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My Daughter Doesn't Want Me to Date
Q: I have been divorced for ten years and have raised two daughters by myself. My youngest, who is 16, doesn't like that I've begun to date again. She tried to blackmail me by letting her grades go down the tubes. She told me that if I stopped dating, her grades would go up again. I decided not to let her blackmail me. I continued to see the guy but we're just friends now. I know he cares for me, but he's hesitant to commit because he knows my daughter disapproves of our relationship. What can I do to change things?
A: No child, of any age, should be allowed to have the power to blackmail a parent. Behind her attempts to emotionally blackmail you out of dating is a girl who is very frightened and sad. She has had you more or less to herself for the last ten years, sharing you only with her sister. Recently you have stepped out of your "mom role" and added the role of "dating mom" to your life. Your daughter got scared, got angry, and tried to get you back to being the mom that would make her feel most loved and secure. She has not gone about this in a sensitive manner, but when kids are scared they don't always act in the most kind-hearted ways. I suggest you look carefully behind the attempts at emotional bribery to find the daughter you remember, who is trying to deal with all the hormone-influenced changes common to girls her age.
Please tell her that you think you know what is on her mind and why she has been acting this way toward you. Tell her who you know she is--your wonderful, delightful, caring girl--and that you will never lose sight of that, no matter how she acts toward you. Let her know in words and with some physical affection that you and she will always be the closest of mothers and daughters and that no person will ever weaken your relationship. Taking this dilemma to a family therapist for a few sessions might help you both be heard and figure out how to deal with this better. A therapist can help you and your daughter stay connected, close, loving, and unafraid of the future. It's not easy, but it's worth the work.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.