our family members will understand and love us no
matter what. They may love us, but
prefer to spend time with those who have more to offer. Fortunately, it sounds like, you and your
husband and your daughter have had a history of enjoying each other’s company,
which will probably make it easier to get back on track and open up
communication and enjoyment.