Communicating with my self-isolating teen

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Parent Peer Supporter

Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Hi everyone,


I have a question in regards to my teenage daughter who isolates in her room.


She has had little contact with the family in the last 12 months, and only these holidays has she wanted to leave the house with a friend. They went to the local pool, to Time Zone, and we went to the beach last week which she loved.


When I ask her if she'd like to go to the beach or the movies (or anywhere!) her response is 'no'. Being 14, that is a typical response to a parent's idea!


I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions on how I can communicate my ideas in a way that she will feel she has made the decision and may be more willing to venture out more?


Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Super contributor

Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Hi @taokat thanks so much for your post.

It can be really diificult to know what to do when a teenager seems to want to disconnect from everything.

Forcing them out never seems to work although I do believe that one of the best strategies is to continue inviting them to EVERYTHING no matter how many times they say no. Even just going to the shops.

One of the things I have found works with my 14 year old is I hang with her in her room, asking her about her interests. And then I read her cues to know when it's time to go. It's my way of letting her know that not everything has to be on my terms, in my space.


You said she loved the beach, can you identify what it was she loved? Or could you ask her how you could repeat that for her?


I think @Maggiemay has had some experience with this. 



Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Hi @taokat. Thank you for starting is discussion.  It is one many parents of teens have to deal with and can make us start to feel we are no longer needed.  However, I believe through their teen years is when we, as parents, are needed the most.


Can you give a little more information by what you mean by isolating herself?  Does she join the family at meal times?  What is she doing while she is in her room?


In my experience with my teenage children this was the time they wanted to spend more time with their friends and started to want more privacy and show their independence. 

It's not cool going out with the family or being seen with mum at the shops. 


These are some of the things I have done to keep my teens included:

we always have dinner together.  This is our time where there is no technology and we talk about our day, what everyone has planned, etc.  

When I ask questions I word them in a way where I can't just get a yes or no answer.

On the weekends my teens get to pick the meal they want.  The catch they have to help me cook it.  

We have games nights.  There are some great new games out there that are really good fun e.g. Watch your mouth.


I hope this is of some help to you. Please keep us up to date with how things are going.

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Thank you for your response Ngaio. It can be hard, sometimes she is open to time with me, others not. You've provided me with some things to try though, thank you. I wish I'd seen these replies earlier - I had a coaching session with Peter today. I didn't receive an email?


I sometimes go in and flop on Tayah's bed if she's not engrossed on the computer. I'll check in more often. I also like what you said about leaving after picking up the cues, so your daughter learns things don't always need to be on your terms. Creates trust and strengthens the bond I imagine. 


Having a friend was what brought her out to the beach. She has no siblings, and with friends in school they are quite busy. But in saying that, I will ask her how I could make it fun with just us. It's about picking the right moment too!


I will let you know though that Jessie has said she wants to get back to playing tennis this term. I'm stoked! 


Thank you so much for your response and useful ideas. 

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Hi Maggiemay

Thank you so much for your reply. I must apologise for not getting back to you earlier. I'm so disappointed I missed the online chat. I've got it set up to email me when I get a response, but I didn't. I'll let tech support know.


Yes, part of it is definitely her age and as you say, it's not cool to be seen hanging around with mum. Friends are it! I'm lucky though, she does acknowledge she needs me. That's nice.


Tayah's life consists of being in her room - except if she wants to talk to me, or she's getting food or drink. There is just the two of us in our family, but no, she doesn't eat with me. Often she doesn't want dinner. Her appetite isn't great. She refuses to come with me on weekends to see her uncle or grandparents (who she does love very much). If they come here she'll come out for a little while before retreating back to her room. 


She is educated via distance ed as she refused to attend school last year. She has two friends she keeps in close contact with. It's only been on sleepovers these last holidays that she ventured out to the beach, and the girls went on their own up to TimeZone. That was a huge step! She won't talk to family or teachers on the phone - hates talking on the phone.


