My 17-year-old daughter is dating a local boy and I’m worried it’s moving far too fast.
They’ve only been together a few weeks and they’re spending every waking moment together – at the expense of her schoolwork, friends and social life.
This is Kelly’s first real boyfriend so she doesn’t have much life experience to draw upon. On the one hand I think it’s very sweet but she has exams coming up soon and I’m worried she’s so wrapping up in Michael that she’s not going to study hard enough.
How can I get involved without alienating my daughter – and what should I tell her?
Thanks for writing in. Ah, yes, puppy love, so sweet and innocent and if you don’t handle it properly, it will poop all over the living room floor and you too. That is to say you’re going to handle this the way you do a new puppy; be gentle but set firm boundaries. To that end, here’s what I would do.
TALK TO KELLY: You need to tread lightly here because her feelings are very real. So acknowledge them but also make sure she knows there will be other boys along the way and she needs to think long term. And speaking of long term, this is a perfect opportunity to teach her that you don’t throw everything away (studies/career/self) for a boy or anyone else for that matter. You can talk to her about how to behave in relationships; not the physical conversation, which I hope you have already had with her, but the emotional side, like how to keep from falling so hard for someone that you lose yourself and end up with a broken heart.
ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES WITH BOYFRIEND: That was the warm and fuzzy part, now you have to be a hard-ass. You will avoid confusion, hurt and heartache later if you make clear ground rules now. You need to specify the amount of time Kelly can spend with this new boy during the week, whether in person, online or on the phone. She’s probably going to wail and cry about how this is not fair, you were never young and you don’t understand. Smile politely until the fit is over but stand your ground.
PUT THE HAMMER DOWN: Now this is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Tell Kelly that if you see any sign that her grades are slipping, you will cut the boyfriend time in half. If that means confiscating her phone and locking her in her room, so be it. But Shelia, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; do not threaten this unless you plan to follow through with it. You will show her that you are nothing but a paper tiger if you slack off here. Trust me it will do more harm than good.
The task before you is a big one and it’s really twofold. You need to keep Kelly focused on school in the short term but plant some very important seeds that will stay with her long term, the idea that you don’t fall for someone so much that you forget who you are.
And one parting note for you Shelia, parenting is not a popularity contest; it doesn’t really matter if Kelly likes you, you have a job to do and that is to provide her with guidance in order to prepare her for the future. Approaching it from that standpoint will make crystal clear, what you have to do.
Good luck mommy!
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