Books by Dr. M

Where Should I Sit at Lunch? The Ultimate 24/7 Guide to Surviving the High School Years, by Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD
Where Should I Sit at Lunch? The Ultimate 24/7 Guide to Surviving the High School Years

 

Too Old for This, Too Young for That! Your Survival Guide for the Middle-School Years, by Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD
Too Old for This, Too Young for That! Your Survival Guide for the Middle-School Years

Check out our Comments column!


Parents of Teens & Young Adults

— January 15, 2018 —

My 16 year old daughter is dating a 17 year old boy that I disapprove of. He was soooo nice for the 1st 4-5 months and then something changed and the last 3 months have been horrible. He broke up with her twice saying that he missed going out with his friends (which he was doing anyway so we don't understand). They got back together two weeks later and he still puts his friends before my daughter. She gets upset with him and he tells her that this is just the way it is, so she backs off and kisses his butt again. I feel like she is a puppy waiting for him to throw her a scrap. I have told her how I feel and she got really upset and told me that I don't see the other part of him and that this is the only part that is a problem. Well, it is a big part, in my opinion! I want her to be with someone that wants to be with her just as much as she does. I am having a really hard time not staying out of it. I am worried that she is turning into someone that doesn't respect herself and that it will affect all her future relationships. Any advice is appreciated!

— Concerned Mom

 

Dear Concerned Mom,

I understand your concern since it does seem that your daughter’s boyfriend is not treating her very well. However, the more you push her, the more loyalty she may show toward him. Teens are trying to be independent and want to be seen as individuals who know how to make good decisions (even when they’re not). You’ve already spoken your mind, so now back off. She evidently sees positive aspects of this boy that you haven’t noticed. She does tell him how she feels, which is a good thing, since it means that she is not just passively accepting his treatment of her. One thing you can suggest to your daughter to make the situation a little more even is for her to make plans with her friends. That way she is giving him the message that she has other significant relationships and more importantly, she is not just waiting around for him to be available. She is living a full life. Also, keep in mind that at 16, your daughter will probably get involved in many relationships, and she will learn from all of them—what she wants in a partner and what she doesn’t.

signed, Dr. M.
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— December 31, 2017 —

Hello. My 22 year old is staying overnight at a young lady’s house at least 4 to 5 nights a week.He does work and bought his own car. I told him this house is not a storage place and he can not make this a stopping point for washing clothes, showering, and packing a bag for the next 3 or 4 days to stay at his girlfriend’s house. Am I being unreasonable with him or should I ride this out and see how it goes?

— Momofone

 

Dear Momofone,

Its difficult knowing how to be the mother of a young man on the brink of adulthood. I would advise you not to give him any ultimatums. Figure out what may be reasonable (for example, he needs to let you know when he won’t be home). He is 22 and responsible and will be moving out at some point. It’s funny that as mothers what we want for our children is for them to have their own lives and loves, but that very wish renders us less important to them in a day to day way. Talk to other mothers, get support. Your son sounds like he is living the way a 22 year old lives. I haven’t met, been, or counseled a mother who doesn’t feel “taken advantage of” by their adult children. Maybe even your mother felt the same way.

— Mrs. B.

 

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— December 16, 2017 —

My 18 year old daughter wants to hang out at her boyfriend's house. His parents are divorced and he lives with his father who is an alcoholic.

— ABC

 

Dear ABC,

I’m assuming that you are uncomfortable with your daughter spending time at her boyfriend’s house since his father is an alcoholic. What are your concerns? Are you worried that she is alone with two men, one who is an alcoholic, and that your daughter may be in danger? Your imagination may be going wild and a dose of reality may help. Find a way to casually get to know them, perhaps by inviting them to dinner. This may help put your fears to rest. I assume that you have already met the boyfriend and are comfortable with him dating your daughter. However, if after you have met the father you are still concerned, the most helpful thing you can do is let your daughter know (in an unemotional way) why you are concerned about her spending time alone at her boyfriend's house. Express to her that your most important concern is her well-being. Your care and offer of continued guidance will help her, while also helping to strengthen your relationship with your daughter.

