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.

Going Deeper with Your Teen

There isn’t a parent out there who doesn’t want to have a deeper relationship with their teen. But many parents don’t know how. Every day, it feels the same. “How was school?” “Do you have any homework?” With an occasional, “How was your test?” sprinkled in. But how do you take the conversation with your teen to the next level? In this article, I’ll ask you to consider a few questions to help you figure out what’s preventing you from going deeper with your teen.

What Can Take the Place of Depth in Our Relationships?

Do you ask you teen, “how was your day?” … only to get the answer “fine”?  It’s easy to slip into the habit of relating to your teen on the basis of performance and behavior, and miss out on what’s happening in his heart. If you habitually ask your teen about grades, sports, or chores, you’ll only achieve a surface-level connection. You may even get stuck in a rut where shallow conversations are expected and normal. To change it up, and break out of this rut, and spend more time listening to your teen. Your relationship with your teen needs to grow and mature.

What Might Prevent Us from Going Deep with Our Teen?

Do you walk away from your teen when they’ve done wrong? In my experience with families and teens here at Heartlight, the number one thing that prevents moms and dads from drawing closer to their teens, is unforgiveness. When hurts at home go unresolved, it’s common for both teens and parents to want to push back from the relationship. But if you hold onto past hurts, you’ll never have a future. I guarantee your teen will disappoint you. So, get a fresh start by forgiving him. Do you best to take your focus off his flaws and find his heart! Remember, your grace shines brightest when you move towards a child who doesn’t deserve it.  

How Do We Go Deep in Our Relationship with Our Teen?           

Creating and maintaining an atmosphere of open communication, as your child gets older takes efforts and intentionality. Your teen is different at age 14, than he was at age 5. But if you keep parenting your teen in the same way, you will lose your connection with your teen when he gets older and needs something different. Be willing to makes changes, as your teen changes.

Start by taking an inventory of the time you spend with your teen. Do you spend time connecting about the deeper issues of life or are you simply attending events and sitting on the sidelines? Are you willing to have your schedule inconvenienced in order to make time to be together? Make time to share a meal, take a trip, and talk without smart phones. 

Here’s a tough question: Do you really love your teen? I don’t ask this flippantly––I mean it! Too often, we grow accustomed to being in the same house with our teens. We spend time together, but we don’t interact in a meaningful way. If you aren’t expressing authentic love to your teen, she will go outside of the home to get that need fulfilled.

Do you appreciate your teen as a unique person or are you only interested in spending time with your teen when he shares your interests or is behaving the way you want him to behave? It’s important for parents to take an interest in the things their teens enjoy. Believe it or not, you can appreciate a teen who is different from you, and even one who is pushing against the things you value the most. Instead of focusing on the bad behavior, talk with your teen, listen to his heart, and ask questions about what they care about. Then listen to them talk!


Hey moms and dads …. your teens want to go deeper with you, but they just don’t know how. You have the opportunity to teach them and show them how to engage at a deeper level. The first decision you have to make is whether you want to go deeper in conversation and relationship. Drawing closer will push you to go deeper in your own life, as you examine areas that may not have ever been addressed. But your teen will love you for it. As they get older, if they want to have deeper relationships, the best chance of that happening is with you. So strip away the old and bring in the new! Let them know that you want to have deeper conversations and desire to move away from the shallow end of the conversation pool. It’s a longing that they have, and a hope that will be fulfilled, when you take your teen to a new place of relationship.

Spotlight on Two Heartlight Employees — Sydney and Jay

Navigating the tumultuous teenaged years is a tough job for any parent and not for the faint of heart. Whether your teenager it quiet and withdrawn or loud and rebellious, sometimes parents need help. I created Heartlight Ministries to offer hope to struggling families. We exist to provide a place for teens who need help getting their lives in order. To accomplish this task, our program has 25 wonderful employees who live and work with our teens. These aren’t just people picking up a paycheck, these are men and women called and uniquely qualified to serve the teens entrusted to our care. In this article you’ll meet two of our outstanding employees and find out what they do and why they serve in this unique and challenging area of ministry.


Sydney is a former resident and graduate of Heartlight Ministries. After completing our program, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in counselling, and now she’s back to bring her valuable experience, education, and genuine empathy to the young women in our program. She knows first-hand the emotional and spiritual challenges facing young women today. When I asked her about her experience at Heartlight, she remembers that she gained valuable tools, but admits she was reluctant and unprepared to use them, at first.

“I kept trying to do things my way, even throughout the process of being in different programs …. I just remember getting really tired of being tired all the time. And so I had to learn to surrender the control. And I think when I started to do that, I was able to look into the toolbox that I had and start using the tools that I had been taught.”

Sydney connects with young woman in her care individually, recognizing their story is unique. She works on a daily basis to break down the barriers and connect to these young women’s hearts. She says consistency is the key. She experienced the consistent love and support from her parents during her difficult times, and today she offers that same consistent care to the girls here at Heartlight!


Being a counselor at Heartlight is way more than a paycheck. It’s a calling. Jay is one of our employees and a young man with a heart to serve. One of the challenges he sees in the teens coming to Heartlight, is that they are at odds with their family. They come here opposed to anything and everything their family holds dear, including their faith. But good, Christian families have hurting children too. So when they come to Heartlight, it’s no surprise that these young men don’t want to hear the same things they’ve heard at home.

“At the end of the day, the behaviors are not what’s difficult. It’s truly reaching into the hearts of these kids and allowing God to work. So many of the kids that are here come from good, Christian families who love Jesus. And so I kind of get to say, “You know what? This faith thing that your parents are all googly eyes about, it’s actually real. And I know, the last thing you want to hear is that Jesus loves you, but the reality is, whether or not you want to see that, I’m gonna make sure that the Lord can touch your heart right now and you can feel it.””

Jay knows faith is transformative. It may not be what they want to hear, but it’s exactly what they need in order to thrive. The challenge is to connect with these young men and sometimes that message is better received from a person outside of the immediate family.

Our goal at is not to recruit clients. We want to equip parents so they never have to send their kids here. But sometimes kids struggle, and for some it takes a radical change to show them that the path they’re on is a dead end. If your beloved son or daughter is struggling, rebelling, or opposed to everything you stand for, don’t give up hope! Our Heavenly Father has some experience with wayward children. He knows how to handle a rebellious heart. Our job is to love these teenagers into the arms of Jesus and let Him transform their hearts and minds.


Hey Mom and Dad … your teen needs you. They want a relationship with you. Our program is designed to come alongside struggling teens and give them the tools and support they need to make better choices. I live with sixty high school kids at Heartlight. They’re great kids who are struggling through some very difficult times. We’d never be successful in what we do, if it wasn’t for the 25, wonderful staff, like Sydney and Jay, who live with these kids and pour their hearts into their lives. We’re always in need of house staff that are single, active, love the Lord, and have a heart for those teens that are dealing with the hardships of life. If you know someone that could fit into our setting, encourage them to take a look at our website and get in touch with us at: AYearInTexas.com.