Salisbury Press

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Family Project: Discussion, not confrontation, for daughter, 17

Saturday, June 27, 2020 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. The other night my 17-year-old daughter sneaked out her window and came back around 5 a.m. When I confronted her, she got really angry, refused to tell me where she went and stormed up to her room. What can I or should I do?

There was some disagreement among the panelists on how to handle this situation, and whether or not to confront the daughter and to what extent.

“Sneaking out is really serious, especially at night,” panelist Denise Continenza, adding, “The parents have to give the daughter a clear message that this isn’t acceptable by removing some of her privileges.”

Another approach, Continenza said, would be to talk about things that could have happened while she was out, especially if she was meeting a boyfriend.

Panelist Pam Wallace recommended that the parent has a conversation with her daughter to get details about where she was, what she was doing and how often she’s been doing it. Wallace said she was convinced the teenager was out with friends. “It doesn’t make sense that she’d go out alone,” Wallace.

“Confronting her won’t help,” panelist Mike Daniels said. “Teenagers are wired for confrontation. The physical, social and chemical changes they are experiencing have dulled the ‘I listen to mommy because I love her’ phase of parenting, and their growing independence makes it imperative for us to recognize that every choice they make: impulsive, well thought-out, right or wrong, has a purpose for the youth at the time.”

The best approach, Daniels said, is to is to explain the mother’s concern for the safety of her daughter. “’I am so glad you’re safe. We need to talk about this’ is a much better intro,” Daniels said, “than ‘What were you thinking? Where were you?’ or anything said in anger.”

Panelist Erin Stalsitz suggested that the daughter may be too constrained in her ability to hang out with her friends, and the situation provides an opportunity to discuss why the daughter felt she had to sneak out. “The mother can ask her daughter what she thinks the rules should be, and offer to think about making changes,” Stalsitz said.

Said Daniels, “Good for this mom for asking about how to handle this rather than bulldoze her values onto this 17-year-old. The teenager has begun to establish her own mistakes that will help shape her as she grows into an adult. More importantly, how mom handles this will help shape her relationship with her daughter in the coming years.”

This week’s panel: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Denise Continenza, extension educator.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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