The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 050 · Duration: 00:09:55
Celebrating 50 episodes of the Healthy Family Connections Podcast!
Thank you to all my listeners for joining me on my podcast.
I hope you find the topics we discuss of value and are able to apply the principles, ideas, and solutions to your own family. I love being able to answer your questions each week. Don’t forget, if you ever have a question about parenting your teen, you can always submit it here and I’ll discuss it on a future episode.
Will My Teenager Be A Successful Adult?
It’s easy to let our concerns about our teenagers turn into visions of life failure. This week we’re answering a question from Don of Denver CO.
My 13 year old son has been diagnosed as having high functioning autism spectrum disorder. He has a hard time making friends because he interrupts and changes the subject on kids who think he’s weird. Kids avoid him and will call him names, which is really hurtful to him. He plays video games a lot and he does have friends he plays his video games with, so I don’t want to take that away from him. But I’m worried that he won’t learn social skills if he doesn’t make in person friendships. It seems like he’s always in a bad mood because of the way kids treat him. He does his school work reasonably well, but I can’t get him to do anything else around the house or with his older sister or us. It seems like we either fight or leave him alone. I only see this getting worse and I’m worried he’ll be a hermit. What can I do?
Thanks for your question Don, you’ve raised several important issues so let’s get started.
High functioning autism means that your son has difficulty reading and responding appropriately to social cues. Therefore adolescence, where young teens are first learning to manage their social relationships can be a very challenging time for these kids. A lot of high functioning autistic kids really enjoy the computer. Often that’s right there in the middle of the sweet spot of their strengths. So that’s where they can excel and feel comfortable. So it’s good that he has that.
What’s less good is that you report that you and he fight about him needing to do other things other than the computer, and that you either give in or fight. Don, we need a third option here because what you’re describing is a parent-teen control battle and Control Battles lead to Parental Burnout and will grind adolescent development to a halt. And we certainly don’t want that.
Create a Healthy Vision
Don, you’re right on two counts: it’s great that your son has computer games that he can enjoy and excel at and it’s important for him to have in-person social time as well, even though that’s hard for him.
And when you’re in the Control Battle such as you are, it’s easy to lose faith in your teenager and end up with a vision of them doing very poorly in life. In your case, you envision your son being a hermit. That’s terrible and we don’t want that for your son and we don’t want that vision in your mind.
Step one is to create a healthy vision of your son. You know his strengths better than I do, but it sounds like he’s essentially responsible. He does his school-work relatively independently and he has computer skills, or at the very least gaming skills. I’m sure he has plenty of other skills as well. He might be extremely mechanically gifted or gifted in art, music, science, math, or more. We need to keep this in mind and realize that there’s plenty of opportunity for him to develop those skills and bring them into the world and into his adulthood. So Don, your vision needs to be of your son bringing his talents successfully into his adulthood.Envision your child bringing his or her unique talents successfully into adulthood.Click To Tweet
Now let’s use your positive vision to support you in being less worried and more effective. Your positive vision will allow you to have a positive tone with your son. You can show interest in whatever he’s interested in. So if he’s into his video games, you can watch and admire him play. Have him show you some things and explain some things. Let him be the expert and you learner.
Getting Your Teen Socially Involved
Next, talk with him about getting involved in some activities. I understand he’s not going to like the idea, but that’s going to need to be a requirement. If he’s going to want to have computer time, which he does, he’s going to need to select a healthy social activity to join. It could be an activity within your religious organization, or the school or any other youth organization. And of course he is going to need to be physically active because kids need to be physically active. Using your leadership and your positivity and your patience, you can let him know that if he’s going to continue on the computer that he’s going to have to find some social activity to join. You’ll need to help him create some options by looking around, but he’ll need to choose something.
You don’t need to fight, you just need to be patient once you’ve established this and be willing to turn off Wi-Fi if he doesn’t cooperate, not with anger but with resolve. In this way, you will be worrying less and being effective more. Your son needs your help here, so even though he’s going to be upset, you still need to do the right thing. Now you are a establishing you’re benevolent moral authority. You are out of the control battle and both he and you can move forward. It will be good to let the leader of the activity he joins know that he’ll need social support and help integrating with the group.
Your son could also benefit from a social support group for differently wired kids. Many communities have therapists with this specialty, so ask around. Autism spectrum kids are often extremely bright and creative and with a little help, can learn basic social skills that will serve them well and allow them to develop their strengths. He’s only 13 and is just starting his adolescent journey, so he’s got plenty of time to learn and grow his social skill and some social confidence.Autism spectrum kids are often extremely bright and creative and can learn basic social skills that will develop their strengths. Click To Tweet
So listeners, let’s all learn from Don. Don’s son is not the only socially awkward or insecure teenager. In fact, most teenagers have at least some level of insecurity since the social world is so new to them. Our teenagers need our faith in them and in their adolescent journey so that they can borrow our faith in them until they can internalize it within themselves. Let’s make sure we’re holding and expressing a healthy vision of our sons and daughters. That’s the way they’ll thrive and we’ll sleep at night.
Thanks for tuning in today everyone and special thanks to Don from Denver Colorado for his question.
I’m happy to announce that our Empowered Teen Parenting Workshop is up and running, and if you’d like to get priority entry when we set up our next one, come on over to my website and send me an email.
Do you know someone who might benefit from reading my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle? Some readers have said it’s the best counseling session they ever had.
And please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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