Hibernating Teens: What to Do When Kids Won’t Leave Their Rooms

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teenager sleeping all day in his room

I have a 12-year-old and 14-year-old who have been on summer vacation for two weeks now, and I have seen them for maybe a total of 10 hours! Not because I am working, but because they don’t want to leave their rooms. I wasn’t sure if this was normal, so I took to social media to survey my fellow moms-of-teens to get some advice.  Turns out it’s typical teen behavior.

I’d like to think we have lived in some cool places (kids were born in Arizona and lived there for 5 years, lived in the D.C. area for 8 years, and have been in the Bay Area for 1 year).  Exploring our community and all there was to offer has always been a priority. Since moving to California though, it has been like pulling teeth to get them to want to do anything. It’s California for heaven’s sake! Whether they are embarrassed to be out with the family, rather be online, or simply want to sleep (and the reason changes all the time), one thing is the same—their room is where they would rather be.

I do have to admit that I like the thought of knowing where they are and knowing that they feel comfortable being home, but I find myself constantly asking if that is best. Shouldn’t they be outside? With friends? Shopping? Movies? Anything?

We do have some mini-vacations, activities, and visitors during the summer, so they won’t be completely reclusive. But thinking back on this past year—it was academically challenging not to mention they had to make new friends and adjust to a new home and community.  So, I’ve chosen to cut them some slack and set some guidelines through all of this:

  • If you are in your room, the blinds are open or lights are on unless you are sleeping.
  • You must come out for dinner.
  • Chores for the day must get done.
  • Dad or I can come in at any time and check your browser history, chats, and more.
  • One weekend day is a family day where they must go do something with the family (or we split mom and dad time).

I think the thing that throws me off the most is that I was not like this as a teen.  Yes, I liked to spend time in my room, but I was involved in so much at school, wanted to be with friends, and jumped at the chance to get out of the house to go to dinner or shopping with my parents.  

This is just another example of how parenting is different for everyone, every generation, and of how awesome it is to have other parent friends to talk to.

 

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Tracy owns Safe Spaces, a consulting and training firm that focuses on building resilient families, communities and organizations (www.sfspcs.com). She is also an Authorized Facilitator and Certified Instructor with Darkness to Light, www.d2l.org, a child sexual abuse prevention organization. Tracy has taught pre kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade and has served as a Site Administrator for an elementary school. Currently, she is a Teacher-in-Residence with Prezi and also a college and career advisor for Students Rising Above. Tracy grew up in northeast Ohio, and has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Northern Virginia and has worked in the arts, in education and child abuse prevention. Her husband's job brought them to the Bay Area and there's no looking back! Tracy is mom to a 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. Self-care includes getting to know her new community, having lunch with friends, pedicures, reading, cooking, crafting, and just being with her family.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I think teenagers nowadays have so much they have to deal with with social media and the Internet and keeping up with video games and stuff that it’s hard not to leave their rooms. Plus going through all this changes makes him really tired and they just want some space to themselves.

    • I did like spending time in my room alone growing up. In fact, I looked fwd to it and enjoyed it. I have always been alone, I’m 42 and my daughter defenetily took that after me. But yes, I go in often to ask how’s it going or simply to cut up and aggravate her a few minutes. I do make her come out to do some chores, to play with her gerbil, ride her bike some or invite her out in the den to watch one of her favorite movies together. It’s hard when they no longer think their parents are cool but I do cut her some slack because as for myself I love “alone time” and I know shes no different. Thanks for the article

  2. It’s known as cocooning and many teens do this; it’s quite normal and to be expected. Barring any mental health issues or depression (it’s always good to ask questions and seek counseling if it seems to much) but run-of-the-mill hibernating is an essential time for kids to figure out their place in the world, who they are and where they fit in.

    As always, communication is key (even when they don’t want to talk) just being there and letting then know you’re there and support them NO MATTER WHAT, UNCONDITIONALLY is essential.

  3. I have heard of this being normal for teens, but what if a nine year old start this habit. During this COVID-19 era is this somewhat expected or something to worry about?

    • Veronica, I would certainly bring it up to your pediatrician, however I do think there is an increase in the amount of sleep and of schedules being off. Sticking to a routine is best as is physical exercise to try an combat this.

  4. I have a 10 year old girl that barley comes out of her room. This began a few weeks after the virus started. She does not want to spend time with her friends anymore.She doesn’t want to go to the pool, the stores or anywhere she used to love to go. I have to make her take a shower and brush her teeth. She sees a counselor. The counselor doesn’t seem to think much of it? I am worried. She is too young to be spending her summer vacation alone in her room. She will not talk to me about it. She only says she doesn’t know why.

  5. For me, my two were fine when they went back to school but now with COVID-19, things are all different. We have to be extra vigilant to make sure that their mental and physical health needs are being met.

    We have sought help from LCSW and psychiatrists when needed.

  6. I could have worsen this post, mien are 15 and 16 and seem to find nothing interesting outside their rooms and away from their screens. They were raised very screen free and minimal tech. I am at a loss, my friends and I were rarely at home at that age, always busy with sports, cinema going, hanging out at the mall or at each other’s houses. I am finding it really challenging.

    • Selina, mine are now 14 and 16 and with the pandemic it isn’t much better, unfortunately. My daughter (16) is the worst. We are doing all we can to make sure their mental health is ok by going into their space and having a chat rather than forcing her out of her room. We know she is talking to friends online and can hear her laughing – that makes my heart smile.

      I admit, it will be hard to get them to go back to school. Their anxiety will be high.

      • My daughter is 13 teen and she is the same I’m so worried when she starts school because I know it’s going to be hard for her need some advice on what to do or tell her to make it better for her

        • One thing to remember is that she won’t be alone. Schools are preparing to address this as students go back to school. Keep in communication with her school counselors/teachers and with her. Check in with her on a regular basis – don’t wait for things to peak. Let her know you are there for her when she needs to talk or you can help her find another trusted adult.

          • Didn’t mean to respond as anonymous – this is Tracy, I wrote the article and have experience as a classroom teacher and school administrator.

  7. You know this won’t work right? Teens like to be in complete darkness at times because they can cope better, and also before anyone attack me yes I’m a teen and yeah I ‘Hibernate’ but because of many reasons besides this being ‘Normal’ most of us have mental issues and were afraid of being out in public or afraid of family members judging us. Sometimes were stressed after dealing with alot of things and we don’t wanna talk about it we just wanna turn on some music and bop to the music from our speaker or in our earbuds. All I’m saying is parents…don’t just read this and go like ” omg this is so genius!” Ask your kid if they’re okay if they want space leave them be, if you feel as if something is wrong schedule an appointment with your therapist or with your doctor to see if you guys can find a good therapist in your area.

    • Thank you for your thoughts. I agree, too. My two teens do this a lot, and with the last 14 months of mostly social isolation, it’s understandable. I do check in on them and give them a lot of space. My oldest does see a psychiatrist and my youngest knows he can if he wants to. My oldest is also autistic so some of my advice is because of her needs. And of course not all of this works for every teen, family or parent.

    • So you stay in your room all the time too and do u feel depressed is that y I have a 13 yr old and she is like that I just want to make sure it’s not serious

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