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Seventeen-Year-Old Wants to Date

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I would like to have information on how to handle my 17-year-old daughter. Is she ready for dating? If so should I have the biggest say in who she should go out with? What if she asks to go out with her friends and they drive? I don't want my daughter messing up because she has so much going for her.

A: First, let me address your specific parenting questions. Whether or not your 17-year-old daughter is "ready" for dating is best determined by your daughter, not you or I. You should certainly honor her choice of whom she dates and stay connected to her (being careful not to suffocate her with prying questions) during this emotional time. Remember what it was like when we all "took the leap" into the dizzying teenage dating world.

Kids are very vulnerable during these years and have a need for privacy that should be respected. That doesn't mean that you and she should not maintain any close relationship that you have established -- it means that she needs to feel independent from you so she can move confidently into her young adulthood.

On issues like going out with friends who drive, drinking, drugs, sexuality and sex, we all hope that the values and beliefs that we have espoused to our kids will guide them as they navigate the troubled waters of adolescence. We cannot forbid our teens from doing things we dislike -- that doesn't work. We can keep the communication lines open, even if it appears that they are not listening. The worst thing to do at this stage is to become frustrated and to stop talking to them. They need to know, more than ever, that we appreciate them and the efforts they are making to "do the right thing".

The following parenting books will provide you with a solid base of advice and pragmatic techniques to parent your teen: The Parent's Guide: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens, by Dinkmeyer and McKay Parenting by Heart, by Taffel and Blau You Can Say NO to Your Teenager and Other Strategies for Effective Parenting in the 1990's, by Shalov et al.

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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.


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