She is actually very productive in her room. She reads, she uses social media and gets passionate about social issues such as bullying and racism, any human cruelties really. She's writing a book. She researches about her illness (she has bipolar 1). She's setup a website for her Nanna - that actually brought her out of her room for a couple of hours, Nanna came here. She does her schoolwork. Creates budgets for her future for when she moves out! She makes Kahoot quizzes. She's pretty busy lol.


I've tried a lot. She'll play games when a friend is having a sleepover. I jump on it! Games before bed, I love it! It's been 41 degrees here today - I filled our little toddler pool on the balcony but she doesn't want to cool off. 


If I ask for help with dinner, she'll say she doesn't want dinner. She wanted to earn money, so I organised to clean my brother's unit with her. She came the first time, now would rather stay home in her room. So I've got the job lol. 


Letting Jessie choose weekends meals is worth a try! She used to love cooking! She has her own pasta machine and blender. Maybe if I assign her the task of putting together the weekend menu (she loves that sort of thing), and maybe then she'll be more open to help cook one or two of those meals. Great idea!


I'm also going to look up Watch Your Mouth. That sounds like something we would enjoy! 


Thank you so much for your great ideas! Anything and everything is worth a try. She's a smart little cookie so I need to be inventive with my ideas and communication with her.


I will keep you informed :-)

Super contributor

Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Thanks so much for the update @taokat and I love the suggestions @Maggiemay offerred.

I have to say, your daughter sounds a lot like mine. Both smart enough to weigh up effort versus pay off.

I just keep reminding myself that the ability to discern like that will be an attribute in later years. (fingers crossed)

I'm so impressed by the list of things she does in her room! What an amazing young woman. Is it possible that her nature is that of the introvert and this period of excessive isolation is her way of working out how to access the world without feeling overwhelmed or depleted? In addition to managing her bipolar?


And don't forget to acknowledge yourself for the effort and care you're putting in: consistently letting her know how much you enjoy her company, allowing her to self-determine how and where she spends her time, seeking things that will bring her joy - these are all gifts you're giving her to help her feel ok. 

It shows what a great mum you are. 


Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

Thank you so much Ngaio. 


I love the points you made about about effort vs payoff (so true!), and about my daughter's isolation. She does keep herself occupied, and I've considered myself about the reasons for her isolation. I think you just might have hit the nail on the head! To be able to stay in her room the way she does, there has to be something positive in it for her.


I'm gaining more and more hope and I really appreciate the support I've been shown in this forum. Thank you, thank you!


I had a 'win' of sorts yesterday. I asked my daughter if she'd like to invite a friend to come swimming at her grandparents place - she said yes!! So she had her first visit to my parents place in over 12 months!! The girls went swimming, we played Family Feud with everyone (my brother was there too), had fish and chips for lunch. It was lovely and the family was in disbelief when I told them I wasn't coming alone. 


Our first week week of schooling also went well. My daughter has decided she wants to graduate high school and has been looking into nursing courses at TAFE for next year. 


I'll just keep my fingers crossed, but also realise I need to follow my daughter's needs too and trust in her qualities. 


Thank you also for your encouraging words in regards to my parenting. It can be so challenging at times and wanting to be the best mum I can be means a lot of the time is spent looking at the things I want to do better. With my question each night - what could I have improved on today - I'm now also going to reflect over what I did well 😊

Super contributor

Re: Communicating with my self-isolating teen

What an incredible outcome @taokat Fabulous to hear. Robot Very Happy

I'm thrilled you're expanding your nightly routine to include looking at what you did well. As much as it often seems that focusing on our errors is the best way to learn, if you don't consider what worked it's much harder to repeat it. Well done!!


I had an idea, I wondered if you'd be keen to approach your daughter about the Roast Me thing. I'm pretty sure you've written about raising it with her and getting her opinion but what about asking her to help you styart a campaign? She may not be interested in being a part of it (for a number of reasons) but that doesn't mean you can't ask her to teach you about how to use social media etc. It's a great reason to spend time together.


What do you think?