Dear GZ Advisor,
I'm not a teenager. I'm the mother of a teenager and I need help and don't know where to turn or who to talk to about this. My daughter is a beautiful, attractive 16 year old. The problem is that she's a bit too popular and too sociable. Her grades have been slipping and she seems to be losing some of her old friends. I am concerned about her reputation. I've seen notes from some of her friends telling her that she is getting a bad reputation (I know I invaded her privacy so no lecture please).
I'm really concerned.
I tried to talk to her about this a few months ago and we just yelled and then cried. She told me she just kisses the boys but I have my doubts. What can I do? Any suggestions or guidance? We are pretty close as mother and daughter although I think she cons me a lot. I just don't want her to lose good friends or be taken advantage of by not such good friends. And I definitely don't want her to ruin her future. Do I have to let her make her own mistakes? Please help!
Signed, A Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned Mom,
Thank you for writing to us. Obviously you love your daughter, and your desire to do the right thing shows that you take your parenting responsibilities seriously and that your heart is in the right place.
At the end of your letter you asked, "Do I have to let her make her own mistakes?" While this may be difficult to accept, to a large degree (and since your daughter is 16), the answer is Yes.
It's never easy to witness young people making less than positive decisions for themselves. But when we don't allow them to make their own mistakes, and to have to deal with the subsequent consequences, we rob them of valuable learning experiences.
Remember that maintaining trust between you and your daughter is very important.
It's a very positive sign that you feel close to each other (and can cry together). Remember to let her know how much you value times when you talk -- even if you disagree or even fight with each other. Let her know that you love her (just the way she is), and that you're there for her no matter what. Make dates to spend time together doing fun (and positive) activities. Remember that although your daughter's friends may change, you can remain a life-long influence.
It is also important for you to be honest about your feelings and concerns with respect to her behavior, and to set clear boundaries and expectations about school achievement, curfews, her whereabouts, and other concerns. Whenever possible, work together, ahead of time, to come up with rules that are acceptable to both of you.
Also let her know what will happen if she doesn't show responsibility in these areas, and make sure the consequences match the issue. For example, if she isn't home by the agreed upon time let her know that going forward you will be picking her up instead of letting her get a ride from a friend or use the car. When she *is* responsible, let her know how much you appreciate the fact that she's reliable and mature. Reward her by allowing more freedom.
It's important to your relationship that you can trust her, and that she can trust you. Young people are much more likely to be honest about things when they don't have to fear being wrongly judged, or suffering unfair or illogical consequences
It's natural and normal for a worried parent to want to read a child's notes or journal or look through things in her room. But it is essential that you respect your daughter's privacy unless you have solid reason to suspect she's involved in drugs or other life-threatening activities.
Take good care,