My son turned 13 today but, since he started secondary school (uk), 18 months ago, I have noticed a steady decline in his enthusiasm for...anything really, apart from playing computer games.

I am aware that this is probably just the stage of his life where this sort of attitude develops but I would like him to experience other things in life: learn new skills, interests, etc. I would also like to help him to see the benefit to learning while at school because he doesn't see the point school.

One other complication, however, he lives with his mum and I live 40 miles away so I don't have daily face to face contact with him. Additionally, his mum seems to be fairly 'hands off' when it comes to parenting and has willingly left him to sit in front of a screen from the age of 8/9 for hours and hours on end.

Do I try to be more forceful and endevour to guide him in to hobbies and interests or let him find his own way????


What I haven't alluded to above was that, when he does come to stay with me, getting him to do things is no problem at all, in fact he really enjoys being out and about. The real problem that I am finding is when he is at home with his mum...I guess where my input is that much more removed and indirect.

I know the answer to this is to takle the problem collaberatively with mum but I think that is a bit of a non-starter. That is why I wanted to see if there would be a solution that would involve just me and my son...

  • Small suggestion, don't be forceful, he may end up only taking the nagative side of it. I would suggest you could pay more interest in his computer games to start a more friendly relationship and start introducing small hobbies to him one at a time. IE "Let go for a cycle in the woods this weeked" or "I've bought a DIY robot kit, can you help me with it?"
    – abdnChap
    Jan 6, 2020 at 9:05
  • 2
    How much time do you have with him? Do you have time to do something crazy like building an actual treehouse or some larger project?
    – Batavia
    Jan 6, 2020 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


Here are some things I have tried that seemed to work (my son is also 13)

I have told him he is only allowed on the PC 4 nights a week. I have allowed him to choose which 4 nights so he can co-ordinate with friends to play with them.

This has forced him to actually do something 3 nights a week. Does he do any out of school clubs like scouts, a sporting activity etc.

Do stuff together at the weekends walking is great as my son seems to love talking to me whilst we are walking along (and it is good for both of you).

I am presuming you are around Surrey as your son is in year 3 and only his second year in secondary, the south downs are glorious to walk in, we have this saying "there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing", or "don't let the rain stop you", if you have enough waterproofs you can walk all year round.

Board games are a great activity you can do together (a side hobby to pc gaming) if you are thinking monoploy stop it and go out and buy Carcasonne or ticket to ride original (America) they are short games that last less than 1 evening rather than entire weekends.

But you have to accept he will start to withdraw from the family ours comes home walks through the door mumbles "hello" goes to his bedroom and we see him at dinner time.

  • +1 for serious boardgames. For me main driver of the game shouldn't be just the die but force the plays to make real decisions
    – Batavia
    Jan 7, 2020 at 15:25

Your options largely depend on your parenting style. However, in addition to what was already proposed, I offer you these:

  1. You could try to experiment with shifting focus from your son (and his choices) towards you and your relationship with him. Here's what I did about my mildly autistic son spending a lot of time in front of the screen: I made myself a lot of good tea and sat down with a notebook. I wrote down all the things I want to share with him, all the beauty of the world I want him to experience. I really took my time writing everything down, as I recall it took more than 2 hours. Then I got creative and invented a couple of things I wanted to offer him and really worked on the details. He's younger than your son, so I prepared everything we would need to create foam weapons and paper-mache armour. The essence of this was to reach inside myself, find what I really, honestly wanted to offer him and make it really good quality. On that day, he completely forgot about the computer.

  2. As my mentor once said: the simplest way to work in such situations is to join the kid. I used to do it a lot when I worked with troubled kids. I was never hiding the fact that I wanted to join them less out of the love for the games and more in order to spend some time with them. They always appreciated the honesty and patiently explained everything to me. This way you would be able to come closer to your son not from the position of well intentioned evaluation (which he may take as judgement), but from an earnest desire to meet him where he is. Spending some time together playing, or simple sitting beside him and asking him to explain stuff to you could you ample insight into why he is actually doing this.

And finally, a small thought. All the teenagers I have ever worked with were very sensitive to being judged. Gamers especially have a specific culture, with a strong sense of being misunderstood and looked down on. Many youtubers really stress the division between young gamers and their parents/teachers, which boosts their own, so called 'para-social' relationships with their young audiences. Whichever way you go with this, you may want to move with awareness of that.

I wish you many beautiful moments with your son!

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