— Mrs. B.

 

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— December 2, 2017 —

For a year and a half, my 17 year old daughter has been dating a young man who is now a freshman in college. She has tried to convince me that she wants to follow him to school even though that school was never on her list of choices. Additionally, she has withdrawn from other friends at school and church. They text constantly and I recently learned that this boy's father turned his back on him in the 10th grade and from his own mother’s words, he can't turn his back on my daughter. Both my wife and I are very worried about this relationship and have suggested that they go their separate ways, but to no avail. Recently he came to my house and after 45 minutes of conversation where I asked him to let my daughter enjoy her final year of high school and go off to college without the ball and chain of a young relationship, he basically told me that he didn't care what I said and that he would continue to reach out to my daughter. Just so you know, my conversation was on the heels of a conversation with my wife where he cornered her at school as well. We have basically told this boy to go away as we are trying to protect my daughter from a very toxic relationship with someone who has emotional scars from a very bad situation with his own father. There is always more to the story, but I think this should provide the necessary context for you.

— Pete

 

Dear Pete,

I understand why you want to keep your daughter away from a young man you believe is not good for her. But when parents push teens in one direction, they are sometimes tempted to pursue the opposite path—just to show their independence. You and your wife should certainly encourage your daughter to apply to colleges that are a better fit for her than the one her boyfriend now attends. Discuss how she and her boyfriend can still be “together” while going to different schools. She may or may not listen to you but at least you’re not forcing her to choose between him and you. Maintaining a good relationship with your daughter should be a goal, one that will allow you and your wife to continue to be sources of influence in her life, and that would be best for all of you.

signed, Dr. M.
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— November 19, 2017 —

My daughter is 18 and is graduating from high school this year in June. She has a boyfriend that I do not approve of and I have blocked him from our house because of many things that he has done. He doesn't treat her very well and I think he cares more about fighting with me than he does her. They have decided that they are going to move in together this summer. I told her if they do move in together or if she moves out of our house at all—that she is on her own and I will not financially support her through college as I had originally intended to do. She will not be able to afford college without our funds because she won't have enough financial aid to cover school. Am I right in making this a condition of the support?

— Disappointed Dad

 

Dear Disappointed Dad,

I understand your disappointment since your daughter is choosing her boyfriend, even though you have clearly expressed your disapproval of him. But if you move ahead with your threat to take away your financial support of her college education, you may be removing her from your life more completely than you actually intend. If you want to continue to have any kind of influence on your daughter, don’t make your support contingent on her leaving her boyfriend. If he is as awful as you think, hopefully, she will realize that in time. You should continue to make it clear to her what you have observed about him that disturbs you, but unless you feel that he is a danger to her safety, you may have to quietly put up with him so you can continue to be part of your daughter’s life. When your daughter goes to college, she will more opportunities to meet people and learn how to critically examine her choices. That might mean that she will decide that her boyfriend is not right for her.

signed, Dr. M.
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— November 4, 2017 —

My 20 year old daughter wants to visit her friend at FSU. We live in Miami, and that’s a 7 hour trip. Her other friend couldn’t go so she wants to go by herself. I told her no because I don’t feel comfortable. I offered to help with a plane ticket and she said no. I also told her to go by bus and she said no. I also said that I would drop her off, also no. She says that I ruined her plans and won’t talk to me. Am I wrong? I’m can’t tell her she can’t go to FSU, I just don’t want her to drive by herself. Help!

— Concerned Parent

 

Dear Concerned Parent,

I can understand why you're concerned about your daughter doing such a long drive by herself, and it's great that you tried to offer a compromise by suggesting taking a bus or helping with a plane ticket. Perhaps there's a reason your daughter is so set on driving—maybe part of her excitement about the trip is that it's a road trip and an opportunity to feel independent. Try talking to your daughter again about the trip. Find out why she doesn't want to fly or take the bus and see if there's anything that would change her mind. You should also explain what your concerns are about her driving. Maybe she'll be able to find a way to address your concerns and help you feel more comfortable with the trip, such as by agreeing to stop for breaks a couple of times during the trip or contacting you when she gets to a rest stop and when she arrives at her destination. Hopefully by each of you explaining your perspective, you'll be able to find a compromise that allows your daughter to still go on the trip and not be upset with you.

