What the science tells us about teens and alone timeThere have been studies delving into why teens tend to seek out solitude. There is, of course, the concern that a teenager being drawn to spending time alone is a red flag. The good news is that teens seeking privacy and time alone is not always something negative. We live in a very busy world, with pressure applied to teens by school, social expectations, and the demands of sports and other interests. After a long week at work, you may also find that you simply don’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth to handle much once you get home. The difference is that most adults have a way to decompress and find those activities that help them unwind. Teenagers are still learning more about who they are as individuals. It’s an important development process for teens to begin to appreciate their own company more. This time helps them with quiet reflection, time to refocus an overly tired brain, and offers time for creative expression. While it may appear to you that they are spending excessive time on social media or playing video games, keep in mind that this is their version of decompressing. As your teen grows, matures, and learns more about what helps them to better cope, it will prove necessary that you trust they know what they need when it comes to time alone and privacy. Studies have shown that teens may understand that this time alone is an important part of adjusting to their ever-changing world. Spending more time alone and appearing to withdraw doesn’t necessarily point to anything potentially troublesome.
What does healthy solitude look like?The first thing to consider is what the motivation behind your teen’s quest for solitude might be. If your troubled teen chooses to seek out privacy and time alone due to social anxiety or to avoid activities, this can be a potential red flag. That said, if your teen is looking to recharge mentally or embark on a creative endeavor, this is considered to be healthy. This can contribute to the young adult’s journey of self-acceptance and personal growth.
When should you worry?Despite knowing that it’s a perfectly normal part of your teen becoming his or her own person, there are some red flags that you should be aware of as they withdraw and seek out more privacy. Signs solitude may not be a healthy coping mechanism for your teen:
- Expressions of feeling lonely or out of character negative talk. Some troubled teens may start speaking quite harshly about themselves.
- Noticeable physical changes that include rapid weight loss. This could be indicative of an eating disorder or the abuse of certain drugs.
- Signs of depression, which could include withdrawing from family and friends alike. Troubled teens can also stop showing interest in activities that they once enjoyed.
- Concerns at school, including tanking grades and notices about missed assignments. Teens may also start to face increasing discipline issues at school, like detention or even suspensions.
- Anger and other out-of-character behaviors can often point to something that needs to be addressed. Some teens may also become verbally and physically abusive to their siblings and others around them.
- Hearing talk, even flippant remarks, about depression, loneliness, sadness, self-harm, or suicidal ideation.