Your teen daughter, seemingly overnight, lost all interest in hanging out with you and her siblings. Should you force the issue?

Parent advice:

In our family, our teenage children are expected to have dinner at home most nights, to attend church with us on Sunday and to be present at most family celebrations. In addition, we encourage our children to attend their siblings’ sporting and school events as a way of supporting one another. Teens crave closeness with their families but are experimenting with separating themselves from their parents. It is up to the parents to insist that their teen remain involved in the life of the family.

–Mary Rayis

Yes, at least once a week, but make it something that she and her siblings would like to do, even if it is just going out for ice cream or a bite to eat. Once you free them, it will be hard to get them back.

–Eva Rios

Expert advice:

“Our teens must separate from us, must reject us, and then later take back what they think is important for them to integrate into their new young adult lives,” says Janice Hillman, adolescent medicine specialist and co-author of “The Teen Owner’s Manual” (Quirk Books). “Let them gain independence, let them build the confidence to make choices, and of course, let them make mistakes.”

And hope like heck they decide you’re important enough to integrate back into their new lives.

In the meantime, Hillman says to “pick your battles.” If your teen wants to stay in her room while the family plays Scrabble one evening, you’re probably wise to let it slide. If she wants to skip her grandma’s 70th birthday party, it’s time to step in.

Some pointers to ease that exchange:

Use “I” statements: “‘It is important to me that you come. I would like you to come,”‘ Hillman says.

Don’t guilt them. “We do want to teach them about responsibility, but we want to teach responsibility without guilt,” Hillman says. “Many parents will guilt teens into going. Many parents will let their child stay home, but then guilt them afterward.

“Tell them that you would like them to go and why it is important to you. If they say no, accept the no graciously.”

Don’t bribe them. “We have just so many favor points before our kids start figuring out what we are conniving them into,” she says. “If your bribes or positive rewards are starting to grow bigger and bigger, you know you have gone too far.”

Be a chatty chauffeur. Offer to be your teen’s driver as often as possible. “The car is a safe place because you can talk casually but not have direct eye contact,” Hillman says. “You can try easy conversation starters: ‘What are your plans this weekend?’ ‘Can we go shopping Saturday morning?”‘

Play host. “The Teen Owner’s Manual” urges you to stock your fridge and welcome the teen troops. “Make your house the central hub for your teen’s friends. … You’ll be better able to get a sense of the teenager’s life.”

Stop talking. Also from Hillman’s book: “If you are overhearing conversations, kindly refrain from comments, suggestions or criticisms. If you continue to listen, you will acquire much more insight into your teen’s life, and you will be better prepared to help when help is asked for.”

–Compiled by Heidi Stevens.

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