Sometimes we all need a little “me time.” You know, time when you get to yourself and just think, or be, or do something by yourself. I have a little coffee table book that I’ve started using as a part of my morning devotional. Its title is Pausitivity (Compendium Inc, 2011). Pausitivity is “the feeling of joy and optimism that comes when you stop and take a moment to restore and nurture yourself.” There is a quote per page, intended to inspire thought and perspective. For example, “Be still for a moment. The world will wait.” “Lean into the unknown with faith. Make room for new miracles.” In our hectic lives, how important is that?!!
Seventeen year old Casey spends what seems to be all of his time in his bedroom with the door closed. His mom and dad sometimes joke with him about it, occasionally knock and open the door to check on him, but generally leave him alone. Is Casey getting teen “me time?” Should his mom and dad be concerned about how much time he seems to be in his room? Let me give you a resounding, “that depends…”
As in most things, context is essential. First, Casey is 17. That puts him squarely in the space of finding himself, in clinical terms, establishing an individual identity. He’s not going to be just like mom or dad. He’s not going to be just opposite mom or dad. He’s looking for who Casey is, and he needs time and circumstances to take that introspective journey. All teens take this journey. As parents, your concerns are tempered according to your teen’s priorities and activities.
Is Casey is struggling in school, has few friends, or is mixed up with the wrong crowd, and is he making a point of shutting you out of his life? This could be trouble waiting to happen and you have a right to be concerned. Is he gaming online, texting nonstop, shopping, you tubing, or otherwise preoccupied with the internet and social media? This could indicate stalling, hiding, or otherwise nonproductive activity that stunts his personal development.
On the other hand, is he getting good grades in school, is socially engaged, and includes you in his activities or at least does family things together occasionally? You’ve got a keeper there, worthy of your pride, praise, and reinforcement. Is he reading, researching, getting homework done, or tending to a personal hobby or interest? This would indicate personal growth, expansion, exploration and discovery, all of which are kindred to establishing an individual identity.
Teen “me time” can be either part of the problem or part of the solution. In any case, touch base frequently by knocking on his door and entering his room (with permission). If you get a rude or dismissive response, note “Wow. Where did that come from? What’s going on, son?” Then switch to active listening and/or follow up later, when he is more receptive. Also, establish regular family time, like meals together, vacations, and other certain joint interest events. Even though your teen is on a personal journey to establish his individual identity, he is still and will always be part of your family. You still serve an essential advice and consult function on his journey to adulthood. Teachable moments abound.