signed, Liz
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— October 22, 2017 —

My 13 year old grandson of whom I have custody, is tormenting me over and over about wanting to go to this two-day venue at the shoreline here in Mountain View, CA. It's a concert with several rappers. It played in Miami and now it’s here. It's expensive, yet aside from the money, I'm trying to explain he can not go without a supervising adult. I can not believe that another parent would allow their 13 year old to go with an 18 year old brother. On the lawn at the shoreline is smoking weed, drinking, and the crowd these names may draw in—who I'm not too fond of. My concern is that he is a boy I haven't seen get this emotional and cry for anything. He gets depressed and I don't want this to push him over the edge. I'm trying to seek outside counseling for him. Am I being too strict? He has never given me a reason not to trust him. But this concert is one that is out of the ordinary.

— Michael

 

Dear Michael,

Given what happened recently at a concert in Las Vegas, I can understand your concern about your 13-year-old going to a large outside concert. If you are able to accompany your grandson to the concert, that might be an opportunity for some bonding between the two of you and can expose you to a new (and possibly fun) experience. But if you’re not able to do that, you might have to just tell him the reasons for your refusal to let him go, recognizing that this will not be the only time you’ll have to say “no.” Being his “parent” means that sometimes you have to make hard decisions, ones that your grandson will not be happy with. Since you say that he tends to get depressed, one way to support him is by finding a therapist who can help him learn coping techniques that he will need as he navigates adolescence.

signed, Dr. M.
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— October 8, 2017 —

Hi, My 18 year old daughter has a new boyfriend. He is 18 also. She met him a year ago at a church camp. At the time she was in trouble and had her phone taken away long term. We allowed her to text her friends using my phone. After a couple of months this boy sent a message saying he was in love with her. They hardly knew each other and hadn't seen each other. We told her that, although that was special, he appeared to have relationship issues and it would be best to not encourage any relationship. When she turned 18 we gave her a new phone. A few months back she and this boy rekindled a friendship. Last week she told us that he asked her to date him exclusively and she accepted. Mind you they still had not seen each other since camp over a year ago. Our daughter told us that he had recently been engaged to his old girlfriend. We warned her that this didn't feel right and to be careful. To give you some history, we asked her to not have a boyfriend until she was 18 but she betrayed our trust twice and did anyway, and neither relationship ended well. Now after 2 weeks they are talking marriage and planning a life together. They've met once now a week ago in person, the first time they had seen each other since camp. Our daughter told us she was meeting friends but did not explain he would be there. I must confess I checked out his Facebook and found out they were meeting. I did not stop her but afterwards I looked at his FB and saw an inappropriate picture of her sitting on his lap. I was angry so I sent him a personal message. We have not even met him yet. So we set a new house rule that we need to meet all dates prior to our daughter going out even though she is 18 and told her she is not to see him again until we have met him. (She is the youngest of five and the first to date someone while still at home so we never felt we needed this sort of rule in the past. But with her deception about bf's in the past we feel this is important.) Her boyfriend got mad that I sent him the message.

My daughter and I have had a couple of good heart to heart talks even after I sent him the message. I told her she or he best not block me from FB. She knows I have been checking his out. She actually told me I should ask to become his friend on FB. But I told her I didn’t want to until we had met.This week he and she started sending suggestive pics and memes to each other and calling each other babe and baby. I saw these on my daughter's timeline, not on his Facebook. They really do not know one another that well, neither are very responsible, and I am very concerned as to where this is going. I confronted my daughter about the inappropriate suggestive pics and memes, which she sees nothing wrong with. She is out of town until tomorrow. I decided to offer a branch of peace to him and explain my concern by sending him another message, hoping to start over and let him know we want to give him a chance. I discovered that he blocked me on his Facebook. I am not sure how to respond to my daughter when she returns home tomorrow. We do not know this boy. We know he has issues, was taken from his mom because of her abuse of him at 16 and was moved across the country from his mom and siblings, and he was living with his aunt and uncle near us, and they kicked him out after he turned 18. We don't know why. Our daughter won't tell us the reason. She says he wants to meet us and he can explain that himself, but he makes no effort to meet us. I know it's been only a couple of weeks. I assume he is very angry with me. I do not know him and want to give him the benefit, I wish I was granted the same.

