Daughter’s friendship worries mom


Dear Straight Talk: I've been searching for insight regarding our 13-year-old daughter. Public affection with her best friend “Ashley” has increased and it seems they are intimate behind an always-closed door. I don't think my daughter is gay (we are not homophobic — my brother is gay), however, I'm extremely uncomfortable with their secrecy. We don't allow our 17-year-old son closed-door privacy with his girlfriend. I'm not a helicopter parent but I'm considering disallowing their overnights. Would it be detrimental to ask if she is being intimate with Ashley? If she denies it, then what? My radar knows differently. The other concern is that she was cutting herself last year and she’s confided she’s cutting again. (Yes, she sees a counselor.) Ashley was involved and we’ve heard she cuts too — she's from a very troubled family. My daughter is an excellent student and our relationship is pretty open but this is challenging -- Worried Mom in Monclova, Ohio.

Frankie, 24: Communicate without shaming, accusing, or dismissing your daughter’s feelings. To reduce embarrassment or emotional overwhelm, start with, “How are you feeling lately?” I realized my attraction to girls in middle school but didn't act on it or discuss it with my parents until college. Even then (though they are incredibly accepting and supportive of gay rights), I didn’t have the courage to come out as “bisexual.” Your daughter may not be gay or bisexual. Perhaps she is experimenting, or her friend is pressuring her. Start an open-bedroom-door policy for all guests. Walk by and monitor activities. This situation requires helicoptering. If they ARE being intimate, then no, they shouldn't be sleeping together. This doesn't mean you shame and alienate, but kids want boundaries not parents in the clouds. Trust your intuition.

Jessie, 21: Establish a “doors-open” rule for all guests. Regarding sleepovers, tell her you respect all orientations — thus her rules are the same as her brother’s. Also, it’s OK to express dislike of choices or friends (though never in front of them.) My mom encouraged such mutual honesty. She also always reminded me that decisions have consequences and to ask myself if the worst possible consequence of a decision was worth making that choice.

Dear Worried: Many young girls who write us with bisexual stress are cutting. Any sexual activity too young usually leads to depression. With experimental sex it can spiral into a very dark place. I'm glad you heard it from the panel: Communicate, but trust your intuition; establish an open-bedroom-door policy for all guests; disallow overnights with Ashley. In a loving-firm manner, find the strength to enforce the rules your daughter desperately needs.  —Lauren

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