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An Unwanted Boyfriend and Missing Parenting

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My 15-year-old daughter believes she is in love. Despite our objections, she says that she will see her "boyfriend" no matter what we say. I don't allow dating until age 16. And I think in my daughter's case, it needs to be more like 17 or 18. She struggles with depression and is very rebellious, disorganized and very naive. To avoid drama, my husband convinced me to allow her to visit the "boyfriend's" house. Should I be bending the rules for the sake of peace? -- Stricter Parent

Dear Stricter: I hate to say this, but putting the word "boyfriend" in quotation marks doesn't change his status. Your daughter is in love, and there isn't much you can do about it. The trouble is that any efforts you put forth to curb her dating will only push it further underground. She will say she is with a friend when she is really with him. And you will have no idea what she is up to, or with whom. Don't go the route of forbidding her relationship. Instead, become a mentor and a safe place for her to talk about the intricacies of dating.

It may be true that your daughter is a disorganized mess and that she suffers from depression. But that doesn't mean a boyfriend would do her harm. In fact, a warm confidant who cares deeply about her and helps her through tough times might be beneficial. Try to get to know the boyfriend. What kind of guy is he, and why does she love him? If having a boyfriend seems to be interfering with schoolwork or her mental health, then deal with those issues directly. For example, don't allow her to go out until her work is done, or limit access to her phone until she does what she has to do. Find a good executive coach or therapist as needed. But leave the boyfriend out of it.

Rules are very important to help young people manage desires, impulsivity and lack of understanding of how the world works. But adjusting the rules as children grow up is as necessary as having them in the first place. Don't dig your heels in on principle.

Dear Family Coach: This fall, my oldest son left for college, leaving me home with my husband and younger son. I knew I would be sad and miss my son. But I never thought of how his departure would affect my younger child. Now we are all kind of lost and in a funk. What can we do to live our lives with one family member gone? -- Emptying Nest

Dear Emptying Nest: Whenever one or all of the children leave the nest, there is bound to be an adjustment period. Dynamics and relationships that were fixed now need to be adjusted. That doesn't have to be a bad thing.

While your younger son might be missing his brother terribly, this is also a nice opportunity. Give him all of the attention your oldest received when he was an only child. Without being in his brother's shadow, your younger child might shine in new ways. Your relationship might deepen as well.

Don't be afraid to recognize the absent piece in the home. If you are missing your son, say it. Let the other members of the family express their sadness, too. Then find a way to keep moving on together as a family. You might be surprised by the new relationships or hobbies or family events that come up as a result of this difficult shift.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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