I am a kind and friendly person but you mess with my kids and I kick into protection mode. I am a concerned mom. I did not post anything on the inappropriate memes or pics, only spoke to my daughter, and I am sure she relayed the message to him and now he has blocked me. I have warned her that that best not happen. I want to treat her as the young adult she is and respect her but she is not acting very maturely. We need to be respected too, she is living in our home. I expect him to respect us also since we are her parents. I have told her many times this past couple of weeks that they are moving way too fast and being immature. I know she might listen to someone else but I am mom so I know nothing. She has a mentor and I asked her to look at the posts and ask her opinion on them—maybe I am being overboard. My daughter tells me she just wants me to be happy for her and support her. But I am not happy for her and cannot support this because they are moving too fast and they are too young. I am fearful we will end up in a big argument and she will be asked to move out. My husband says she is being stupid and will not learn until she has felt the pain herself. He says I am hurting our relationship, both mine and my daughter's and my husband’s and myself. He says I am obsessed. Maybe he is right, but I feel she is walking in front of a fast moving train and it is going to be quite a train wreck. Please can you offer me some meaningful advice. Just because she us 18 I do not expect her to do whatever she pleases while she is still living in our home.

— R

 

Dear R,

Mothering children is an important job but it does not come with a manual, and we end up floundering and fumbling our way through it at times. Other moments are filled with successfully keeping them safe, happy, healthy, and prepared. If we stop to consider all of the threats to our children’s safety, we would spin them into a bubble-wrap cocoon and never let them leave the house! As parents, we wish we could shelter them from the countless threats to their safety and happiness, but the truth is, we can’t. But we can prepare them. Ready them with knowledge as well as with the harder lessons, like negative consequences, that aren’t so rosy sometimes. It is tricky to know when to lean in and when to pull back, because all of us develop at different rates.

I sense from your letter that you are not confident in your daughter’s ability to understand the magnitude of her choices or to handle the consequences she may face due to any mistakes along the way. Your husband may not have found the best descriptor in classifying her as “stupid” but she may actually be ignorant about choices and consequences. The only way to fix “stupid” is not just stepping back and letting them figure it out the hard way. That can work, and maybe is the best thing in this scenario, but there is more to consider. If she is ignorant, give her a way to learn. This is where communication comes in.

You have rightly recognized she is legally of age for taking responsibility for her choices. That’s where the conversations can begin. Start with the choices she has made so far and discuss what has come from them. What would she have done differently? What works for her? How does she solve problems? If the answer is mainly by allowing you to solve them for her, she is demonstrating that immaturity you suspect. Maybe she hits the mark half the time and will agree she needs more time and experience to mature. However, if she has consistently demonstrated a pattern of responsibility in the main areas that a young person faces, such as job or school, then you need to support and encourage this because one day very soon she will NOT be living with you and will have to figure things out. Get her thoughts on what she will do IF this or that happens. What if he leaves you? What if he isn’t stable? “What if...” questions are a very good way to delve into her problem-solving strategies. If she hasn’t thought of these scenarios, she needs to, before launching into a relationship, especially one not supported by her parents, because she will be the one to accept and shoulder whatever consequences may come, including any positives that her choices bring! There are good and bad outcomes. Talk those through respectfully.

You all want the same thing, but you have some differing opinions of how to achieve it. The time has come for you to allow her space to assert her independence. Guide her choices simply by communicating your side, and respectfully accepting any choice that you don’t think is best, and sharing with her what you think worked for you when you were in her shoes. It is okay to tell loved ones that you don’t think they are doing something well, but it is not conducive to a healthy relationship to try to “catch” people in lies or call them names when they don’t see what you see or understand what you understand or agree with what you believe. If she cannot live according to the rules you have established in your household, then leaving and being independent is a choice she can make WITH you. It is a simple contract that you all can make together, mutually respecting the place each of you holds in life. You expressed you do not want her to date this young man until you meet him. This is a good place to start.

