Dear Family Coach: This year we moved our two high school kids to a new area. Both kids report having no friends. It's been a difficult transition. They say the only way they can make friends is if I allow them to go to parties. But all of the parties are unsupervised. Do I have to let them go? --Feeling Guilty
Dear Guilty: I'm guessing the move wasn't their choice so you feel more responsible for their happiness. Hence, the guilt. But don't let guilt cloud your good judgment. Work through this problem with open communication.
Lots of inappropriate and illegal acts happen even at parties that are "supervised." Often parents are on another floor or in a different room blissfully unaware of the debauchery happening right under their noses. What's more important than a parent being home is the maturity and responsibility of your children.
I'd allow the kids to attend parties with some stipulations. Let the kids know your fears about unsupervised parties. Give them some guiding rules such as never drive after drinking and never get in a car with someone else who has. Discuss the risks of drugs and drinking and the legalities of doing either while underage. Tell them to call for help if someone is hurt, in trouble or potentially overdosing. Lastly, don't forget to cover safe sex and consent. After the party review how it went. You can always revoke the right to attend a party. Give your teens the chance to learn to navigate their new world with some tools to solve problems as they arise.
Dear Family Coach: I'm a controlling parent. I come from a long line of controlling mothers. I try to control everything with varying degrees of success. I know it's a problem and it's causing stress and frustration at home. How can I learn to loosen up before I push my family away? --Control Freak
Dear Freak: It's a good sign that you recognize that your controlling nature is a problem. Your inability to be flexible is having a negative effect on the people around you. Controlling parents have a need for perfection. Their high standards can be unrealistic, overbearing, intrusive and near impossible to follow. In turn, kids feel criticized, not good enough and slowly they either rebel or lose their ability to make decisions on their own.
There are many reasons why you might be controlling. Being raised by controlling women taught you that being overbearing is normal. It's possible that you felt powerless as a child so you try to control what you can at home now. Lastly, your need to control might come out of personal insecurities and anxiety. It would be helpful for you to get to the bottom of what you are afraid might happen if you let up a bit. This might require the help of a therapist.
To break your controlling habit, decide on a few areas where you can allow more flexibility. There is often more than one way to get something accomplished. Be open to the ideas of your partner or kids and give their methods a try. If the results aren't up to your expectations, take a deep breath and remind yourself that life will still go on. Additionally, give your children the ability to make decisions about their hair, clothes, activities and friends. Sure, they may end up looking like a hot mess but there are more important outcomes than perfection. Raising confident, capable children who feel they are loved regardless of their ability to be perfect should be the goal.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.