Self-Reliant Daughter

8 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: What can I say to my 16-year-old daughter to help her ease away from me as she grows older? She calls and texts at least a dozen times a day, and she asks my opinion on everything, even insignificant matters that she should be handling. She’s a responsible girl who gets good grades, and she is fearless about what she believes in. But I’m concerned about how she’ll do when she goes away to college. How can I begin weaning her from relying on me too much?

–Easing the Apron Strings

You show good sense in not wanting to be a helicopter parent. Hovering moms and dads inflict untold damage on their offspring – making a generation of hesitant youngsters who believe they are entitled to special treatment and a world that will accommodate their every whim. Without dampening her trust and her desire to share everything with you, you must enforce some structure in your daughter’s life. Ms. L.B. (a great fan of the smartphone) believes that cellphones are a marvel but should be governed by need and courtesy. Gently groom her to realize you will not be answering all her calls and texts, only those that can’t wait. Ask her to give her opinion first before you talk. You want your daughter to be independent on terms that you and she can live with. Start the dialogue with this casual chat, when the two of you are relaxed and alone:

Honey, can we talk a bit? You and I are so lucky to have such a good mother-daughter relationship. I don’t know any of our family or friends who get along so well. You’ll be going away to college next year, and it’s important for you to have your own opinions without always looking to what I would say or do. Take the cellphone: I can’t take calls and texts during the day when I’m doing errands and things unless there is an emergency. If you have something important to tell me and it can wait, you and I can get together and discuss these things in-person. You may not always agree with me – and, that’s a very good thing that you think for yourself. You’re smart and strong, and I’m glad to see you growing into your own person.

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