— Amy

 

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— September 24, 2017 —

My 17 year old daughter is a good girl! She hangs around good groups, and has always been a rule follower. The problem is she is very disrespectful to me, her mother. Curses at me and says she hates me because I set limits and boundaries. My husband does not back me up and this has led to division in the home. I do not know what to do with her extreme disrespect! She will be going to college and living in a dorm in our hometown and told me she is living in the dorm because she wants to get away from me and rules. I have had her start washing her clothes and she has gotten more angry. I told her it is time to start doing this and that it is part of life and not a punishment. I feel defeated and need help on how to have her be accountable and respectful.

— Chass

 

Dear Chass,

Let me say that your letter could be used as universal declaration of frustration of many parents. You describe your daughter as a great person in almost every way, one who is successfully navigating the challenges of her phase of life. You need to give yourself some credit for that. The dilemma you describe is actually rooted in the fact your daughter is well-adjusted and unconditionally loved. She is secure in the feeling that you will love her regardless of how she treats you, which is probably very true, as most parents will attest. However, these realities don’t remove her from the responsibility to accept the consequences of her actions. It may be a great opportunity to have a discussion with her about how relationships work best.

The source of relationship dysfunction is often unfulfilled expectations. Through this lens, you may see that your daughter meets most of your expectations (to have good friends, to do well in school, etc.) but has failed to do so in the area of respectful behavior when relating to you. The flip side of this is to find out what are her expectations of you. Obviously, she resents some of your rules, which is another way of stating that she is finding your expectations problematic. Communication is going to be key here. For example, she needs to learn how to do her own laundry because it is unreasonable to expect you to do it when she is at school. Perhaps she is clinging to the care you’ve always provided because of fears relating to leaving home. A compromise might be in order; she can demonstrate that she knows how to do laundry and you can do it until she leaves and is ready to embrace independence. Laundry is just one of the many responsibilities she will be taking on in college and shouldering the consequences of her willingness or unwillingness to take them on. Her roomies won’t have the same unconditional regard for her as you do, and won’t do her laundry, dishes, homework, etc.

Your daughter is struggling with needing you and at the same time, wanting to be independent, and you are struggling with preparing her for responsibility while she tries to reject your guidance. You both need to communicate your expectations of one another, explore how reasonable they are (asking questions like: “Are the limits and boundaries flexible? Is the expectation of demonstrating life-care skills for punishment or preparation?”), and find ways to support one another in a positive manner. Growth and change is not only a physical phenomenon, but also a part of relationship evolutions. It requires us to make adjustments to meet challenges to promote harmony. Your role in your daughter’s life may be changing, but only into a different, not worse, way.

— Amy

 

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— September 10, 2017 —

My son who is 20 and lives at home started communicating on line with a 17 year old girl a year ago. They began exchanging explicit pictures before she turned 18. She lives 7 hours away in another state. My son thinks he is really in love with her so we invited her to join us on a camping trip in a state neighboring hers. She agreed to come and then backed out the day of the trip. A month later, her mother drove her to our town and rented a hotel room where my son stayed with them for the weekend. He lied about where he was going and neither the mom or daughter were concerned about his lie. I now do not approve of this young lady. My son went to visit her in her state two weeks ago. She helped fund his trip. We told him he would have to move out if he went to see her. He did go and stayed for 10 days and asked if we would come and pick him up. We did go and get him only because he has to take a state test to get his high school diploma and only has three months left to do so. He plans to return to this girl when she graduates in June, move in with her and eventually marry. I have told him I will cease contact with him if he follows through with this plan. Her mom really likes him. His girlfriend doesn't understand why I don't like her and has made no effort to reach out to me. My son is very immature and is not even supporting himself. They have her mother helping them out. What should I do?

