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Teens, Tight Clothes and Texting

Question:

My husband and I are in desperate need of help for his 13-year-old daughter. We have been in a custody battle with his ex-wife for the past two years, and communication with her is very difficult. Recently, since she left her current husband, communication with her started to improve but the honesty is still not there. She encourages and allows my stepdaughter to have a boyfriend, go to his house, make out, go out on dates, etc. My stepdaughter wears tight clothes, sends inappropriate pictures on her cell phone, sends dishonest text messages to friends/family about others, and wears dark makeup.

When she is with us, she does not wear the tight clothes or dark makeup, and we take her cell phone away at 8 p.m. She thinks because we have structure and don’t allow the boyfriend that we hate her and don’t want her around, and she says how she wants to die and live in a prison and hates us.

She recently started texting her friends that she is sad because of her parents and her EVIL stepmom who has hurt her. I have never laid a hand on her except to hug her. Please help. We are lost and do not know what to do. We are scheduled for a court date, and her mom was to have her for three-week summer visit but sent her back to us early. She told my stepdaughter that she has no money to take them on vacation, yet she is going on vacation with her new boyfriend.

Answer:

You did the right thing reaching out for support today. It is difficult when families and parents have differing tolerances. Many times the goal is the same: to help the child or children to be happy and healthy. However, there can be huge gaps in the parenting approach to this goal.

Your concern is valid, and the effect it may have on your stepdaughter could be damaging. The greatest challenge is that you cannot control your husband’s ex-wife. You can only control yourself and attempt to teach your stepdaughter right from wrong. If you want her to learn about solid, long-lasting self-respect, then you will have to teach it, as the modeling she observes does not always fit into that category. In the future, she can relate it to her own behaviors and friendships.

Try to limit how upset you feel about what is going on when your stepdaughter is not with you. I am not saying to turn a blind eye, just to focus your emotional strength. Have you, or is it possible to, address these concerns with her mother? What type of relationship remains between your husband and his ex-wife? Communication may be best accepted when the two of them communicate and he takes the lead role.

As far as your home, all of you should sit down at a designated time and hold a meeting. This may be difficult and you will probably be met with some un-accepting behaviors, but try to keep the conversation focused on letting her know, in a calm manner, why you have these rules. Even if you have said them several times in the past, sitting down together at a time other than during a dispute and affirming that you love and care deeply for her is very important.

Afterward, continue to use those loving rationales when you make decisions and hold her to the rules. Try to point out positive aspects about her, just as she naturally is. Tell her how beautiful her eyes are without makeup or how much you enjoy having her home with you to watch TV together.

Check online at www.boystownpress.org for resources on parenting, and suggest that she look at our teen website at yourlifeyourvoice.com. She can read e-mails from other teens, and she’ll find that what you are doing is being a good parent.

Remember to focus on your family, communicate and show positive attention for even the littlest of things.

 
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