Raising your daughter

Sugar and spice and all things nice... or moods and malice and meanness? What is your daughter made of? How can you support, guide and enjoy her?

My daughter's boyfriend is a bad influence on her...

Written by Gill Richards on 08/02/2011

Q. My daughter is 18 and has always been respectful and polite and everybody loves her. We’ve always been close and she’s always been close with her brother of 12. Until now…she started seeing this boy of 17 at college and he’s manipulative and is heavily influencing her. She’s missing days at college, messing up any arrangements we’ve made, causing us to miss appointments for her brother. I’ve told her he’s a bad influence but when I say his name, she switches off and just defends him. I’m so frustrated and our once happy family unit is now filled with tension and frustration. I don’t know what to do!

A. This type of adolescent rebellion can occur at different ages, and takes different forms depending on the age at which it occurs. For example in a 13 year old girl, you may see temper tantrums and door slamming, but at this older age the effects can be more dramatic such as switching off from family and in this instance, missing school. It is also possible that this dramatic change in her behaviour is a result of her struggling to cope with new feelings and situations.

The key thing is to try to keep the communication open with her. If you criticise the boyfriend, that will make your daughter even more defensive and she will stop telling you anything and positions could become even more entrenched so that it will be hard for either of you to draw back. Girls can fall deeply in love at this age and this sounds like her first serious boyfriend. It is vital that you keep your relationship with her sufficiently open that she can still turn to you when/if things go wrong with him.

I would suggest you try sitting down with your daughter (just the two of you) and have a discussion about missing days at College. Is she not happy there, has she made the wrong choices of subjects? What are her ambitions? If she wants to go to University you could try very gently to point out she needs her A level grades and it is very competitive now. Try not to mention her boyfriend in this conversation at all. There needs to be an acknowledgment that she is growing up and can make her own decisions but that she needs to have some consideration for the family and her younger brother whilst she is still living at home. At all costs avoid recrimination or blame or looking back to the golden time when she got on well with her brother but focus more on, “this is the situation we have, how do we move forward because no-one is happy and there is an unpleasant atmosphere”. Her self-esteem may be low, resulting in the behaviour you are seeing, so tread carefully. You do need to try to agree some boundaries, your daughter needs them, but at her age I would suggest you negotiate them rather than impose them. Good luck.

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