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When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to be Home

When they’re young, your kids can’t get enough of you. But when they’re older, it seems like they want to be anywhere but home. Even those kids who stay home may become distant––choosing to stay in their room for hours on end. So, what changed? In this article, I’ll address the reasons your teen might be avoiding home, and offer ways to invite them to stay and engage.

Reasons Your Kids Might Be Avoiding Your Home

As you child becomes a teenager, his world expands and changes. He is experiencing things outside the walls of your home that are attractive or distracting. To some degree, it’s normal for your teen to desire independence and freedom. It’s part of the maturity process. But it may be a hard transition for both of you. Eventually you’re going to have to relinquish some of your control. As your teen grows, you may need to make changes to make your home a place your teen wants to be.

If you’re still parenting your teen the same way you did when he was in elementary school, he will push back against your rules and push away from home. I’m not saying you can’t have rules, but you may need to make some adjustments. Ask yourself some tough questions to find out why your teen is absent. What are your expectations for your teen? Are they reasonable and attainable?  Even unspoken judgements by parents can make a teen desire to be somewhere else. Be aware that if you’ve created an atmosphere of constant negativity, where your teen feels there’s nothing he can do right, he will look for approval online, at friends’ homes, or anywhere other than at home. If there are constant fights and tension at home, he’ll want to leave. Finally, it’s expected and understandable for any teen experiencing emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal abuse to look for an escape. As soon as they are old enough, they will get away.

Then, be willing to bring these questions to your teen and really listen to what she is saying. Why do you want to leave? What might I have done to push you away? Vulnerability is important here. Your kid knows when you are really listening and when you are just trying to change his behavior. You want to get the real answers, even when they’re difficult to hear. So don’t bristle at the answer, try to understand, be willing to accept the hard answers, and communicate your desire to change.

How Can We Invite Them to Stay?

Once you have heard the reasons your teen is staying away from home, you can make a plan. Remember, this isn’t a one-sided process. Invite your teen to help you. Have him speak to what he needs and work out what things need to be different. You may need to negotiate some things. You won’t win by requiring your teen to be at home. Instead, work together to make your home attractive. And remember that whether or not your teen says it out loud, she wants to be included in the family plans. So make it fun! Make your home a place your teen wants to be.

For some parents, it’s tempting to require teens to stay at home, but I don’t recommend it. Don’t use your authority to control your teen. Instead, work together to make your home attractive. Don’t close down the pathways to communication––your relationship is what ultimately connects you together, not simply your physical proximity. The teenaged years are the time to lean into your relationship, don’t let your kids push you away. Set aside time to hear your teen’s heart and listen in a way you’ve never done before.


Hey moms and dads …. Your teens want to be at home and they want to have a place where they can relax and feel a part of a family because that’s how God designed us to be––a part of a family. So what should you do? Well, the first step is creating a place where your teen wants to be. To do that, you have to ask why they don’t, and make the necessary changes. This doesn’t mean there aren’t chores to do, responsibilities to fulfill, and requirements for living at your home. But it does mean that you create an atmosphere of relationships, one where correction is little and connection is more, in a place that is attractive for their ends. It’s a challenge and will always be, to try to keep the temperature of your home steady in an ever-changing culture.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.