A good portion of your daughter’s behavior during adolescence is part of a normal developmental process called “separation and individuation.” A teenager’s need to identify with her peer group starts to take precedence over her sense of identification with parents and family. This usually concludes with complete separation and independence by age 18 or 20.
You can make your daughter’s transition to adulthood smoother and more navigable if you keep the following suggestions in mind:
1. Though easier said than done, parents need to reassess their own motives. For example:
- Are you afraid of letting go and seeing her make mistakes on her own?
- Do you have a hidden emotional need that you’re expecting her to fulfill?
- Is it possible that you have selfish motives for wanting your daughter to stay close to you?
If so, you need to realize that these are your problems, not hers.
2. Find a way to embrace and affirm the shift that’s occurring in your daughter’s outlook (i.e., allow for separation while simultaneously helping her to realize that she’s wanted at home, too). It’s better to bend with the winds of change than snap under their pressure. Since her friends are so important to her, start thinking in terms of encouraging her to develop a positive social life and form healthy friendships. You can’t actually pick her peer group for her, of course, but you can increase her chances of making good choices by shaping her environment (e.g., help her get involved with a church youth group, or participate in sports, music or drama, etc.).
3. Give your daughter good advice regarding choosing appropriate friends. For example:
- "Avoid been around negative people who will only put you down or pressure you to get involved with gangs and drugs etc. Instead choose friends that will have a positive effect toward your life …ones with solid character traits like honesty, intelligence, loyalty, and dedication. When you find that person, cherish and seek camaraderie with them -- they are a gift in your life."
- "Don’t assume everyone you come across in life will become a good friend of yours because they have been nice to you a few times, have a great personality, or share mutual interest with you. Getting the opportunity to meet that type of person is just the beginning of the friendship building process. Believe it or not, the majority of people in your life are only associates or acquaintances – not true friends!"
- "Don’t rush when choosing friends, or you’ll likely end-up labeling an associate as a friend. Keep in mind that there is a thin line between associates and friends. Confusing an associate for a friend can leave you feeling disappointed later."
4. Host activities for your daughter’s friends (e.g., throw a back-to-school party, or organize a summer barbeque, etc.). This will provide you with a window into your daughter’s peer group as well as a discreet and relaxed opportunity to chaperone her interaction with friends.
5. Encourage her to invite friends to take part in family events. While there’s certainly a place for “family-only” activities, there’s no reason why you can’t devise additional outings of a more inclusive nature. If you go on a ski trip, let her bring a couple of girlfriends along. She’ll be less resistant to family outings if you design them to be more attractive from her point of view.
6. Consider making your home a place where your daughter and her friends want to hang-out. That may mean having exciting videos around, fun activities, and lots of food. This probably means you will have to add the food for 3 -5 teenagers to your monthly food bill, but you are getting away easy. You at least know what your daughter is doing and with whom she is with. Piece of mind is worth a lot.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents