Dear Straight Talk: I have full custody of a talented, intelligent, 15-year-old daughter. She just started freshman year and is moving fast toward having a senior, poor-student, drug-using boyfriend. Obviously, I'm not thrilled with her choice. We've never had issues and talk openly, even about sexual topics. I'm afraid, depending on how I handle this, that I will lose our communication and trust. How can I discourage this without causing a rebellion? -- Single dad, Toledo
Jessie, 20: Discouraging her could spark the opposite reaction -- but you still need to do it. Make rules: she must tell you where she's going, with who, and for how long. Set a curfew. Remind her that a boy who truly cares about her will respect her family, too. Encourage involvement with school friends (they can talk a girl out of a guy better than you). The times I fell for someone who used me was when I felt insecure and unlovable. Give her room to make mistakes but always remind her that she is loved, respected, and needn't settle.
Taylor, 15: This is common at my school when older guys can't get girls their age. Freshman year is a self-conscious time and it's flattering when an upperclassman takes interest in you. As a sophomore, I can see the game now. On rare occasion a true relationship forms, but mostly freshmen girls are easy targets.
Brandon, 20: Attraction to bad boys/girls is (sadly) pretty natural in high school. Because of his age, you're in a good position to stop this fiasco: "Hi, I'm so-and-so's father. How would you like to be charged with statutory rape?"
OK, that might not be your style. But depending on your daughter's past traumas, she may give you fits over this. Girls eventually realize -- unless derailed by drugs or pregnancy -- that they want a provider, not a loser. Be there for her, mistakes and all, and do everything in your power to help her.
Peter, 25: Bad boy he may be, but he's still human. How about inviting him to dinner? Don't shoot loaded questions. Start with, where are you from, what are you doing after high school, how's my cooking, etc. If you break the ice (dessert will help), maybe you'll see what your daughter sees and become a positive influence on him. If not, your daughter will respect the effort.
Dear Dad: Nobody mentioned the rule of no boyfriends or dating before junior year. Many parents use this delay tactic to get their daughters through those "deer-in-the-headlights" years. But parents can't be blind either. She can still hook up at parties, games, dances -- even during school.
Seeing you have full custody, I'm going to assume your daughter suffers a "mother wound." Some risk-taking and space-elbowing is normal for teens, but when it's associated with trauma, you need to be wide awake, your head nowhere near the sand.
Her potential for drug use could really sweep her sideways and increase her risk of pregnancy. Be her rock and male protector. Be prepared to clamp down, including drug testing her if she comes home past curfew or doesn't pick up her phone when she's out. All can be done compassionately and with open communication. Trust the panel: Kids don't mind drug testing for cause. If she is seeing a drug user, such absenteeism is cause. -- Lauren
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