As salamu alaykum dear sister,
You are going through the teen years with your sons and it is a most trying of times. Your concerns-and their behaviors are often typical, in the US and other places. Youth at this age tend to begin to question things, often to our dismay and surprise. They sometimes seek other meanings to answers and ways of life that are different from how they were raised. The sulky, often rebellious teen sometimes would rather sit in his/her room all day than be with relatives at a family gathering. Teens from all walks of life can experience this phase from one degree to another. Some may just balk and quietly complain while others go full on into leaving the home whenever they want, outright disrespecting parents and family and display other defiant behaviors. While the teen years signify a time of much change-both physically and emotionally, it is often a time that young people seek an identity separate from that of their parents. It is not that they do not love their parents, they do-however they are often seeking their own identity and sense of who they are as individuals. Erikson (1) describes the teen stages as the fifth stage in life development as “the fifth stage is identity vs. role confusion, and it occurs during adolescence, from about 12-18 years. During this stage, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs, and goals”. As you can see dear sister, much of what you are going through may be a result of your sons’ ages and their desire to explore different values and belief systems. While I know this may not help much during this trying process, please be assured that it isn’t anything you have done nor is it likely because of non-Muslim friends. Muslim teens who only have Muslim friends sometimes experience this as do Christian teens seek other belief stems to explore and shut out the family as well. As disturbing as this is, you have raised them well and you have given them a solid Islamic foundation. While this phase may seem to last forever and may appear to have tragic outcomes, most teens who go through this soul-searching, confusing times usually return to the origins of how they were raised. It is more of a developmental phase than a permanent change for most teens.
I would kindly suggest dear sister that you keep the lines of communication open, be there if they need to talk, continue to encourage them to pray, as well as spend time with family. I would also kindly suggest that you try to get to know about their new interests-not to criticize or advise but to show interest and possibly be there for any questions they may have. While I know this is hard, Islamically when our children have passed a certain age we are to be a friend to them. In this relationship, we, of course, are still their parent but our role is different. With that said, the goal would be gain their trust, know of their interests, thoughts, and feelings and advise them in a loving way that shows we respect them in their own choices but we can also express to them how we feel about their choices. With this new type of relationship, it can be advantageous to us as parents because if we show concern yet respect, we gain trust and open communication. In this way should one of your boys need to talk to you about any issue-he will feel comfortable in doing so, thus you will be able to more easily guide him. Some things to look out for during this transition, however, would be any behaviors indicating alcohol or drug use, sexual behaviors and so on. Right now they just seem to be curious and rebellious but should a deeper problem rise please do consult with a counselor in your area. Additionally, it is good to know their friends-both Muslim and non-Muslim for this type of behavior is non-discriminant, meaning Muslim and non-Muslims can fall off the deep end despite good upbringing. If possible, get to know their friends on an intimate level-what are their interests, what do they enjoy doing, are they close to their parents, etc. I would also kindly suggest that you try to find out about any new interests that they may have that are positive-and support them in getting involved in this activity/interest. By showing support for a new idea they have or a new goal -which may seem odd to you but is not haram-you are creating closeness and a bond. With closeness and a tighter bond, you have leverage for helping them get back on the right path insha’Allah.
While the next few years may not be easy one’s sister (or maybe this will phase out quickly!) they can be less traumatic if you take the Islamic role of trying to be a friend to them at this point. While you and your husband do have your home rules that must not be broken, I am confident that you can navigate your way through these years with Allah’s mercy and help with great success. You are a wonderful mother going through a common experience with teens. It does not last, and insha’Allah when all is said and done, your boys will be closer to you and your husband than before. This is a part of finding one’s true self, maturing and walking back to the foundation as an adult. We wish you the best, you are in our prayers.