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Problems in parent-child relationships

SHARE Problems in parent-child relationships

Most of our children are conceived in love, raised with our own sense of discipline and given both supervision and support from at least one parent. So where does it all go wrong? When do some children decide that their parents are always wrong and they always right? When do children begin to accept responsibility for their own lives and understand that, while they may not always have agreed with parents, mothers and fathers did what they did out of love, not anger? And is there ever a time when teenage girls really value their mothers, respect their authority and cherish their guidance?

Today's letters deal with the age-old problems of intergenerational relationships.

Dear Lois: My 15-year-old daughter, who had always been the center of my life, left home in a rage a year ago to live with her natural father, and my heart is broken. Before leaving, she had begun to hang out with a group of unsupervised kids, was smoking, ignored curfews and was sexually active with her boyfriend. I have always tried to be aware of my daughter's activities, and when I confronted her on all these things, she lied.

Her father abandoned the family three times before leaving for good when she was 7. He was informed of school events but attended nothing. I waited more than two years to start dating. Eventually, I met a fine man with whom she has had a great relationship.

When we married, we made her a part of the ceremony, and my husband took an oath to be her friend. She has had love and friendship and was told early on about sex and the consequences of one's actions. When she broke our rules, she was punished - but you could see her resentment because her friends were allowed to do whatever they wanted. She went to live with her father out of state after I told her to break off with the boy she was seeing. I ask to see her, but she won't see me or my husband. She wrote one letter asking me to sign custody of her to her dad - and after going to court three times I finally did. She did send me cards for my birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day. On one card she said she hopes we can have a relationship, but she does nothing to make it happen. Any suggestions on ways to see her?

- Faye

Dear Faye: Mother-daughter relationships, even when very good, can be filled with misunderstandings, anger and annoyance. Of course, your daughter is far beyond a simple misunderstanding with you. Her anger is deep, and she is obviously trying to hurt you as she feels (right or not) you have hurt her. Since her feelings about you are so negative, perhaps your husband can talk to her father to work out some kind of visitation with you and your husband - or even with your husband alone for a beginning.

Raising a troubled teenager probably isn't easy for a father who never took responsibility for her early upbringing. He may be looking for some help with her but cannot turn to you. Your husband sounds like a caring and kind person who would want to help you put your life in order.

In your long letter you said your daughter is your No. 1 concern. So, tough as it is for you to take a step back and let your husband step forward, I think it's worth a try. Good luck to all of you. You might take some comfort from this next letter from the mother of a teen-age daughter.

Dear Lois: I have had many challenges with my daughter. We have weathered a severe drug problem, long-term emotional problems and motherhood at 15. We are still close and struggling. The dearest thing she ever said to me was that when she was in the worst place in her short life, she tried to trash the values that were so dear to me and her grandparents, but she couldn't. She's 19 now and is still connected to her family (actually she, my grandson and the father all live with me trying to make their way toward independence). I really believe she was helped by seeing me always respectful and loving toward my family even when I disagreed.

- Judy

Dear Judy: What a study in patience you are. Sometimes when we're in the midst of crisis, we react because of what we know about life and ourselves, and instinctively we do those things that sustain and nurture those around us. Thank you for your letter that shows us the strength that a value-oriented family gives to all its members.