— Cary

 

Dear Cary,

Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do except in a fairly neutral way talk to him about your concerns. However, I would rethink the ultimatum you’ve given him of choosing either "her or me.” I appreciate how distressing this situation is, but the more you try to force him to stay away from this girl, the more he will do the opposite. Remember when he was two and you told him to not do something, the more appealing that "something" became? June is a long time away in the life of a 20 year old. The more angry and negative you are, the more you will push him towards her. Perhaps you can encourage your son to participate in family counseling, which would help you deal more effectively with your son at this stage in his life, and would also help him make choices that are more appropriate and mature.

— Mrs. B.

 

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— August 26, 2017 —

My daughter is 19 years of age, a top student in the university, has a good part time job and a great paid internship. But she is very quiet in real life and has very few friends or other social connections.We know she is an active online video game player and met a 27 years old man from another country who is poor, has no real qualifications or a normal job. She has funded him for a trip to see and stay with her already, and now she is going to spend three weeks in his place. We just found out he has mental health problems. We worry about my daughter’s safety, She will be spending 33 hours of air travel and staying in a country that uses a totally different language, and there is no consulate to help her if anything goes wrong.

— Laura

 

Dear Laura,

I can certainly understand why you’re worried. But I have several questions: How do you know this man has “mental health problems” and what is the nature of those issues? If he is depressed or anxious, that does not mean that he is dangerous. What has your daughter told you about why she is attracted to him? Maybe he has qualities that you don’t know about. Although you can’t forbid your daughter from going on this trip, you should have a conversation with her in which you express your concerns and help her figure out what she can do if she runs into trouble in another country. The more information she has the better. What’s important for you to remember is that you can only influence your daughter if you are open to hearing her opinions and decisions. She needs to know that you support her unconditionally even when you disagree with her.

signed, Dr. M.

 

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— August 11, 2017 —

Hi there. My amazing 15 year old daughter recently broke up with an wonderful 16 year old boy. They dated for 8 months and she just decided quickly that she wasn't ready for such a serious relationship and that was it, over. As silly as it sounds, her dad and I are worried she may never meet another amazing guy again, who treated her so well, so respectful and adored her. We fear she made a choice that she may regret and it will be too late to do anything about it. They still text all the time and he is still struggling with why they broke up at all when things seemed to be going so well. I feel the time she has to change her mind is narrowing and I'm fearing regret and further disappointment for her based on this decision. How can we help her and how can we help ourselves not internalize this so much? We know she is only 15, but fear she is losing out on someone amazing. Please help!

— Cody

 

Dear Cody,

It is wonderful that your daughter chose someone to date that you and your husband both like and respect so much that you fear she may not meet anyone as wonderful as him again. Too often, we hear the opposite situation so it is great your daughter has shown good judgment in who she dates.

It is not clear whether you have already discussed your concerns with your daughter, and if you did, how she reacted. If you have not spoken with her yet and want to do so, I do not think you should tell her that she will never find such a wonderful fellow again since you do not know that. That also sends your daughter a message that you do not trust her judgment. She and her former boyfriend both have a lot of growing up to do, and time and experience could change both of them. There is no way to predict that. So, even if he is perfectly suited to her now, either one of them could and probably will change over the next five to ten years, and maybe they will not be as good a match then. Your daughter may also need to have other experiences in dating, even if some are not happy ones, in order for her to know the qualities she most wants when she does decide on the "right" man.

You are right that although your daughter and her boyfriend still text often, eventually he will want another relationship and they could drift apart. Maybe when that happens, your daughter will decide she cannot bear to lose him and maybe they will stay together. But once you have expressed your own feelings, you have to let her make her own decisions. Given what you said, she will learn from this experience and will have other opportunities to meet a wonderful man. It is true, there are a finite number of people each of us can fall in love with but given how life zigs and zags, it is also true that there is more than one special person who could appreciate and love her.

As far as your internalizing this so much, I suspect the abilities that make you concerned parents will help you cope with whatever she decides to do. The main thing is for her to know she has loving parents who support her, and it sounds like she has a good role model to appreciate the joy that comes from being in a mutually respectful, loving and happy relationship.

signed, Dr. B.

 

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