By DR MICHAEL LOWRY [email protected]
Dr Michael Lowry is an experienced parent and educator, who regularly visits his Algarve home in Tavira. His work over many years in universities has led to increasing interest in, and understanding of teenagers, their problems and feelings. He has published widely in professional journals, and has delivered presentations at international conferences.
Welcome to my column on parenting teenagers. Over the coming months I will be sharing with you a selection of problems that parents and carers have offered me whilst I was writing my book Teenagers: their care and maintenance in captivity, which is available direct via the website link on the right of this page.
My 15-year-old daughter recently asked if she could stay overnight at her 18 year old boyfriend’s house. I told her there was no way I would allow that, but agreed it was ok for her to stay with her girlfriend. I discovered that she had ignored my wishes and stayed with her boyfriend. I feel devastated, what do I do now?
Dr Mike replies
Well, Pauline, you have arrived at a very difficult junction in your relationship with your daughter, who is no longer the dependent child, but is asserting her emerging womanhood. As well as concerns for your daughter, there is also the very serious matter that as a minor, should she have engaged in any sexual activity, then the boyfriend is at risk of being criminalised, taken to court, and subsequently placed on the sex offenders’ register. All of these amount to a catalogue of major problems for him, both in the short term and in his future career prospects.
You are likely to feel betrayed, angry and frightened, and rather than give way to your immediate feelings, need to first understand what has happened. In my book, I place a lot of emphasis on understanding the nature and extent of a situation before trying to resolve it. You must talk ‘with’ not ‘at’ your daughter. Make time for you both to be able to sit down undisturbed.
If it helps, write a list of your concerns and go through each with her. Try to be calm and avoid being negatively critical, that will only fuel the fire. Your daughter will be feeling frightened and no doubt guilty that she has betrayed your trust.
Reinforce your love for her, but be very clear about why you are concerned; setting these out very clearly and allowing her the opportunity to comment on each concern. You each have a right to comment, and a right to be heard, so make sure that you really do ‘listen’ to each other.
Avoid trying to ‘lay down the law’, this usually results in point scoring and game playing, and never benefits either party.
Finally, you must come to a resolution to be honest in future and make it clear to her that there are boundaries for her just as there are for you as a parent.
Dr Michael Lowry can be contacted by emailing [email protected]