Dear Rene,

My husband, Mike, and I have three beautiful daughters, ages 13, 15 and 17.  Kaylee, Kaitlin and Katherine.

The three girls are alike in so many ways, yet very different in other ways. Kaylee the youngest and Katherine the oldest have always been well behaved and eager to please their dad and me.  We value family time and look forward to spending family holidays, celebrations as well as summer vacations together. It’s the best time to really be a family.

Mike and I work hard to make sure the girls are happy and have everything they need. But, we can’t seem to make our middle daughter Kaitlin happy. She’s doing poorly in school, has friends we disapprove of and has runaway from home several times.

The first time, Kaitlin ran away we were worried out of our minds. She was gone for an entire weekend, no phone call or contact with the family. It turns out Kaitlin stayed at one of her “friend’s” homes on the other side of town.  When she returned, she refused to explain her behavior to her father, her sisters or myself.   Kaitlin has runaway several times since then, each time she stays away a little longer, but always comes back home.

Rene, I try not to worry but can’t help it. I’m afraid that one day our 15-year-old daughter, will runaway and won’t come home. What can her dad and I do to make her happy so she’ll stop running away?


Robin, Seattle

Dear Robin:

GOOD LORD WOMAN, this letter is terrifying! You need WAY more help than I can provide. I’ll leave my opinion but this is going to require the help of someone far beyond my pay grade. Here’s what I would do.

GET THEE TO A THERPIST! There’s a lot churning around in this girl’s head. She’s dealing with adolescence and all that goes with it. She needs to learn some coping skills STAT! The thing that scares me most about the fact that she’s running away is the type of activity she may have to turn to in order to stay alive, like prostitution or other illicit activities. This is a situation that you have to get a handle on right now! Honestly I’m shocked you let her be gone a weekend without calling the cops! What was going on in YOUR mind?

TIME TO PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN: No, no, no she cannot leave and not tell you where she’s going to be for the entire weekend! I have an almost-15 year old and there’s no WAY in hell I would stand for that and she knows it. You are legally responsible for her. What if something happened to her while she was off on one of her “breaks”? You’d feel terrible. But I think that fact that you let this happen speaks to a bigger issue and that is permissive parenting. Time for you to BE THE PARENT! You write that she was gone for a weekend like you were reciting the specials at your local diner. If I were you, I would tell Kaitlin there are serious repercussions the next time she pulls a stunt like that. You take her allowance money, her backpack, maybe even all of her shoes if it means teaching her that you won’t tolerate this. I’m 100% serious about this. And while you’re at it, I’d work to limit her exposure to “friends” who may be a bad influence o her.

YOU CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR KAITLIN’S HAPPINESS: This is perhaps the most sobering part of this answer. You are Kaitlin’s mother and as such you are responsible for her in every aspect except this one, her happiness. As parents we want only the best for our children but there is only so much you can do. Happiness is something that comes from within. You probably know people who have everything yet they are miserable and those who have nothing but always have a song in their hearts. The latter have figured out how to make themselves happy in life. This is something Kaitlin can work on with the therapist but without question, will be one of the most important components in solving this issue.

Robin, I wish you the best of luck but just know you have some big stuff on our plate that needed to be handled like yesterday. I fear if you don’t act know, the misery you feel will increase exponentially in the coming years.

Good luck mommy!

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