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Q: Our 17-year-old daughter is the only one in our family who insists on dating Hispanic guys, which is not our heritage. We don't consider ourselves racist, but we don't approve of dating outside our ethnic group.
Her grandparents have told her that they don't want anything to do with her if she gets involved with one of them, and that she'll be disowned by her family if this behavior continues. She doesn't seem to care, even though her heritage is important to her, too. How do we get her to understand that we want to preserve our culture?
A: You're attempting to dictate whom your 17-year-old daughter can associate with socially, telling her to stick with her own ethnic group or face losing the respect and love of her family. It seems to me that she has a very good understanding of her ethnic background and its culture.
What she doesn't understand is your family's lack of tolerance for her liking people other than those in your ethnic group.
If your family continues to try to shame and threaten her for associating with other ethnic groups, then you will create more and more emotional distance between your daughter and yourselves.
It's up to you to make your choices on what you value the most. I hope that your love for your daughter will help you open your hearts and minds to the fact that she is not dishonoring anyone by choosing to be friends with or date others outside her ethnic group.
If you want some help with this problem, I'd suggest that you consult a family therapist. Everyone will get a chance to voice their opinions with a therapist in a respectful environment.
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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.