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Daughter Says Mom Won't Take Her Seriously

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

Q: I've always been open with my mom about things -- including crushes. Now that I'm 16, I'm becoming hesitant to talk to my mom about "boy" stuff because she just disregards it as "puppy love." I am at the point where I refuse to tell her anything about my "love life" for the fear that she will not take me seriously.

A: You and I both know that at 16 girls and boys can experience deep feelings for one another, including real love -- not "puppy love." Teenagers your age experience sexual feelings as well. Like many parents, your mom probably has difficulty dealing with your becoming a young woman who can experience strong feelings and sexual desires for boys. Not taking you seriously is her way of denying that her "little girl" is growing up and capable of having a real love life.

Down deep I'm sure your mother knows that you can possess real feelings for boys and that teenagers can and do have real love lives. My guess is that it is fear that is causing her response. She may have suffered and made mistakes in her teenage love life and is trying to prevent you from making the same mistakes. These are just guesses, but many parents consciously or unconsciously respond to the appearance of love lives in their teenagers by clicking into fear and the memories of their own teenage romantic experiences.

Write your mom a letter, nicely explaining how her response to your feelings hurts you. If you truly would like to share all parts of your life with your mom (or at least most of them), including your love life, tell her so and tell her that you don't want to cut off the good relationship that you've had in the past. Let her know how important her understanding and unconditional love has always been to you. In essence, ask her for what you need in this area -- understanding, respect, and maybe even some good advice now and then. Try to understand that dealing with our children as sexual beings is a difficult thing for parents to do. All you can do is to try to put yourself in your mom's shoes, tell her what you need from her and why, and trust that the love between you will help things get better.

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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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