The Girlfriend’s Daughter

1 Feb

Girl_Feeling_SadDear LetterBalm: My girlfriend and I live together with her 16-year-old daughter, who’s a good kid. She does well in school, she has a part-time job, and she has good friends. But recently my girlfriend has been hard on her to the point of being irrational. She’s always been strict, but in the past few weeks she grounded her daughter for a month for being 15 minutes late for curfew, confiscated her cell phone because a friend called her at dinner (she didn’t answer the call), and forbade her to go to a school dance because she got an A- instead of an A on a history quiz. Over the past year, this is taking its toll; a once-easygoing kid is angry and sullen. She and her mom fight all the time. I’ve kept quiet, but I feel I have to say something. How do I handle this so I don’t make things worse?

–Biting My Tongue

Ms. L.B. recommends that you think carefully before you open your mouth. There are many variables in this delicate situation. Have there been any changes in your girlfriend’s life – problems with her daughter’s father, an illness, a change in finances, has she (or you) started a new job or lost her job? You may have to speak without knowing her true state of mind. You’ll need to pick your moment for a private, open-ended and quiet face-to-face conversation at home. No phone calls, no distractions. And, listen. Let your girlfriend do most of the talking.Try this:

Honey, I’ve always admired that you are such a good mom, and you’ve made a real home for the three of us. Lucia is a great kid with good values and a mature grasp of responsibilities for a girl her age. Most of that is because of the way you’ve raised her. But I’ve noticed recently that there’s some tension between the two of you, and Lucia seems to have more than just teen angst. Is there anything going on? [If you don’t know any obvious reasons.] What can I do to help?

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