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Why Your Teenager Doesn’t Want to Spend Time With Family (And How to Change That)


Staff member
Dec 13, 2023
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Teenager doesn't want to be with family

Are you worried that your teen no longer enjoys spending time with the family?

You’ve been making plans and organizing family activities.

But your teens refuse to join in and would rather hang out with their friends or stay in their room.

If your teen seems to be withdrawing, should you just accept it?

Research shows that teens benefit from quality time with family, particularly eating together and leisure activities.

In this article, I’ll discuss possible reasons why your teenager doesn’t want to be with family. I’ll also include some tips on how to address the issue.

(If your teen lacks motivation sometimes, make sure to download your free e-book below.)

Why teens may not want to spend time with family​

A desire for more independence is a natural part of growing up. This stage of life is marked by a process known as individuation – a normal part of becoming an adult.

During this time, teenagers separate themselves from their parents’ influence. This allows them to establish their independence and gain a stronger sense of self.

There are a few possible reasons why your teen has a strong need to develop his or her individuality, including:

  • Brain development: During this stage, your teenagers are growing in areas such as intelligence, decision-making, and reasoning. They process information in a more sophisticated manner. This also means they’re likely to have opinions and judgments about various matters.
  • Peer influence: Teenagers begin to value their connection with their peers more. They might be able to relate better to their friends, causing them to lean on their friends more for emotional support.
  • Need for social acceptance: Research studies show that teenagers typically develop a stronger need to fit in and be accepted. This can lead them to spend more time with their friends than with their parents.
  • Desire for novel experiences: Most teenagers like to explore and experiment. They develop new interests that might not align with the family’s traditions and activities.

You might feel hurt when your teens say “no” to spending time with the family.

But your teens’ desire to be independent doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. This change is often a natural part of the journey toward adulthood.

Signs that your teen wants to be away from family​

Parenting teens is an ever-changing experience. As your kids step into this phase of life, you may notice changes in their behavior and interactions with others.

Behavioral indicators​

friends enjoying time together

Signs that your teenagers don’t want to spend time with family include the following:

  • They’re often out of the house with friends or participating in extracurricular activities.
  • They don’t want to be seen with you (e.g., asking you to drop them off a block away from their destination).
  • They frequently come up with excuses to miss family gatherings or activities.
  • Their need for privacy increases (e.g., they often lock their room door).
  • They spend more time exploring new hobbies or interests.
  • The conversations you have with them are short and one-sided.

Emotional indicators​

You might also notice that your teens’ emotions, body language, and tone of speech change when they’re around you.

Here are some emotional indicators that your teenagers don’t want to spend time with the family:

  • Their body language or tone indicates they’re unhappy or disinterested around you (e.g., crossed arms, lack of eye contact).
  • They seem emotionally distant or disconnected.
  • There’s an increase in conflicts between you and your teens.
  • They don’t discuss their thoughts, feelings, or struggles with you.
  • During family activities, they lack enthusiasm.

Your teens will naturally have an increased need for independence, leading to the changes listed above.

Having said that, you’ll also have to consider how you’re interacting with and parenting your teens.

The parenting methods that worked well when they were children are unlikely to continue working when they’re teenagers.

How to include your teens in family activities​

As a parent, you might feel upset when your teens reject the plans you propose. In frustration, you may nag or criticize them.

Teenagers are especially sensitive to criticism at this stage of their lives. So this can backfire and cause them to distance themselves even more from the family.

Instead, here are some things you can do to encourage your teens to participate in family activities:

son and father hiking together

  • Let them plan the activity: You can let your teens decide what the family should do. Taking turns to make plans for the family can make everyone feel more involved and connected.
  • Choose activities they enjoy: Ask your teens to suggest things they’d like to do. As long as their suggestions are safe and reasonable, give them a try.
  • Tell them in advance: If you plan to do something as a family, let your teens know in advance. Ask them if they have any preferred date or time. This shows that you respect their time.
  • Communicate your expectations: Sit down and discuss the non-negotiables with your teens. Prioritize events and activities they should be part of, and make this a house rule for your teens. These might include things like celebrating a family member’s birthday or participating in an annual family tradition.
  • Create family routines and traditions: For example, you might decide to eat out as a family every Sunday evening or watch a movie together every last Friday of the month. Having scheduled and routine activities can take the pressure out of planning and create a culture of spending time together as a family.

Ways to address your teen not wanting to be with family​

Have you ever wondered what to do when your teenagers shut you out?

Maybe your teens have been isolating themselves from the family or giving you the cold shoulder whenever you talk to them.

No parent is perfect. But it’s still important for us as parents to reflect on how we treat and communicate with our teenagers.

Here are some tips on how you can foster a stronger bond with your teenagers and encourage them to spend time with the family:

  • mother and daughter on the couch
    Respect their boundaries and privacy.
    Your teenagers may distance themselves from you if you overstep their boundaries. Some examples include asking too many questions, frequently reading their text messages, and not allowing them to hang out with their friends.
  • Listen when they speak. When your teens share their interests, struggles, or the events of their day, it’s important to listen actively. Avoid interrupting them or talking over them. Acknowledge their feelings and opinions. This will create an emotionally safe space for them.
  • Avoid blaming and shaming. Don’t start conversations by criticizing, blaming, or shaming your teens. Be understanding and empathetic when your teens tell you about a problem or challenge they’re facing. Help them reflect on what they could have done better without belittling or lecturing them.
  • Spend time with them regularly. Eat dinner together, or invite them to join you while running errands, then grab a snack at their favorite place on the way home. You can also learn a new sport or pick up a new hobby with your teens.
  • Be present. When your teenagers need you, be there for them as much as possible. Support them at competitions and make time for them when they need a shoulder to lean (or cry) on.

It’s essential to build a strong bond with your teens.

Research shows that teens who have strong bonds with their parents and spend time with them regularly have fewer behavioral problems. They’re also less likely to take part in delinquent or risky behaviors.

What to do if your teenager wants to move out​

If your teen tells you that he or she wants to move out, you might feel shocked. But it’s important to assess the situation objectively if your teen brings up the topic.

Let’s say that your teen isn’t old enough or isn’t capable of living independently yet. If so, it’s best to keep your teen at home or to get your teen to live with other family members (if that’s a viable option).

Here are some steps you can take if your teenager wants to move out:

teenager leaving home

  • Find out the real reason why. Try to get to the root of why he or she wants to leave. Your teen may want more independence or may want to live closer to school.
  • Approach the situation calmly. If your teen threatens to leave during a fight, ensure that both of you take the time and space needed to cool down before discussing the issue calmly.
  • Work through the problems together. If a relationship or family issue is the main reason your teen wants to move out, it needs to be addressed right away. You can do this by working through your parent-teen conflicts or attending family therapy.
  • Help your teen assess if he or she is ready. Depending on your teen’s age and maturity level, you can calmly lay out the realities of moving out, such as rent, insurance, groceries, etc. This might help your teen realize the benefits of living at home until he or she is truly ready to live independently. You might need to teach your teenagers life skills like cooking or budgeting to prepare them for the move.


A healthy parent-teen relationship takes time and persistence to cultivate.

Show empathy and basic respect whenever you communicate with your teenagers.

Make sure they feel as if you’re treating them as people – not problems to be solved or projects to be worked on.

As you build a strong relationship with your teens, they’ll look forward to spending time with you and the family!

(If you haven’t already done so, download your free e-book below.)
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