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Mom Read Daughter's Diary

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

Q: I read my 15-year-old daughter's diary, which contained very disturbing information. Recently, she's started doing drugs and having sex. This is all shocking to me because she always tells me that she doesn't do these things I've tried to bring up these issues in our family counseling sessions, but she continues to deny them. I don't want her to lose her trust in me by finding out that I read her diary. How do I address this?

A: While it may be shocking to you that your daughter is experimenting with sex and drugs, it's not surprising that a 15-year-old girl would be curious about these behaviors. Unfortunately, it's also not surprising that she would lie to you about her interest and participation in both sexual activity and drug use. Most children don't share these details with their parents.

You are keeping a family secret from your daughter and this is inappropriate. You read something of hers without permission. I would share this privately with your family counselor to discuss the most appropriate way to confess to your daughter. Your daughter is likely to become enraged by this invasion of her privacy and it may temporarily derail the therapeutic work you are doing. In the long run, however, she will respect you more for admitting this mistake and asking her forgiveness. She might continue to deny that these things ever happened. When we are caught in a situation like this, we tend to get angry, strike out, and deny the obvious.

I am concerned that your daughter may be approaching sex as a casual recreational "activity," void of emotional commitment or mutual respect. Her drug intake is illegal; what's even more troublesome is whether your daughter is using drugs to cope with her day-to-day life.

Any discussions about sex and drug-taking, with or without the family counselor, need to take place without shaming your daughter. She'll be on the defensive and needs empathy, not condemnation. I'd also recommend that you read, Venus In Blue Jeans: Why Mothers and Daughters Need to Talk About Sex, by Bartle and Lieberman.

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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.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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